Scripps Classroom Connection Activities and Lesson Plan Archive
Overview of all lesson plans created by our student-teacher teams

Ocean Layering: Density, Temperature, Salinity and Circulation
Lesson Plan by Sylvia Cole and Maureen Quessenberry
This is a 3-4 day unit on the vertical structure of the ocean that gives students the opportunity to work with actual data, learn about the global circulation, and learn about some of the smaller scale features that stir and mix the ocean. The unit consists of four lessons and concludes with a short review and 20-minute quiz. Topics covered include an introduction to density, the ocean’s global scale vertical structure and circulation, and how ocean properties are stirred around and mixed together. The unit uses ship-based observations on a global scale and observations north of Hawaii from an ocean robot, the autonomous underwater glider Spray, as application activities. Read more

Teaching the Earth’s Layers and Plate Tectonics Using a 3D Model
Lesson Plan by Jared Kluesner and Mark Snow
This week long lesson uses a three dimensional model to help teach the Earth’s layers, longitude/latitude, and plate tectonics. The activity allows students to build a scaled 3D model of the Earth, which they use and interact with to complete activity sheets. The model is constructed using basic materials (paper, cardboard, string, and glue) and can be broken down to fit into a folder. Finally, the lesson is broken into four daily activities, each day focusing on different material. Worksheets and PowerPoints are provided for each daily activity. Read more

Learning About Earthquakes
Lesson Plan by Deborah Kane and Dave van Dusen
This is a comprehensive Earthquake curriculum covering three self-contained themes intended to be used individually with additional materials or as a complete unit. This unit is a collaborative effort between Deborah Kane, a doctoral geophysics student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Dave Van Dusen, a high school Earth Science teacher at the San Diego School of Creative in Performing Arts. These materials were designed to bring content from Deborah’s research into a 9th grade Earth Science course and could easily be adapted for other grade levels. This unit contains 9 lessons and activities totaling ~10 hours of classes. Read more

Earth Science Outdoors: Earth’s Spheres
Lesson Plan by Miriam Goldstein and Tara Howell
Understanding connections between spheres of the Earth as a Global System. In this lesson plan students will also recognize how a system functions. Students also will be able to recognize that our planet contains 4 spheres, namely the hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere (geosphere) and biosphere. Read more

Earth Science Outdoors: Seasonal Changes and Biogeochemical Cycles
Lesson Plan by Miriam Goldstein and Tara Howell
This activity is meant to accompany lessons on biogeochemical cycles, not replace them. Students should already have been introduced to the carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles. The chaparral and riparian ecosystems of Rose Canyon in the midst of urban San Diego serve as an example in this activity. Rose Canyon’s geology and biology, as well as the threats facing its inhabitants, serve as a microcosm for concepts such as biogeochemical cycling. By participating directly in data collection and analysis, students will gain an appreciation of the scientific process. Students will also be able to connect key concepts in earth science to their direct experience and local environment. Read more

Earth Science Outdoors: Erosion
Lesson Plan by Miriam Goldstein and Tara Howell
Rose Canyon in the midst of urban San Diego serves as an example in this activity. By participating directly in data collection and analysis, students will gain an appreciation of the erosion and weathering processes in the Californian environment. Students will also be able to connect key concepts in earth science to their direct experience and local environment. Read more

Introduction to Life in the Pelagic Ocean: Primary Production, Phytoplankton and Zooplankton
Lesson Plan by Moria Decima and Stephen Halpern
This is the first of a four day lesson plan, in the Unit Plankton Ecology. This lesson explores marine primary production, phytoplankton and zooplankton. Students will learn about photosynthesis, production in the ocean and food web dynamics that link phytoplankton to higher trophic levels, such as fish, birds and whales. Diversity within phytoplankton and zooplankton is introduced, and many of the important taxonomic groups are covered. Read more

Phytoplankton: Main Characteristics and Ecology
Lesson Plan by Moria Decima and Stephen Halpern
This is the second of a four day lesson plan in the Unit Plankton Ecology. The laboratory activity introduces three main groups of phytoplankton: diatoms, dinoflagellates and flagellates. Students observe phytoplankton up-close and live, so that unique characteristics, such as morphology and behavior, can be seen and interpreted within an ecological context. The Laboratory Teacher instructions detail the lab activity, as well as the resources necessary to obtain the pertinent materials. Read more

Phytoplankton in the Stratified Ocean: Who’s Where and Why?
Lesson Plan by Moria Decima and Stephen Halpern
This is the third of a four day lesson plan in the Unit Plankton Ecology. This lesson explores the consequences of a heterogeneous ocean on phytoplankton. Spatial heterogeneity in the ocean arises as a consequence of distance from shore as well as depth: water column stratification greatly affects the ecology and species distribution of phytoplankton. The distribution, population growth rates and general ecology of phytoplankton is explored as a consequence of the heterogeneity of water masses. Students will learn how the environment determines a species distribution and persistence, with a final discussion and understanding that how the ocean changes will include drastic changes to the biological community it holds within. Read more

Phytoplankton: Growth Rates and Ecological Characteristics
Lesson Plan by Moria Decima and Stephen Halpern
This is the fourth of a four day lesson plan in the Unit Plankton Ecology. This lesson expands on material covered on the previous lecture, exploring consequences of a heterogeneous ocean on phytoplankton. The distribution, population growth rates and general ecology of phytoplankton is explored as a consequence of the heterogeneity of water masses. Students will learn how the environment determines a species distribution and persistence, with a final discussion and understanding that if and how the ocean changes will include drastic changes to the biological community it holds within. During this classroom activity they will plot and interpret growth rate data, and compare these phytoplankton characteristics among groups, understanding the importance of these within an ecological framework. Read more

Marine Food Webs
Lesson Plan by Geoffrey Gearheart and Jon Corbin
Students will make a marine food web that will show energy flow through trophic levels. They will also research the ecology of a number of marine animals from the information sheets provided. This activity will be performed after the PowerPoint presentation that is provided with narrative. Read more

Winds, Currents, Upwelling and Blue Whales
Lesson Plan by Geoffrey Gearheart and Jon Corbin
This lesson introduces the concepts of changes in water density associated with (sea) salt, thermohaline circulation, coastal upwelling and its biological significance to large marine animals such as blue whales. The lesson attempts to illustrate how physical-chemical forces impact and shape life in the oceans. The lab activity follows a PowerPoint presentation, and provides students with a fun example of how winds and the Coriolis force interact to form upwellings, and how these in turn may influence the distribution of blue whales. The students are asked to reflect on seawater density, they will also acquire basic knowledge on the ecology (i.e. feeding behavior) of a specific marine animal: the blue whale. Read more

Continental Margins
Lesson Plan by Elizabeth Johnstone and Malana Tabak
This lesson focuses on the two types of continental margins, active and passive, and provides guided exploration in Google Earth (freeware). This lesson does require access to computers with Internet access. Students will go on a virtual field trip to various locations around the globe and investigate the geological features associated with continental margins. Read more

El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Lab
Lesson Plan by Elizabeth Johnstone and Malana Tabak
This lesson focuses on El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Equatorial Pacific. Students will learn about the climate phenomenon and regional impacts that occur on different sides of the Pacific. One introductory lab within this lesson invites students to graph real data, so they can make their own observations. A follow-up or supplemental lab has students investigate ENSO through a number of online resources and requires access to computers and an Internet connection. Read more

GeoMapApp Lab
Lesson Plan by Elizabeth Johnstone and Malana Tabak
This lesson focuses on map projection and using a publically available spatial database, called GeoMapApp. Students will learn how to access the database and manipulate data. A follow-up or supplemental lab could invite students to investigate numerous other datasets, depending on what area of interest the educator is interested in teaching. The lab consists of online resources and requires access to computers and the Internet. Read more

Ocean Acidification
Lesson Plan by Elizabeth Johnstone and Malana Tabak
This lesson focuses on Ocean Acidification and the impact on Earth’s oceans. Students will learn about the chemistry changes associated with increased Carbon Dioxide dissolving in the sea. This lesson invites students to use shells (or any item(s) made of calcium carbonate) in three different treatments with a range of pH. They will observe, describe, measure and weigh the specimens before and after the experiment. Read more

Ocean Pollution
Lesson Plan by David Clarke and Sahi Maitrayee
This unit is designed to introduce students to watersheds, computer mapping tools (Google Earth), and ocean currents through a discussion of ocean and water borne pollution. The unit is designed around a 9th grade Earth Science class, and run over three 80 minute class periods. The first lesson explores types of water pollution and how that pollution migrates from the student's home to the ocean. The students then explore their watersheds to understand how they are connected with the ocean, and finally explore how ocean currents concentrate trash in certain parts of the ocean. Read more

DNA Extraction
Lesson Plan by Alison Cawood
This lecture and activity provide information on the role, function, and structure of DNA. It can be used by itself or as activities to provide background information for the accompanying genetic traits and gummy bear genetics lectures and activities. Read more

Genetic Traits and Heredity
Lesson Plan by Alison Cawood
This lecture and activity provide information on genetic traits and heredity. It can be used by itself or to provide background information for the accompanying DNA extraction and gummy bear genetics lectures and activities. Read more

Gummy Bear Population Genetics
Lesson Plan by Alison Cawood
This lecture and activity provide information on the role of genetics in evolution and ecology. It can be used by itself or as a follow-up activity after background information has been provided by the DNA extraction and genetic traits lectures and activities. Read more

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Carbon Cycle, Greenhouse Effect and Ocean Acidification
Lesson Plan by Daniel Richter and Jon Corbin
This is a 4-5 day unit on the carbon cycle and the effects of human perturbations to it. The unit consists of four lessons each of which has an associated homework assignment. Topics covered include the carbon cycle, the greenhouse effect, and ocean acidification. Read more

Lesson Plan by Kelly Roe and Maureen Quessenberry
This unit was designed with 10 days set aside for classroom lectures and lab activities and one day for a final assessment of an exam. All the activities were designed for a 55 min class period. The unit is broken up into Early Earth activities, Photosynthesis, and Carbon and Nitrogen cycling. The activities in this unit can be taught as a whole unit or pieces of the unit can be used to supplement other topics. Read more

A Week of Science at Sea Aboard the Research Vessel Melville
Lesson Plan by Benjamin Neal and Jerry Ruiz
This is a series of five lessons with accompanying videos, collectively entitled “A Week of Science at Sea Aboard the Research Vessel Melville.” The primary goal of this series of lessons is that middle-school students will find the general field of marine science more understandable and accessible, and will understand the diversity of scientific disciplines that make up this field. Students will learn about the real-life process of marine biology by following an actual week of life aboard a working research vessel. Read more

Biomass Energy and Algae Biofuels
Lesson Plan by Cameron Coates and Tara Howell
This lesson plan was designed for a high school AP Environmental Science class in San Diego CA. The unit is focused on biomass energy with a particular emphasis on algae biofuels and is intended to teach students what biomass energy is, what the trade-off are for using biomass energy and what the current state of the art is for using biomass for energy. Our society is facing a number of serious challenges involving energy and today’s students should expect to see important decisions being made about energy in their lifetime. With a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges involved with biofuel and biomass energy students will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how they use energy in their personal and professional lives. Read more

Solid Earth and Plate Tectonics
Lesson Plan by Leah Ziegler and Dave Van Dusen
This 2 week lesson plan uses a variety of activities to provide an engaging unit on the Solid Earth – from an overview of the layers, to details of crustal processes, especially plate tectonics. Activities included are (1) A Lab on density and differentiation (2) An activity on understanding the Geomagnetic field reversals recorded as ‘magnetic stripes’ on the sea-floor (3) An activity using Google Earth to explore plate boundaries and their geologic features and (4) a card game for plate tectonics review called SUPERcontinents! Supporting lecture slides included. Read more

Introduction to Volcanology
Lesson Plan by Paula Chojnacki and Dave Van Dusen and Ryan Benedict
This is a 2-3 week comprehensive unit on volcanology that introduces the key concepts of volcanoes through presentations with guided note taking worksheets, several demonstrations, a hands-on laboratory activity, and an optional final project. A review game and final exam are included. Topics covered include locations, hazards, and anatomy of volcanoes; lava flows and magma composition; eruption styles and historic eruptions; and predicting eruptions. Read more

Biodiversity & Conservation Biology
Lesson Plan by Damien Cie and Jennifer Ogo
This 5-day unit covers topics in biodiversity, biogeography, and conservation biology. Initially designed for Advanced Placement Environmental Science high school students, the overall concept can also be easily adapted to non-AP courses. The goal of the activity is for students to learn about biomes, biodiversity and biological conservation. Students will gain knowledge by using computer skill-exercises, collaborative learning, hands-on laboratory activities, current research, and group debates. Read more

Ecology: The Biology of Interactions
Lesson Plan by Emily Trentacoste and Denise Litt
This is a 2-week unit on Ecology, in which students will be introduced to the interaction and interdependence between organisms and the environment. In exploring ecosystems they will learn about Earth’s basic biomes, the abiotic and biotic factors that make up different ecosystems, and how these factors interact with living organisms in the classroom. This unit will introduce biodiversity and population dynamics within ecosystems and how they are important in structuring an ecosystem through food webs and trophic interactions. Students will investigate the biodiversity of invertebrates and microorganisms from a nearby offshore ocean ecosystem. Finally, students will build ecosystems in jars that they must balance to keep alive. Read more

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Atoms: Building Blocks of Life
Lesson Plan by Maryann Tekverk and Jerry Ruiz
This is a two-week long lesson, designed to introduce 5th and 6th grade students to atoms, molecules, phases of matter, and the usefulness of understanding chemical properties. The goal is for students to end the lesson with a concrete understanding that atoms make up everything. This concept will be reinforced throughout the lesson through the construction of atomic and molecular models, as well as demos and hand-specimen examples. Students will complete models and record findings in individual journals throughout the lesson as a means of assessment. Read more

Core Lab: Unraveling the History of Earth's Climate and Chemistry with Sediment Cores
Lesson Plan by Sandra Kirtland Turner and Jason Moore
The Core Lab is an approximately 10-day activity to introduce students to the idea that we can use sediment cores as recorders of the history of Earth’s climate and chemistry. In particular, we focus on sediment cores from the deep sea, since this represents the best archive for scientists studying Earth’s climate. An initial PowerPoint presentation introduces basic concepts in Earth History and provides examples of the types of questions scientists might ask about Earth’s past. Through the activity, students will build their own sediment cores to simulate different chemical and physical processes in Earth’s history. There are also 3 separate lab activities that accompany the steps of building the core. Students will learn that columns of sediment represent time and that properties preserved in the sediment can provide indirect evidence for some variable we want to measure. Read more

Waves in the Marine Environment
Lesson Plan by Brianne Moskovitz
This is a 4-5 day unit on the physics of waves and encounters in the marine environment. Students will have the opportunity to work with actual data, learn about different types of waves, and understand how waves are used in the ocean to learn about the environment. The unit consists of three lessons, two worksheets, a group project, and review game. Topics covered include an introduction to transverse and longitudinal waves, the difference between wind generated waves and tsunamis, and how and why we use sound underwater. Read more

Community Structure and Dynamics of Marine Plankton Unit 1: Phytoplankton Cell Model Building Activity
Lesson Plan by Darcy Taniguchi and Steve Walters
The main photosynthesizers in the sea are single-celled organisms called phytoplankton. They produce a large fraction of the oxygen that we breathe, form the based of the marine food web, and help take up much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They are also a great introduction to the concept of cells. This lesson will review three distinct types of phytoplankton: diatoms, dinoflagellates, and cococcolithophores. To tie in these important photosynthesizers with the concept of a cell, students will build a model of these cells, complete with organelles and the appropriate cell wall. They will also compare their models with a prokaryotic cyanobacterium cell, another important photosynthesizer in the oceans. Read more

Community Structure and Dynamics of Marine Plankton Unit 2: Microzooplankton and Feeding Strategies
Lesson Plan by Darcy Taniguchi and Steve Walters
In this learning activity, students will be introduced to the diversity of microzooplankton. Specifically, they will explore the variety of feeding strategies microzooplankton exhibit and reinforce the idea that they are consumers in a marine food web. To learn the difference between pallium feeding, peduncle feeding, and phagocytosis, the students will enact these feeding types and “consume” specific prey items. Some students will also be assigned the role of secondary consumer to elongate the food web. Students will also calculate the energy value in each trophic level and combine results to construct an energy pyramid. Read more

Community Structure and Dynamics of Marine Plankton Unit 3: Plankton Population Dynamics Learning Activity
Lesson Plan by Darcy Taniguchi and Steve Walters
This learning activity will introduce students to the processes that shape populations. In particular, they will explore the factors that affect plankton population characteristics. They will see how the processes of birth, death, immigration, and emigration affect both the size of a population and its diversity. They will also practice plotting how population sizes change with time. Read more

Biodiversity, Population Biology & Population Dynamics
Lesson Plan by Alyson Fleming and Jennifer Ogo
This 6-day long environmental science lesson includes segments on biodiversity, population dynamics and methods for studying populations. In the first section students will learn how to assess a system’s biodiversity by cataloguing and enumerating kelp-holdfasts inhabitants. After students have gained an understanding of the scientific process involved in measuring biodiversity, they will dive further in to biology at the population level by doing mark-recapture labs, calculating a population’s abundance, and exploring population structure. Lastly, students will learn about the impacts that humans can have on marine ecosystems and how this effects biodiversity and population dynamics. Read more

Seafloor Spreading Centers: The Life Cycle of the Seafloor
Lesson Plan by Ashlee Henig and Stephen Halpern
This 9 block-day lesson plan leads students through the discovery of Plate Tectonics in much the same way scientists learned about it in the 1960’s. Beginning with early evidence of continental drift such as the fit of landmasses and matching fossil records bridging continents, to understanding the features of the seafloor, and discovering the symmetric pattern of seafloor magnetic stripes and ages, students will piece together the evidence pointing from Continental Drift to seafloor spreading and finally to the unified theory of Plate Tectonics. This unit climaxes with the concepts of seafloor formation and destruction, emphasizing process of seafloor spreading and the cause of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. Read more

Lesson Plan by Geoff Cromwell and Danny Blas
Students are introduced to the two main types of volcanoes, stratovolcanoes and shield volcanoes, including how volcanoes form and explain their basic structure and composition. The goal throughout the entire unit is to provide students with a foundation of information about the different types of volcanoes with a focus on which types of volcanoes are explosive, why they are explosive, and reasons for the location and properties of volcanoes across the globe. The lessons in this unit encourage student questions and discussions during brief PowerPoint lectures in order to address common misconceptions. Students demonstrate what they learn by participating in hands-on activities and experiments throughout the unit. Read more

Rocks in the Context of Plate Tectonics
Lesson Plan by Natalie Juda and Joe Krupens
This unit is an introduction to the rock cycle in the context of plate tectonics. It is intended as a reinforcement of previously studied material on plate tectonics tying in the locations where rocks form to plate tectonic environments. The unit is set up to immediately follow a unit on volcanoes. As igneous rocks are associated with volcanism, these will be studied first, following a general introduction to rocks and minerals. Sedimentary rocks will be studied next, followed by metamorphic rocks, culminating in a final summary of the relation of rock types in the rock cycle. Read more

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Electromagnetic Radiation in the Atmosphere: Reflection, Absorption, and Scattering
Lesson Plan by Kristina Pistone and Dave van Dusen
Applied physics is the foundation for much of earth science. This 1-week (2 block period) lesson plan uses fundamental concepts taught in high school physics to explore how electromagnetic energy and light applies to atmospheric and climate change science. Each lesson builds upon the previous one, from a basis in general physics concepts to specific atmospheric science concepts. Topics covered include the electromagnetic spectrum and the wave properties of light; radiative energy transfer and thermodynamic heat; absorption/emission spectra; and Rayleigh and Mie scattering of light. Read more

Stellar Nucleosynthesis and The Periodic Table
Lesson Plan by Jasmeet Dhaliwal and Jason Moore
This unit lays the foundation for understanding the structure of atoms, particularly with regard to their subatomic particles, element identity and the organization of the periodic table. The material is presented in the context of stars, as all chemical elements are formed in stars and supernova explosions. The main activity consists of modeling atoms through alpha fusion processes, which provides a uniquely tangible understanding for the students. This lesson may be used as part of an Earth Science or introductory Chemistry class. Read more

Exploiting Wave Physics for Ocean Sensing
Lesson Plan by Eric Orenstein and Susan Hooker
Wave physics is everywhere. Concepts like reflection, refraction, and superposition are intrinsic to the function of devices important to the scientist and consumer alike. These important ideas are often treated in a vacuum; students are rarely challenged to connect them to the real world. These activities encourage students to think about the applicability of waves by framing basic concepts in the context of ocean sensing. Activities include writing word problems, building a directional microphone, and geometric laser range finding. Read more

Advanced Volcano Unit
Lesson Plan by Geoff Cromwell and Danny Blas
This is an approximately two week long unit designed for high school seniors in a marine science elective class. For the bulk of the two weeks, the students work primarily in groups on lessons designed to encourage self-guided learning and research. Students begin the unit by making connections between volcanoes and Earth’s history and finish the unit by researching a specific volcano and describing the global and social impacts of major historical eruptions. Students learn about how rocks in the Earth melt and how volcanoes acquire their supply of magma. Within this context students explore the underlying causes for different types of eruptions. The focus then transitions to a global picture and the relationship between volcanoes and plate tectonics. This unit is supplemented by on-location video from the Big Island of Hawaii and an interview with Dr. Don Swanson, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. Read more

Heavy Metal Toxicity and Phytoremediation
Lesson Plan by Randie Bundy and Jennifer Ogo
In this lesson students will understand basic water quality issues focusing on heavy metal pollution. Through a series of background activities and case studies, students will explore what it means for water to be polluted and what the human health impacts are. Students will observe metal toxicity by completing a 50% lethal dose lab (LD-50 lab), and remediating the contaminated solutions using phytoremediation. They will repeat the LD-50 lab to observe differences in the remediated solution. This activity is designed to increase students’ awareness of water quality issues related to heavy metal contamination, and to explore environmentally friendly ways to remediate polluted environments. Read more

Geology Detectives: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
Lesson Plan by Jillian Maloney and Jerry Ruiz
This two-week, 7-lesson unit introduces the basic principles of sedimentology and stratigraphy to students at the 6th grade level. The unit contains several hands-on activities for students to work with sediment and water tables. Based on these activities, students will learn to look for evidence in sedimentary rocks (i.e., grain size and shape) that can tell them about the environment where the rock was formed. Students will complete a final project where they create a stratigraphic column based on a provided series of sedimentary rock layers. Read more

Air-Sea Interactions: Properties of Gases in an Earth System Context
Lesson Plan by Sean Walstead and Alison Dickens
This 7-day long chemistry lesson covers the journey of a CO2 molecule through the global carbon cycle and its interaction in our atmosphere, hydrosphere, and the boundary between both. Students will explore the surface tension of water, ocean surfactants, gas properties, and the global influence of sea-foam as related to marine aerosol production and cloud nucleation. Aspects of modeling global air-sea gas fluxes are presented. Global warming and controls on Earth's climate are discussed with particular emphasis on anthropogenic CO2, aerosols, and the impact of marine cloud generation on albedo. Read more

Marine Ecology: Connections & Cascades
Lesson Plan by Eric Keen and Steve Walters
This unit explores the themes of connectedness and cascading chain reactions in marine food webs. Building from energy conversions to ecosystems, students explore the way relationships between organisms combine to structure an ecosystem. They then apply this knowledge to the question of how whaling affected marine ecosystems, especially at the poles. Students come to understand the concept of “ecological cascades” and learn about the long-term effects of some ecosystem disturbances and that some of these effects may not be reversible. Independent research, presentations, hypothesis testing, and data analysis are used to explore these concepts. Read more

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Incorporating Statistics into Biology: Chi-square, Sampling, Estimation and Interpretation
Lesson Plan by Lynn Waterhouse and Joanne Johnson
This is a 4 part unit meant to be spread throughout the year. The units introduce and then incorporate statistical skills into the biology curriculum. The students will collect data, develop hypotheses, analyze the data, and learn all the skills required for the AP Biology exam, and learn some additional ecological sampling techniques. There are 4 primary lessons and numerous handouts that can be used as quizzes or as homework assignments. Topics covered include hypotheses, sampling, chi-square analysis, density, mean, total abundance, standard deviation, and balancing systems, quadrat sampling and additional ecological techniques. Read more

Life as a Fisheries Scientist
Lesson Plan by William Jones and Steve Walters
Fish is an important food worldwide, providing billions of people with essential protein and nutrients. Yet, overfishing has caused global declines in fish stocks and threatens the health and livelihood of people across the world. In the first part of this unit, high school students will gain an understanding of overfishing and what can be done to counter it through the lens of a target species, the California white Seabass. In the next lesson, students will learn that scientists can study the fossil remains of fish in order to study long term changes in fish populations. In the third lesson, students will learn why and how fisheries scientists dissect fish by examining the external and internal structures of a fish head and remove the fish’s otoliths, or “ear bones”. In the final lesson, students will design their own goldfish experiment to test which environmental variables influence goldfish growth. Read more

Exploring the Twilight Zone: Mesopelagic Environment, Adaptations and Human Impacts
Lesson Plan by Amanda Netburn and Danny Blas
In the deep, cold, and dark open oceans of the world, a diverse group of fishes and other animals aggregate. These animals are strange looking- the fish are small, with big sharp teeth, and have lures and small spots on their bodies that produce light, there are bright-red shrimp-like animals, and many different kinds of jellies. These animals live in this seemingly inhospitable environment so that they can hide in the darkness from their predators. For the fish, these predators include sharks, tunas, and dolphins- animals we would worry about if they were to lose a major source of food. The depth of this midwater layer can change with location, time of day, time of year, and other factors, but is typically around 200-1000 meters (~600-3000 feet), in the layer of the ocean called the mesopelagic zone, also referred to as “the twilight zone.” Spanning all of the oceans (except for very close to the coasts) this region harbors a huge diversity and abundance of animals. This 5 day unit introduces students to methods that marine scientists use to study the mesopelagic zone, what the environment is like, who lives there, how they are affected by human activities and why it is important for people to understand these things. Read more

Sediments and Coastlines
Lesson Plan by Rachel Marcuson and Tara Howell
This unit consists of 5 lessons and should take about 2 weeks to complete. It is intended for a senior (grade 11/12) marine science class. The goal of the unit is to have students learn about sediments provide further foundation for biology concepts later in the course. The lessons focus on how sediments are related to their source, how sediments are deposited, and how humans interact with them- utilizing them for their economic value as well as how we increase coastal erosion. Lesson 5 is a review/final evaluation in the form of a project. Read more

Food Webs and Primary Production
Lesson Plan by Sarah Lerch and Felicia Ryder
Ecosystem health depends on balance between the growth and consumption of its organisms. This balance is found in its food web organization. In this lesson students will learn about the make-up of food webs, with an emphasis on primary producers. Specifically they will explore connections between primary production and nutrient availability through experimentation with diatoms (a single celled, primary producer). Nutrient limitation on primary production will be seen in real time as students grow diatoms under three different nutrient concentrations. Data collection and analysis will connect student observations with larger relationships between nutrients, primary production and food webs. Read more

Earthquake Hazards in Southern California
Lesson Plan by Erica Mitchell and Jerry Ruiz
Earthquakes can be an incredibly powerful and destructive force of nature. Throughout human history, populations in areas of high seismic hazard have experienced tremendous damages to infrastructure as well as loss of life. Recent examples include the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which resulted in 230,000 deaths and the 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami, which caused 20,000 deaths. Earthquake hazards can be drastically reduced by identifying earthquake-prone regions, enforcing strict building codes in those regions, and educating the public about earthquake preparedness. This is especially relevant to people who live in California, since they live close to a major tectonic plate boundary and seismically active fault zone, the San Andreas Fault zone. This is all very real evidence that our planet Earth is a dynamic, evolving place. In this two-week, six lesson unit, we will learn about how earthquakes work, and focus on earthquakes in Southern California. The lessons start on the global scale, with plate tectonics as a driving force behind earthquakes. Then, through hands-on classroom activities (sometimes involving food), students learn about where earthquakes are likely to happen, as well as the mechanics of how they work. In the final lesson, students compete in groups to design and build the tallest earthquake-resistant structure to survive the classroom shake table. Read more

Genetic Mutation
Lesson Plan by Sarah Lerch and Felicia Ryder
The different facets of genetic mutation and what it means to an organism are explored through diatoms, in this unit. The lessons revolve around diatoms, a single celled, visually engaging, organism essential to marine ecosystems. Lesson activities are structured to support student comprehension of the roles of proteins, how the genetic code is used, causes of mutations and what mutation can mean to an organism in its environment. The lesson fuses important information about diatoms with information about genetic processes, bringing the issue of genetic mutation into a novel real world scenario. Read more

Seawater Acid-Base Chemistry and Ocean Acidification
Lesson Plan by Heather Page and Alison Dickens
This curriculum of five lessons teaches students acid-base chemistry through ocean acidification, an environmental issue that is threatening marine ecosystems. Each lesson includes a combination of teacher lectures and demonstrations and student activities. Students will first learn about pH and buffering capacity of solutions such as the oceans. Then they will investigate the influence of humans and marine animals and plants on the acidity of the oceans. The curriculum ends by having students research the effect of ocean acidification on marine life; creating an information brochure about ocean acidification serves as the final project of the curriculum. Read more

Ocean Currents
Lesson Plan by Greg Sinnett and Jennifer Ogo
The ocean is a dynamic place. Ocean currents transport important quantities, such as nutrients, heat and pollutants around the world, often with direct consequence to humans. This unit introduces students to forces that force ocean currents, and allows students to explore what thermohaline and wind-driven currents in the ocean look like and why they are important. The material should take roughly 1.5 to 2 weeks to cover and culminates in an experience that allows the students to act as NOAA oceanographers, using a real NOAA model and their knowledge of ocean currents to remediate an oil spill. Read more

Plate Tectonics Through Natural Disasters: A Focus on Seismic Hazards and Engineering
Lesson Plan by Valerie Sahakian and Joe Krupens
This unit contains 5 lessons, and is intended for a 9th grade earth science or science classroom. It should take about 1.5 to 2 weeks to cover. Its goal is to lead students to the concepts of plate tectonics through observations of seismic-related natural hazards and disasters. These lessons will focus on how and why these hazards/disasters are caused, how they affect humans, and require students to provide and construct various engineering solutions to mitigate damage from these events in the future. This unit could also be used after learning about the basics of plate tectonics; in this case, it can be used to delve further into plate tectonics and how plate tectonics affect humans and the surface of the earth. Read more

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