that life on Earth began in the ocean, approximately 4 billion years ago.
And in fact, it was only about 500 million years ago that life emerged from the
ocean onto the land. That means that ocean life has existed 8
times longer. So no matter how unimaginably long it was
since the first creatures crawled out on land... to the age of the
dinosaurs... to our time, all of that is but a small slice of the pie
compared to the vast span of time in which the oceans have nurtured
life. And even today, although living things now exist on nearly every part of the Earth's surface,
in so many different forms, the ocean continues to be critically
important to life on Earth.
To begin with the ocean covers 70% of the Earth's surface
and is still the home of the majority of Earth's living creatures.
Secondly, the oceans
are a vital part of the water cycle that brings rain to our crops and
forests -- and drinking water to our cities. And the ocean also produces
much of the oxygen upon which all human beings, and animals, depend.
Many of our recent medical and scientific breakthroughs have been made
possible in one way or another through ocean based research. Finally, the oceans provide fish and shellfish and other vital resources
upon which humans depend, including jobs for millions of people. In
fact, in the United States alone,
1 out of 6 jobs is marine related. And of
ocean based transport, by ships and barges, accounts for some 98% of our commerce with other nations.
But the ocean's role doesn't
end there. Because it's so vast and deep
the ocean absorbs much of the heat and light that comes from the sun.
In fact it is so deep (average depth about 13,000 feet, with a maximum
depth of 36,198 feet), that sunlight can't even reach the ocean floor in
most places. The sunlight, and it's warmth, seems to simply fade
away as you go deeper into the ocean. But what really happens is a
bit more complicated. In actual fact, there are currents at work
within the ocean, causing the warm and cold water to move in complex
patterns that control how the heat from the sun gets redistributed
around the planet. And these warm and cold ocean currents actually
help drive our weather patterns. In fact, did you know that if the
North Atlantic current stopped pulling warm water north toward
England, it could plunge England and all of Northern Europe into another
Here's another fascinating ocean fact: the
vast majority of ocean creatures live in the waters of the continental
shelves, in the band of shallower water that
surrounds each continent (before the drop off into the vastly deeper
waters of the open ocean). And yet a single study of a single small
section of the deep ocean yielded 898 species -- half of them previously
undiscovered. All this in an area half the size of a tennis
court! If this is what can be found in the relatively
less populated ocean depths, imagine what would be found in a similar
sized area located on the continental shelf! What's more,
given the variety of life that exits in the oceans' different depth and
temperature zones, and oceanic regions, we can only imagine what remains
to be discovered out there in the deep recesses of the ocean.
And yet as we said, much of the life in the seas
exists relatively close to land. Which means it is also
close to human beings and their pollution -- including run-off from
dirty city drains and from farmlands that use pesticides and artificial
fertilizers. All of this disrupts breeding cycles and food
webs and brings the delicate balance upon which our fisheries depend
This is why we've included resources below that
you can use to educate yourself and others about caring for the ocean
and the creatures that live there. We've also included plenty of
fascinating fact sources about different marine habitats and their
underwater inhabitants. And of course, since learning about
the ocean is so much fun, we'll be adding plenty of craft and activity
resources for younger children. Enjoy!
Why The Ocean Matters
Covering 72 percent of the Earth and supplying half its oxygen, the ocean
is our planet's life support system—and it’s in danger. Watch this video to learn why
a healthier ocean means a healthier planet, and find out how you can help.
The American Cetacean Society protects whales, dolphins, porpoises, and their habitats through public education, research grants, and conservation actions.
Founded in 1967, the American Cetacean Society (ACS) is the oldest whale conservation group in the world.
ACS offers educational information, updates on current issues
facing whales, and info on what you can do to help.
information from Ocean Legacy about the state of our fisheries.
Includes a quick overview of various regions as well as in-depth
printable articles concerning different species, developments,
and environmental threats.
Be sure to
surf their site to see what you can do to help!
Located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, IMMR provides programs in
conservation, rehabilitation, and research while also helping
rescue and rehabilitate injured dolphins. Learn more about
IMMR and how they are responding to the crisis in the Gulf.
educate the public and shift public policy since 1977. Check
their site for whale facts and ways to get involved. Learn how
small changes in your daily life can help sea mammals. Adopt a
Visit this page from the
Whale Foundation. For a $35 donation, you can adopt a whale
and help the Foundation fund its work to help the whales and the
ocean. You can even pick out your own whale! Find out about all
the cool stuff that comes with adoption.
First segment of the Ocean Odyssey describes
tides and waves and how they are created by the gravitational
forces of the sun and moon. (Note we
found the video feed on this one a little choppy. The rest of
the series performed well.) Part of
theNasa SciFiles Channel
Third segment of the Ocean
Odyssey describes how the salinity and temperature of water
increases its density. The Density Current segment describes how
the different densities of water in the ocean create currents.
Part of theNasa SciFiles Channel
out these wonderful online videos from Project Oceanography.
Presented by the University of South Florida College of Marine
Science.You can learn about plankton, deep sea vents,
hurricanes, and more! Suitable for middle school and older.
These 30 minute presentations can be maximized to full screen video.
Teachers may want to download the
teacher packets that relate to each topic.
students on an underwater exploration of the sea to inspire
their creativity and teach them about the ocean and the many
life forms that make their homes in its mysterious depths.
Students will learn about the ocean and the creatures that live
there, listen to stories and poems with oceanic settings,
conduct research about oceanic life forms, and write their own
stories and poems about the sea.
Students are shown photos of various weird
deep-sea fish as they hear about their general characteristics,
including feeding and reproductive habits typical of animals in
the deep sea. The students will make a list of important
characteristics that they think would be useful to classify
fish. A discussion is held about limitations and benefits of
traits and adaptations found in deep-sea fish, followed by the
students working in small groups to create their own deep-sea
fish based upon what they have learned so far. Each group
presents their animal to the rest of the class, explaining the
function and need for each body part or organ placed on the
Activities to Explore
Oceanographers and environmental
scientists often get their start as kids who love
the ocean. Learn more about helping kids
connect with nature through family nature walks and...
You can use an empty coffee can or large size
plastic yogurt container to create this classic tool for outdoor pond or
creek exploration. Cut the end off the container (use a can opener on
the metal coffee can). If you wish, cover the rough ends where cut with
duct tape. You now have a waterproof tube.
Next, cover one end of the tube with sturdy
plastic and fix it in place with a large rubber band, such as
the one that binds your Sunday newspaper. If you don't
take the paper, ask a neighbor for one or pick some up at the
craft store. A piece of thin elastic may also be used.
To use your viewer, place
the plastic covered end into the water and submerge the viewer
part way. As the water presses on the plastic it's shape
changes from flat to concave, creating natural magnification.
Portable Viewing Tank
Save those small clear containers that your salads
come in from the deli department and reuse them as portable viewing
tanks. These are wonderful for dipping in ponds, creeks, and
tide pools -- and for keeping small water creatures in for temporary
viewing. Small fish, tadpoles, crabs, and crayfish are wonderful
to observe up close. And a clear container affords a
view from all sides of your small guest!
great clear portable viewing container can be made from an empty
soda pop bottle. See directions for this
observation bucket from Family Fun.
NOTE: Always treat the
creatures you capture gently, and always put them back where you
found them before you leave their habitat. This keeps them
safe, makes sure there will be plenty for future visitors to the
habitat to see, and it practices the important values
of compassion and good stewardship.
Glitter-Sand Seahorse and
For this craft you will need to
out shapes of a seahorse or a starfish, and for this you can use our
printable patterns. Please note: Paper size is 11x17.
If using 8.5x11
printer paper, just use the "poster" setting. (To do so:
select "print", then "properties" and then "page setup".
Then browse "page layout" to select "poster". Then just
tape your pattern together, cut away excess paper, and you will
have your shape.)
Patterns are the
perfect size to lay out together on 12x18" construction paper.
Choose assorted colors for a colorful array of sea stars and
for printable patterns.
Now mix a little gold glitter with clean, dry sand and put it in a
shaker bottle (an empty glitter shaker or an old, empty salt shaker will
do). And lay out some old newspaper under the area will you will
be making your art.
Lay your paper shapes on top of the newspaper.
Dribble white craft glue onto your seahorse and starfish shapes.
You can make interesting designs with your glue or just smear it lightly
Now sprinkle the glitter sand onto the glue. Be
sure to use plenty. Now shake off off the glitter sand that
doesn't stick onto a paper plate or etc. You'll be able to pour it
back into the shaker to reuse. Lay your creations out to
dry. Later you can hang them up in the house for some nice
Paper Bowl Jellyfish
This is a fun preschooler project that can
be done in stages. Start off by letting them paint paper
bowls with tempra paint. (To retain a little more shine,
and more intense color, mix in some white craft glue with the
paint.) Once the paper bowls are painted a nice
"jellyfish" color, whatever the children think that should be,
you can let them air dry in the sun.
Meanwhile, let the children cut crepe paper
party streamers into lengths, from 6 to 18 inches. They
can also shred and/or split the streamers lengthwise. A
nice jagged and uneven surface will add to the proper effect.
When the bowls are dry, the children can
glue or tape the streamers to the inside of the bowl, using
varied lengths. Next, flip the bowls upside down so that
the streamers hang down from the inside. And now you have
your jellyfish. Adults can punch a couple of holes in the
center of the jellyfish and run string or yarn through in order
to hang the jellyfish from the ceiling.
For a Wild indoor
aquatic environment, line the ceiling with blue bulletin
board paper. Staples and/or tape can hold it in place.
Now hang your sea creatures. Add jagged strips of green
crepe paper to be the "seaweed"! Add your seahorses
and starfish. What other creatures can you add? See
the ideas below.
Discover marine creatures from the tiny zooxanthellae that make the
coral reefs home to the giant mammals of the vast seas in this
series of brief overviews of various marine ecosystems. Surf
their site to learn about fresh water ecosystems and other biomes as
Features 5 live cams, including the
penguin cam and the otter cam! Be sure to check out their greatkids cornerwhich features
games, information about aquarium careers, the student oceanography
club, plus a field guide, a dictionary, and plenty of cool facts.
Online encyclopedia of fish
facts. Just click on a creature name to learn about it's
appearance, region, habitat, and more. Also includes
information about coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, as
well as peoples and cultures that depend heavily on the sea.
Sponsored by Shedd Aquarium
In one way or another, our oceans are an integral part of every
other biome on Earth. In this online "book" you can learn
about the interconnection of river and ocean through the life cycle
of the salmon.
Tons of jellyfish facts to whet
your fancy. Be sure to especially check out their info on
jellyfish safety and dangerous species. Includes lots of
photos as well as unusual info, such as keeping jellies as pets
and... how to prepare wild jellies for eating.
the fathomless depths of the ocean, where it's so far from the
surface that even can't penetrate, live bizarre creatures with
adaptations so strange they seem like science fiction. Part of
Extreme Science website.
Here's a chance to test how much you know about Cetaceans.
Don't worry if you don't know one of the answers -- just use your
"back" browser button and try again. You can keep trying until
you find the right answer. Sponsored by
What would it be like to be up
close when a whale breaches? Amazing, but scary! Whales
are enormous and powerful animals. As this video
illustrates, whale watching is fun, but don't
get too close!
Covers four different species and
the ecosystem they share. Great for middle school kids and
19 printable (pdf) student activity
sheets help kids learn about whale biology, location,
conservation, and whaling history. Activities
range from cut and paste to crossword puzzles to a short
research project. Can be used along with
Gander Academy's Whale Resources.
Projects designed for Canadian
grade students, but can be adapted for similar age
Whale Word Search
Learn about various kinds of whales
and other sea animals, plus a huge variety of other animals!
Don't miss their cute pictures of their baby animals. Other
features include animal sound bytes plus loads of fun games and
This excellent listing, hosted by Stanford
University's Hopkins Marine Station, features information about
a wide range of careers in the marine sciences. It also
features listings for internships and links to pages with job
listings. Check it out!
Sylvia Earle, marine biologist and underwater explorer, dedicates
herself to protecting the world under water. Find out more
about the work of a marine biologist in this article by
Outstanding Book Selections!
Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the
Sally M. Walker. Illustrated with photographs. 64pp. The
coelacanth is a prehistoric fish that existed millions of years before
dinosaurs walked the Earth. These fish have remained virtually
unchanged over the millions of years of their existence. This is a
story of the first discovery as well as subsequent discoveries of
these ancient fish. It is about the author’s quest to answer many
questions, with each answer raising new questions. Bibliography,
Glossary, Index, Major Coelacanth Discoveries (map), Timeline,
Meeting Dolphins: My Adventures in
the Sea Kathleen Dudzinski.
Illustrated with photographs. National Geographic Society. 64pp. This book is an account of the author's work with dolphin
communications. Marine biologist Dudzinski explains how gestures,
sounds, and behaviors are used as communications tools. She also
describes her invention - a mobile video/acoustic array system. It is
used to determine which dolphin in a group is making sounds. Author's
Note, Dolphins Chart, Resources, Index.
Fish! Visiting the Coral Reef
Sylvia A. Earle. Illustrated with
photographs by Wolcott Henry. National Geographic. 32pp. In very
lovely yet fact-filled text
accompanied by eye-catching, large-format photographs, the young
reader is given an up-close-and-personal view of a variety of funny,
unusual, and beautiful fish, all residents of various coral reefs
around the world. Map
Reed-Jones. Illustrated by Michael Maydak. 32pp.
This book is a poetic yet accurate description of the life cycle of
the salmon. The sense of movement of the “Salmon Stream” is embedded
in the language, words, and illustrations. Facts, References,
This enchanting tale was inspired by a true story about the efforts of
a group of people working to save whales trapped in an ice-enclosed
bay. The story and artwork weave the story of human effort and
partnership to assist imperiled beluga whales. Historical Notes.
Sea Soup: ZooplanktonMary M. Cerullo. Illustrated with photographs by Bill Curtsinger.
world of the invisible microbe is alien to us. Too often we are
unaware of the vital role and stunning beauty such creatures present.
This book effectively captures the important niche filled by
zooplankton. The book’s microscopic photography reveals this unseen
universe, documenting the teeming life that occurs in just one cubic
centimeter of ocean water. Index, Bibliography.