Volume 1: Why Do We Explore?
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Education Materials Collection

Methane hydrate and mussels; ice coring; gas seep with bubbles; tube worm

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Full Book  |  Introduction  |  Background Information  |  Ocean Exploration  |  Climate Change  |  Energy  |  Human Health  |  Ocean Health  |  Resources & Standards



Volume 1 of the Okeanos Explorer Education Materials Collection - Why Do We Explore? begins with a lesson titled "To Boldly Go..." to guide students into an inquiry of reasons for ocean exploration and to provide educators background information on key topics of ocean exploration, including climate change, energy, human health, and ocean health. The Diving Deeper section of this volume offers additional information and the subsequent 15 lessons guide further inquiries into these topics. Some of these lessons have been adapted from lessons previously developed for other expeditions supported by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, while others have been created specifically for the Okeanos Explorer education initiative.

Whenever possible, hands-on activities are included that involve manipulations other than paper-and-pencil exercises or web-based research. The reason for doing this is that field science, and exploration in particular, depend heavily upon technology and problem-solving skills needed to create, use, and advance new technology.

Each lesson in this volume supports the Next Generation Science Standards and the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts . This does not necessarily mean that a particular lesson fully develops the noted standards, principles, or concepts, but rather indicates that an educator may use the information in the lesson as a context or point of departure for addressing those standards.

Lessons also include links to other relevant lesson plans from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, as well as the OceanExplorer.NOAA.gov website. Educators who use the Okeanos Explorer Education Materials Collection should regularly check the website for the latest information about new education offerings and professional development opportunities.


Why Do We Explore? Keynote Address

In this short film, three preeminent American ocean explorers share their perspectives on why it is so important that science focus on exploring our largely unknown ocean.



Book Version

Access the entire Why Do We Explore? book (pdf, 10.8 Mb)


PDF files of Individual Lessons

**Individual lessons flagged below were recently updated. The updated versions are not reflected in the full Book Version (above). For the most recent versions, download the individual lesson PDFs below.

The lessons provided in the links below include brief background information, but also refer to background and resource information presented in other sections of the book. Those who wish to download individual lessons should also download the Introduction section (pages vi and vii); the To Boldly Go... and Diving Deeper lessons (pgs. 9 - 34) for in depth material on climate change, energy, and ocean and human health; and the Resources and Standards sections (pgs. 217-232).



  • Why Do We Explore? Introduction

    This section includes: Table of Contents, An Introduction from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Director of Education, and an Overview of the Collection by the Why Do We Explore? Lesson Developer.

Section 1: Background Information for Volume 1: Why Do We Explore?

  • "To Boldly Go..." **

    This introductory lesson guides student inquiries into modern reasons for ocean exploration including: climate change, energy, human health, ocean health, innovation, research and ocean literacy.
    En español: ¡Para ir con valentía!

    Hands-on activity: Learning Shapes
    To Boldly Go...Addendum: Optional Learning Shape Fact Sheets

    Within the To Boldly Go... lesson, note the Diving Deeper section. This section provides more in-depth background information on each of the key Why Do We Explore? topics.

Section 2: Key Inquiry Topic – Ocean Exploration

  • Introduction to Ships of Exploration and Their Strategy for Ocean Exploration**

  • Journey to the Unknown

    (Grades 5-6)

    Students will experience the excitement of discovery and problem solving to learn what organisms could live in extreme environments in the deep ocean and will understand the importance of ocean exploration.

    Hands-on activity: Posterize images and construct an ultraviolet LED poster illuminator.

  • Come on Down!

    (Grades 7-8)

    Students will research the development and use of research vessels/vehicles for deep-ocean exploration; calculate the density of objects by determining the mass and volume; and construct a device that exhibits neutral buoyancy.

    Hands-on activity: Construct an electronic force sensor.

  • Calling All Explorers

    (Grades 9-12)

    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.

    Hands-on activity: “Your Own Expedition of Discovery” (geocaching).

Section 3: Key Inquiry Topic – Climate Change

  • The Methane Circus

    (Grades 5-6)

    Students will describe the overall events that occurred during the “Cambrian explosion,” explain how methane hydrates may contribute to global warming, and describe the reasoning behind hypotheses that link methane hydrates with the Cambrian explosion.

    Hands-on activity: Create model fossils of organisms that appeared during the Cambrian explosion.

  • Where Have All the Glaciers Gone?

    (Grades 7-8)

    Students will describe how climate change is affecting sea ice, vegetation, and glaciers in the Arctic region; explain how changes in the Arctic climate can produce global impacts; and be able to provide three examples of such impacts. Students will also explain how a given impact resulting from climate change may be considered ‘positive’ as well as ‘negative,’ and will be able to provide at least one example of each.

    Hands-on activity: Make a photocube showing changes in glaciers.

  • History’s Thermometers

    (Grades 9-12)

    Students will explain the concept of paleoclimatological proxies, learn how oxygen isotope ratios are related to water temperature, and interpret data on oxygen isotope ratios to make inferences about climate and climate change in the geologic past.

    Hands-on activity: Scientific posters.

Section 4: Key Inquiry Topic – Energy

  • Animals of the Fire Ice

    (Grades 5-6)

    Students will 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.

    Hands-on activity: Construct a methane hydrate model.

  • Oceans of Energy

    (Grades 7-8)

    Students will describe forms of energy, explain how each form is used by humans, and discuss at least three ways that energy can be obtained from the ocean.

    Hands-on activity: Build a micro-hydroelectric generator.

  • What’s the Big Deal?**

    (Grades 9-12)

    Students will 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 could provide human benefits.

    Hands-on activity: Construct a methane hydrate model.

    En español: ¿Cuál es el problema?

Section 5: Key Inquiry Topic – Human Health

  • Microfriends

    (Grades 5-6)

    Students will describe at least three ways in which microorganisms benefit people, describe aseptic procedures, and obtain and culture a bacterial sample on a nutrient medium.

    Hands-on activity: Bacteria culture.

  • What Killed the Seeds?

    (Grades 7-8)

    Students will explain and carry out a simple process for studying the biological effects of chemicals and will be able to infer why organisms such as sessile marine invertebrates appear to be promising sources of new drugs.

    Hands-on activity: Bioassay.

  • Watch the Screen

    (Grades 9-12)

    Students will be able to explain and carry out a simple process for screening natural products for biological activity and will be able to infer why organisms such as sessile marine invertebrates appear to be promising sources of new drugs.

    Hands-on activity: Screening plant products for antibacterial properties.

Section 6: Key Inquiry Topic – Ocean Health

  • Build Your Own Ecosystem

    (Grades 5-6)

    Students will identify key functions that are present in healthy ocean ecosystems and discuss how these functions are met by living and non-living components in a model aquatic ecosystem.

    Hands-on activity: Build an ecosystem in a bottle.

  • Stressed Out!

    (Grades 7-8)

    Students will identify stresses that threaten the health of ocean ecosystems, explain natural and human-caused processes that contribute to these stresses, and discuss actions that may be taken to reduce them.

    Hands-on activity: Experiments with a tabletop biosphere.

  • Off Base

    (Grades 9-12)

    Students will define pH and buffer, explain in general terms the carbonate buffer system of seawater, explain Le Chatelier’s Principle, predict how the carbonate buffer system of seawater will respond to a change in concentration of hydrogen ions, identify how an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide might affect the pH of the ocean, and discuss how this alteration in pH might affect biological organisms.

    Hands-on activity: Experiment with pH buffers.

Resources and Standards



Why Do We Explore? Online Professional Development

For more information and video introductions to Climate Change, Energy, Human Health and Ocean Health, visit the online professional development offerings for Why Do We Explore?, archived here.


For More Information

For more information, please contact the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Education Team at: oceanexeducation@noaa.gov.