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Islands in the Stream 2002: Exploring Underwater Oases Lesson Plans

Below are descriptions of the lesson plans have been developed for students in Grades 5 – 12 and are specifically tied to the Islands in the Stream 2002: Exploring Underwater Oases Expedition. 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 listing below.

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

Grades 5-6

The Sea with No Shores (10 pages, 592k)
Focus: Sargassum ecosystem in the Sargasso Sea
In this activity, students will be able to infer why the brown alga, Sargassum, is likely to be home to many marine organisms and infer that the populations of organisms in the Sargassum are dependent on each other for survival.

An Ocean of Weather (6 pages, 460k)
Focus: The close relationship between the ocean and the atmosphere in the South Atlantic Bight
In this activity, students will learn that the ocean and atmosphere work together as a system, will experiment to find out that heat transfer from the ocean is a cause of much of Earth’s weather, and will make and explain an ocean water cycle.


Grades 7-8

All That Glitters (8 pages, 476k)
Focus: Absorption, reflection, and scattering of light in the deep sea; bioluminescence
In this activity, students will learn that white light (visible light) is comprised of all colors of the spectrum; that the quantity of light decreases with increasing depth in the ocean; that the quality of light changes with increasing depth; that red light penetrates water the least and that blue light penetrates water the most; that many ocean organisms are bioluminescent; that bioluminescent light is usually blue; why organisms bioluminesce; and will learn about several bioluminescent animals through independent research.

Reef Fish Real Estate in the South Atlantic Bight (11 pages, 572k)
Focus: Reef fishes and their habitat requirements (Can be easily adapted for High School Biology)
In this activity, students will research a species of reef fish to determine its habitat requirements as both a juvenile and an adult. Students will use this information to create a pamphlet in the style of a real estate brochure that will describe the habitat and food requirements of a particular reef fish species as adults and as juveniles and describe how the water quality of local watersheds and other stresses can affect that particular reef fish.


Grades 9-12

Mud Is Mud….Or is It? (10 pages, 1.1Mb)
Focus: Earth Science - Comparing and analyzing the difference in deep-sea sediments
In this activity, students will learn to compare and contrast similar sediment samples, use the computer as a learning tool, and identify different variables that affect deep-sea habitats and organisms.

Blinded By the Light!! (6 pages, 460k)
Focus: Physical Science – Absorption, Scattering, and Reflection of Light in the Deep Sea
In this activity, students will recognize that the colors they see are a result of the reflection of light and that other colors of light are absorbed; predict what color an object will appear when light of different colors is shined upon it; predict what color(s) will be produced when different colors of light are mixed; and identify the three primary colors and three secondary colors of light.

Gilligan, the Skipper, and a 3-Hour Tour?? (12 pages, 508k)
Focus: Physical Science – Navigation at sea.
In this activity, students will be able to use dimensional analysis (factor-label) to convert units; read a scale on a map and determine distances from point to point; use knowledge of vectors to calculate resultant velocities; and use simple algebra and the velocity equation (V=distance/time) to solve for velocity, distance, and/or time.

In Gyre Straits (16 pages, 860k)
Focus: Earth Science (May be adapted for Grades 7-8 Earth Science) - Inferring bathymetry that causes eddies
In this activity, students will use inquiry to infer the bathymetry of the ocean floor located below the ocean surface that causes the formation of an eddy in the Gulf Stream; test their ocean floor designs by building models that simulate the Gulf Stream’s course over their ocean floor while observing if an eddy forms or not and discussing why it does or does not form; predict what changes to their model may produce an eddy; and reconstruct a simple model of the actual ocean floor that results in the Charleston Gyre and compare it to their test models.

Drifting Downward (6 pages, 464k)
Focus: Biology – Adaptations of planktonic organisms in the ocean
In this activity, students will describe the characteristics of plankton; develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry; test the effects of different salinity and temperature on the vertical movement of a model of a planktonic organism; and calculate the velocity of the plankton model.

Light at the Bottom of the Deep, Dark Ocean??? (8 pages, 476k)
Focus: Biology - Adaptations of deepwater organisms
In this activity, students will participate in an inquiry activity; relate the structure of an appendage to its function; and describe how a deepwater organism responds to its environment without bright light.
Grades 9-12

A Bight is Born (20 pages, 912k)
Focus: Earth Science - the formation of the South Atlantic Bight
In this activity, students will sequence and model the events leading to the formation of the southeastern coast of the United States, including the formation of the South Atlantic Bight; examine what forces have changed the structure of this area over geologic time; predict what changes are yet to occur and how these changes have and may affect the populations living in this area, including man.

Reproduction Lottery (6 pages, 464k)
Focus: Biology - Reproductive strategies of reef fishes
In this activity, students will be able to explain that fishes that reproduce externally have to release great numbers of eggs and milt (sperm) in order to ensure fertilization.

Spawn (10 pages, 480k)
Focus: Biology - Environmental needs of spawning reef fishes
In this activity, students will understand that the ability of certain reef fishes to have a successful spawning is dependent on numerous environmental conditions. They will also able to list some of the factors needed by reef fishes in the South Atlantic Bight to have a successful spawn.

At the Edge of a Continent (14 pages, 1.1Mb)
Focus: Earth Science - Bathymetry of the South Atlantic Bight Continental Shelf and Upper Shelf-Edge
In this activity, students will learn how to interpret a bathymetric map; will learn the main features of the continental margin; will plot and graph bathymetric data; and will think about and discuss the bathymetry of the edge of the continental shelf