Windows to the Deep Edcuation

Windows to the Deep: Explore the biology, physics, and chemistry of seafloor methane seeps at water depths of 2,000 m to 2,800 m off the coast of the southeastern U.S.


Education

The Windows to the Deep Expedition presents a unique opportunity to engage explorers of all ages as we journey to a world that few have seen. Scientists, using the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution’s research vessel Atlantis and its submersible, Alvin, will explore the biology, physics, and chemistry of seafloor methane seeps at water depths of 2,000 m to 2,800 m off the coast of the southeastern U.S. These seeps occur where methane hydrate deposits—a solid form of methane and water stable at high pressures and low temperatures—rise to shallow depths beneath the sea floor and break down to produce methane gas. The Alvin dives will enable explorers to see three seafloor features where they expect to find chemosynthetic communities that live on or near the seafloor emission sites.

Educators and scientists working with NOAA during July 2003 developed a series of lesson plans for students in Grades 5 – 12 that are specifically tied to Windows to the Deep Expedition. These lesson plans focus on cutting-edge ocean exploration and research, using state-of-the-art technology. Lessons focus on organisms in cold seep communities, including methane hydrate ice worms, hydrate shrimp, and xenophyophores; the potential role of methane hydrates in global warming; methane-based chemosynthetic processes; biological diversity; and global warming and the Paleocene extinction.

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 from sea during the mission. Teachers are encouraged to use the mission logs to supplement the lesson plans.

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

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

The Big Burp: A Bad Day in the Paleocene (5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Global warming and the Paleocene extinction (Earth Science)

In this activity, students will be able to describe the overall events that occurred during the Paleocene extinction event, describe the processes that are believed to result in global warming, and infer how a global warming event could have contributed to the Paleocene extinction event.

Animals of the Fire Ice (5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to define and describe methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp, infer how methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp obtain their food, and infer how methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp may interact with other species in the biological communities of which they are part.


Grades 7-8

Giants of the Protozoa (5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Xenophyophores (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to define and describe xenophyophores, describe processes of feedings and locomotion in xenophyophores, and will infer how xenophyophores may interact with other species in the biological communities of which they are part.

Life is Weird (5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Biological organisms in cold seep communities (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to describe major features of cold seep communities, and list at least five organisms typical of these communities. Students will also be able to infer probable trophic relationships among organisms typical of cold-seep communities and the surrounding deep-sea environment, and describe the process of chemosynthesis in general terms, and will be able to contrast chemosynthesis and photosynthesis.


Grades 9-12

The Big Burp: Where’s the Proof? ( 5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Potential role of methane hydrates in global warming (Earth Science)

In this activity, students will be able to describe the overall events that occurred during the Cambrian explosion and Paleocene extinction events and will be able to define methane hydrates and hypothesize how these substances could contribute to global warming. Students will also be able to describe and explain evidence to support the hypothesis that methane hydrates contributed to the Cambrian explosion and Paleocene extinction events.

What’s the Big Deal? ( 5 pages, 364k)
Focus: Significance of methane hydrates (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to define methane hydrates and describe where these substances are typically found and how they are believed to be formed. Students will also describe at least three ways in which methane hydrates could have a direct impact on their own lives, and describe how additional knowledge of methane hydrates expected from the Blake Ridge expedition could provide human benefits.

How Diverse is That? (6 pages, 552k)
Focus: Quantifying biological diversity (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to discuss the meaning of “biological diversity” and will be able to compare and contrast the concepts of “variety” and “relative abundance” as they relate to biological diversity. Given abundance and distribution data of species in two communities, students will be able to calculate an appropriate numeric indicator that describes the biological diversity of these communities.


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.