Polar Oceans: Unit Outlines

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content in this issue of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears? Not sure where to begin? We’ve created unit outlines for Grades K-2 and 3-5 using some of the resources found in the Polar Oceans issue. Rather than be a rigid and prescriptive unit plan, the outlines are meant to spark your creativity and help you integrate these resources into your own particular teaching situation.

The unit outlines follow the 5E Learning Cycle model – engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.

Have an idea for another tundra unit? Share it with us – and other teachers – by leaving a comment below!

GRADES K-2 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit

This unit is designed to introduce primary students to the world’s oceans and the types of animals that live in them. Students learn the names and locations of the five oceans and explore the idea that all oceans are connected in a global system. They learn about various regions of the ocean (shore, tide pools, open ocean, deep sea) and learn how animals are adapted to each habitat.


Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry (Grades K-4)

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Life Science (Grades K-4)

  • The Characteristics of Organisms
  • Organisms and their Environments

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

7 – Students conduct research on issues and interests.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage

Tell students that they will be studying the ocean. Use the first portion of Lesson 1: Oceans and Ocean Life from Under the Deep Blue Sea in which students are asked to share sensory descriptions and phrases based on their prior experiences at the ocean. If students have not had sufficient personal experience with the ocean, consider providing pictures for them to browse or reading a children’s book (like W Is for Waves: An Ocean Alphabet from our virtual bookshelf) aloud first. Ask students what they would like to learn about the ocean, and list their questions on chart paper or on a KWL chart.

Explore

Begin this phase of the unit with Lesson 2: Exploring the Ocean from Under the Deep Blue Sea in which students learn about the world’s five oceans and how they are all connected. You might want to supplement this with the song “One Big Ocean” featured in our podcast Deep Sea Thinking: Exploring the World’s Ocean. You can print lyrics to the song on artist Tom Lewis’s web site.

Introduce students to the various regions of the oceans (shore and tide pools, open ocean, deep sea) with the lesson Into the Ocean. Follow the lesson through the “Development” section, but stop before students conduct research using web resources.

Next, spend some time exploring adaptations that enable marine creatures to live in the regions of the oceans introduced in the previous lesson (Into the Ocean). Time should be allotted to discuss each adaptation and whether it would help marine animals live along the shore, in tide pools, in the open ocean, or in the deep sea. Teachers may wish to record information on the class KWL chart or on chart paper. Alternatively, students can create drawings and record observations in science notebooks.

The following lessons and activities can help students explore adaptations to various marine environments:

Other lessons about mammals and birds might be helpful as well.

Explain

In this phase, students will deepen their knowledge of marine creatures, their adaptations, and their habitats through reading and research. The Internet resources listed in Into the Ocean may be helpful, as may the books in our Polar Oceans, Mammals, and even Birds virtual bookshelves. Our Feature Story, A Whale of an Ocean, can also be used at this time. While older students can read books and browse web sites independently or in small groups, teachers of younger students may choose to conduct read-alouds.

Each student will demonstrate his or her understanding by drawing a picture of a marine animal and writing/dictating a few facts about the animal and how it is adapted to its particular environment. Students will then place the animals in the appropriate ocean region (shore, tide pool, open ocean, deep water) on the poster paper used in the Into the Ocean activity in the Explore phase. A class discussion allows students to share what they’ve learned about their animal and its adaptations and to justify the placement of their animal on the poster.

Expand

Ideally, student questions and interests drive this phase of the unit. One possibility is to introduce the idea of ocean conservation. The lesson Taking Care of Our Oceans asks students to consider the impact of coastal towns on marine animals. In “The Ocean & You” (see page 30 of the SeaWorld Science Activity Guide), students collect data about how they use the ocean and write a conservation pledge. In the lesson “Penguin Rescue” (see page 10 of the SeaWorld Science Activity Guide), students investigate the effectiveness of various detergent solutions in cleaning oiled feathers.

Assess

This unit provides opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Ongoing completion of the KWL chart will allow teachers to modify the unit accordingly.

Summative Assessment

Student drawings and written/dictated facts serve as the source of summative assessment and indicate student understanding of the animal and its adaptations. Such work is best assessed on a teacher-created rubric.


GRADES 3-5 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit

This unit is designed to provide opportunities for elementary students to learn about the location, characteristics, and organisms that live in the Southern Ocean. Students first learn about the blue whale, a familiar animal that spends part of the year in the Southern Ocean. Students then use informational text to investigate the Southern Ocean and create a mural depicting the ocean, its characteristics, and the creatures that live there.


Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry (Grades K-4 and 5-8)

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Life Science

  • Organisms and their Environments (Grades K-4)
  • Populations and Ecosystems (Grades 5-8)

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage

Tell students that they are going to be learning about blue whales, their characteristics, and their habitat. Ask students to read or skim the Planet Ocean article about blue whales and select one amazing fact to share. Each student should then write the fact on a piece of unlined paper and create a drawing to illustrate the fact. Allow time for students to share their work with one another. You might also wish to use the activity How Big Is a Blue? from the SeaWorld Teacher’s Guide about whales (see page 8).

Explore

Read the first two paragraphs of our Grades 4-5 Feature Story A Whale of an Ocean (or the first paragraph of the Grades 2-3 version). Use any version of the story – text, illustrated book, or electronic book. Stop and locate the Southern Ocean on a world map or globe. If you are using the Grades 4-5 version, you may also want to locate Africa as it is mentioned in the text.

Continue reading the next four paragraphs of A Whale of an Ocean. These paragraphs introduce krill, the food source of blue whales, and the phytoplankton eaten by the krill. They also describe how blue whales eat. Show students pictures of krill and phytoplankton. Draw a diagram of the food chain described in the article, or ask students to draw the diagram using what they’ve read as a guide. Use the activities in Whale Lesson to help students visualize how a whale’s baleen acts as a strainer.

Finish reading A Whale of an Ocean. The Grades 4-5 version explains convection currents – when cold water sinks and warmer water rises to the surface. You may wish to demonstrate this to students with an activity like those described in Convection Currents. If you are using the Grades 2-3 version, omit this activity as the text does not mention convection.

Finish this phase with the “Find the Question” activity described in the article Active Participation: Ensuring Student Engagement. In this activity, students match questions and answers from the article. It provides a means of formative assessment of their comprehension.

Explain

During this phase, students will develop their understanding of the Southern Ocean. Read books from our virtual bookshelf including The Antarctic Ocean by Anne Ylvisaker and Southern Ocean by Kate A. Furlong. Oceans by Sandy Sepehri may also include some good information. Books about Antarctica, like Antarctic Ice by Jim Mastro and Norbert Wu (from our Sense of Place virtual bookshelf), can also be helpful. You may wish to have students take notes about what they are reading. Our Note It 3 Ways graphic organizer or our research organizer may be useful.

Students will work in small groups to create murals of the Southern Ocean and the organisms that live in it. Murals can be created using pieces of butcher paper that are typically used to cover bulletin boards. Each group should prepare a written description of its mural as well as a short oral presentation describing the elements. Murals can be displayed in the classroom or in the hallway.

Expand

Ideally, student questions and interests drive this phase of the unit. Possibilities include identifying similarities and differences between the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean or learning how the Southern Ocean is part of the world’s ocean system.

Assess

This unit provides opportunities for formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is conducted throughout the unit. For example:

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Students’ participation in the “Find the Question” activity in the Explore phase will provide a means of understanding how well they comprehended A Whale of an Ocean. Reread and provide support if needed.
  • Observation of students taking notes during the Explain phase will provide insight into their understanding of the material being read as well as their ability to take notes from text. Provide support for students as needed.

Summative Assessment

Student murals and oral presentations serve as the source of summative assessment and indicate student understanding of the Southern Ocean and the organisms that live there. Such work is best assessed on a teacher-created rubric. As this is a cooperative learning activity, teachers should provide both individual and group assessment.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright May 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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