Scientists believe 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 course 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 ice age?

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 into jeopardy.

 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.



25 Things You Can Do
To Save Coral Reefs



American Cetacean Society

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.



Endangered Whales Fact Sheet



Fisheries Facts 

Important information  about the state of our fisheries. 


Friends of the Sea Otter

Premier sea otter advocacy organization.


Institute for Marine Mammal Research  

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.



Marine Debris Coloring Book  

Learn about the importance of keeping our oceans, rivers, and lakes free of debris with this printable coloring book.


Oceans Alert

Discover how climate change is impacting marine environments and what you can do to help.


The Otter Project

Dedicated to protecting the California sea otter.  Includes otter facts and video clips as well as information on what you can do to help.



Save the Whales

Working to 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 whale!

See also:


Visit this page from the Pacific 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.



Still Waters: The Global Fish Crisis 

Fact filled National Geographic article that chronicles the threat to our oceans and fisheries.


Use this site to check the conservation status of any fish species.






Amazing Online Films & Video Clips



The Deepest Ocean In The World: Marianas Trench




Ocean Odyssey - Tides & Waves

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 the  Nasa SciFiles Channel




Ocean Odyssey - Ocean

Second segment of the Ocean Odyssey describes how the oceans formed and the role of salt in creating currents.  Part of the  Nasa SciFiles Channel



Ocean Odyssey - Density Current

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 the  Nasa SciFiles Channel



Ocean Odyssey - Surface Currents

Fourth segment of the Ocean Odyssey describes surface currents, what role they have in the creation of climate and how they form.  Part of the  Nasa SciFiles Channel


For more videos in the Ocean Odyssey series click here!




Lesson Plans & Activities


80 Marine Mammal Lessons

Reviewed by teachers, this collection includes lessons on defining a mammal, plus dolphins, whales, walruses, and more.  Sponsored by Lesson Planet.



Bridge Undersea Lesson Plans



Blue Planet Lesson Plan



Deep Sea Fish

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 animal.



Preschool Lesson Plan Ideas

From the Activity Idea Place.  Includes songs, science, arts and crafts.


Project Based Ocean Science

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Provide your students with inspiration for conservation awareness and action! This list of data-driven science projects is designed to give you tools and ideas for authentic, long-term investigations, and help you increase the meaning and relevance of your science instruction.   See also the MBA Curriculum page.



Under the Deep Blue Sea -- K-2

Take your 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.


Activities to Explore Nature



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...

 the Earths Kids KIDS CLUB


Build an Underwater Viewer

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!

Observation Bucket Another great clear portable viewing container can be made from an empty soda pop bottle.

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. 


Arts & Crafts


Glitter-Sand Seahorse and Starfish

For this craft you will need to first cut 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  starfish!   Click 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 all over. 

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 summertime decorations!



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.


Make a Sea Creature Mobile






Make a Fiddler Crab


Fish Related Craft Projects




Preschool Arts & Crafts -- Ocean



Fish Themed Activities & Crafts

Preschool learning ideas from the Activity Idea Place


Games, Fish & Marine Mammal Facts, Strange Secrets of the Ocean



Marine Biology: The Living Oceans

A fun kid-friendly site that covers a variety of ocean and marine life topics.  Includes fun activities.


Marine Ecosystems

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 well!


Monterey Bay Aquarium

Features 5 live cams, including the penguin cam and the otter cam! Be sure to check out their great Games & Activities   coloring pages, sea seaerchers handbook, and info about aquarium  careers




Oceans Alive

A comprehensive and informative site covering many ocean topics, including formation, physical features, tides, zones, and even the water cycle.   Includes some lesson ideas as well.



Secrets at Sea

An interactive story for kids aged 4-7.  Just click on "Chapter One" to get started.  (Also available on CD Rom.)   Remember to click on the speech bubbles to advance the story.



Puffy the Puffers Book of Fun Fish Facts  

Fun worksheets to test your knowledge of marine biology.


Jellyfish Facts

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.


Turtle Trax 

Learn about sea turtles!



Fish With Transparent Head Filmed 


Nova:  Into The Abyss

Learn about the deep ocean and the creatures who live there.  Discusses undersea vents and the strange chemicals soup around them.

Deep Sea Vents: Science at the Extreme


Creatures of the Deep

In 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 the Extreme Science website.


Dive and Discover:  Expeditions to the Sea Floor

Be sure to check out their excellent section on Hydrothermal Vents!


Deep Sea Coloring Pages

Angler fish, viper fish, gulper eel and more!


Twilight Ocean (Disphotic) Zone Animal Printouts

From Enchanted Learning





Cetacean Trivia Challenge

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 Whale Songs.




Discovering Whales

Learn about various species of whale.  Includes facts, illustrations, and photos.  Part of Whales.Org.Au



Whale Fact Sheets



Whale Links

Want to learn even more about these exciting undersea mammals?  Then surf this collection of outstanding links for fun facts, videos, activities and more.  Sponsored by


SeaWorld Animal Information Data Base

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 activities.


Spinner Dolphins

Fascinating facts from including anatomy, behavior, and what human interference dolphins really don't like (see harassment).   While you're there, find out how you can help them protect wild dolphins and the habitats they depend on.

See also:      Bottlenose Dolphins

Dolphins Explored

Dolphins -- Scholastic Teachers

Dolphins -- Enchanted Learning





Sea Otter Facts


More Sea Otter Info


Sea Otter Word Search.





Even More..


Career Guide to Marine Mammal Care and Training

Interested in working with dolphins, seals, or other marine mammals?  Check out this helpful advice about how to get started.

See also:  Strategies for Pursuing a Career in Marine Mammal Science

Careers in Marine Biology

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!


Marine Science Career Links 

More Links for Careers in Marine Science

So You Want to Become a Marine Biologist?

Straightforward talk and handy tips about how to prepare for a career in marine biology.  Includes information on top schools to attend for training.





Outstanding Book Selections!


Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth  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, Web-sites.


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.


Hello, 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


Salmon Stream
Carol 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, Organizations.


A Symphony of Whales. Steve Schuch. Illustrated by Peter Sylvada.  32pp. 

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: Zooplankton  Mary M. Cerullo. Illustrated with photographs by Bill Curtsinger.  40pp.  The 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.










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