Lesson Plans

Lesson plans are available for this expedition. Download them from this page.

Submarine Ring of Fire 2002


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is supporting an interdisciplinary exploration team of U.S. and Canadian scientists during one of its major Voyages of Discovery in the Pacific Ocean. During the Expedition, the explorers will be investigating the birth of new ocean crust at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of western North America, part of the Pacific “Submarine Ring of Fire.” Volcanic ridges lying as close as 60 nautical miles of the northwest U. S. and Canada are part of the world-girdling Mid-Ocean Ridge system, a 60,000-km long series of seafloor spreading centers where new earth is born. The Mid-Ocean Ridge is the beginning of a giant conveyor belt, whereby new ocean floor created at mid-ocean ridges are welded to giant moving plates that are ultimately recycled at island arcs and deep-ocean trenches. From June to August 2002, the exploration team on board the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson will explore the Explorer Ridge, one of the elongate volcanoes of the mid-ocean ridge in the northeastern Pacific where the Pacific Ocean conveyor belt originates.

Because this Expedition has great potential for generating exciting outreach and education opportunities as part of NOAA's Ocean Exploration education efforts, educators and scientists working with NOAA during June 2002 developed a series of lesson plans for students in Grades 5 – 12 that are specifically tied to the Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition. These lesson plans focus on cutting-edge ocean exploration and research, using state-of-the-art technology. The lesson plans focus specifically on the importance of ocean exploration and the research taking place during the Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition, and feature such topics as biology and chemistry of hydrothermal vents, ecology of hydrothermal vent sites, plate tectonics, and the origin of Americans in North America and their ties to submerged coastlines.

The lesson plans are grouped into the following categories:
Grades 5-6
Grades 7-8
Grades 9-12 (chemical, biological, earth, physical science, and anthropology)

Each grade-level grouping includes activities that focus on the exploration and research being conducted as part of the Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition. In addition to being tied to the National Science Education Standards, the hands-on, inquiry-based activities include focus questions, background information for teachers, links to interesting Internet sites, and extensions. Web logs that document the latest discoveries and complement the lesson plans, complete with compelling images and video, will be sent back each day from sea. Teachers are encouraged to use the daily logs from the Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition, which are posted on this site, to supplement the lesson plans.

All of the lesson plans are available in pdf format, and may be viewed and printed with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download a lesson plan, click on its title from the list below.

Grades 5-6

Living With the Heat (6 pages, 88k)
Focus: Hydrothermal vent ecology and transfer of energy among organisms that live near vents.
In this activity, students will be able to describe how hydrothermal vents are formed and characterize the physical conditions at these sites, explain what chemosynthesis is and contrast this process with photosynthesis, identify autotrophic bacteria as the basis for food webs in hydrothermal vent communities, and describe common food pathways between organisms typically found in hydrothermal vent communities.

The Biggest Plates on Earth (7 pages, 192k)
Focus: Plate tectonics – movement of plates, results of plate movement, and magnetic anomalies at spreading centers.
In this activity, students will be able to describe the motion of tectonic plates and differentiate between three typical boundary types that occur between tectonic plates, infer what type of boundary exists between two tectonic plates, understand how magnetic anomalies provide a record of geologic history around spreading centers, infer the direction of motion between two tectonic plates given information on magnetic anomalies surrounding the spreading ridge between the plates, and describe plate boundaries and tectonic activity in the vicinity of the Juan de Fuca plate.

Grades 7-8

A Watered-down Topographic Map (9 pages, 100k)
Focus: Topographic and Bathymetric maps
In this activity, students will be able to create a topographic map from a model land form, interpret a simple topographic map, and explain the differences between topographic and bathymetric maps.

Grades 9-12

Calling All Explorers... (14 pages, 124k)
Focus: Ocean Exploration - Recent explorers of deep-sea environments and the relationship between science and history
In this activity, students will learn what it means to be an explorer, both modern and historic; recognize that not all exploration occurs on land; understand the importance of curiosity, exploration, and the ability to document what one studies; gain insight into the vastness of unexplored places in the deep sea; and gain appreciation of science mentors and role models.

Mystery of the Megaplume (7 pages, 104k)
Focus: Chemistry, Earth Science, Physical Science - Hydrothermal vent chemistry
In this activity, students will be able to describe hydrothermal vents and characterize vent plumes in terms of physical and chemical properties, describe tow-yo operations and how data from these operations can provide clues to the location of hydrothermal vents, and interpret temperature anomaly data to recognize a probable plume from a hydrothermal vent.

Candy Chemosynthesis (10 pages, 320k)
Focus: Biology, Chemistry - Biochemistry of hydrothermal vents
In this activity, students will differentiate between requirements for life in extreme environments and other environments and will use models to create a visual image of chemicals involved in autotrophic nutrition.

The Puzzle of the Ice Age Americans (8 pages, 100k)
Focus: Anthropology, Earth Science - Origin of the first humans in the Americas
In this activity, students will be able to describe alternative theories for how the first humans came to the Americas and explain the evidence that supports or contradicts these theories, explain how exploration of a submerged portion of the North American west coast may provide additional insights about the origin of the first Americans, and describe the role of skepticism in scientific inquiry.

For More Information

Please contact Paula Keener-Chavis, National Education Coordinator for the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration if you have questions about these lesson plans or if you need additional information about their development.

Contact Paula Keener-Chavis,
Director, Education Programs
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Other lesson plans developed for this Web site are available in the Education Section.


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