oceans exploration

Ocean Currents, Ocean Floor, Ocean in a Bottle Craft, and Ocean Lapbook

This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. Map the ocean floor, identifying the major mountain ranges and rifts, learn about ocean currents and color a map of the prevailing currents on earth, make an ocean in a bottle craft, and then round it out with an ocean lapbook. You can learn about oceans with your whole family together!

1st thru 4th grades
5th thru 8th grades
9th thru 12th grades

Layers of Learning Unit 1-7
Unit 1-7: Phoenicians, Oceans, Motion, Moral Stories

These ocean explorations pair with Unit 1-7 which is about about oceans. Layers of Learning has hands-on experiments in every unit of this family friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.

Oceans cover three quarters of the surface of the earth and though they’ve been used heavily for trade and food sources since ancient times it is only recently that humans have begun to explore the ocean floor, life in the ocean, and how the currents across the whole globe affect weather, ocean life, coastlines, and shipping lanes.

People are still exploring the oceans today and discovering new life, new land forms, and new ideas.

Step 1: Library Research

Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about oceans. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about oceans, ocean floor, ocean currents, and ocean life. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.

The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor

by Joanna Cole

This is part of the original Magic School Bus series, which means it is charming with Bruce Degan’s illustrations and absolutely packed with information while being entertaining for the younger set.

Ultimate Ocean-Pedia

by National Geographic Kids

This book is excellent because it covers everything from the size and breadth of the oceans to the life that lives in it. A perfect thorough geography book of the oceans.

Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia

by DK

Though this is accessible for even younger students, we recommend this as a perfect jumping off point to spark interest in your high schooler. Lots of visuals accompanied by the sweet spot of text.

Step 2: Ocean Explorations

Layers of Learning units come with many explorations that you choose between. You do not need to pick all of the printables and activities below, just the ones that most appeal to you.

Exploration: Ocean Currents Map

The ocean is never still.  Ocean currents are constantly moving and churning the waters.  There are surface currents and deep currents and upwelling currents.  All these currents move heat and nutrients around the world oceans.  The currents affect the land as well.  Here is an Ocean Currents Map showing some of the major surface currents in the oceans.

Color the arrows in red for warm currents and dark blue for cold currents.  The major currents can be labeled with the help of a student atlas.  The rest of the ocean should be colored light blue.

Click on this map to print it.
This is what the map looks like colored. You can use pencils, crayons, or paints to complete your map.

Learn more about ocean currents in the books you got from the library or from videos about oceans.

Exploration: Ocean Floor Map

The ocean floor is covered with mountains, valleys, plains, and other features similar to the land surfaces of earth.  The ocean’s features, like land features, are a result of tectonic processes from deep inside the earth.

Here is an Ocean Floor Map.  It shows some of the major mountain ranges and trenches that can be found under the sea. You can add more details that you discover from books, websites, and videos you watch.

Ocean Floor Map
Click on the map to get the pdf to print.
map of the ocean floor painted with watercolor
We used watercolor paints to finish this map after we labeled the major ridges, trenches, and basins in the oceans with our atlas as a guide.

Exploration: Ocean in a Bottle

This is a fun project to introduce a unit about oceans or to finish one off. You might also use it when you’re learning about waves or currents.

You’ll need

  • An empty 2 liter plastic bottle with a lid
  • Clear vegetable oil or mineral oil
  • Water
  • A funnel
  • Blue food coloring
You need a clear bottle with a lid. 2 liters is a nice size, but anything close to that will do.
Mineral oil won’t combine with the food coloring, so this makes up the clear part of your ocean in a bottle.
Use the funnel to get the liquids into the bottle without spilling.
The liquid food coloring mixes best with the water.
  1. First, fill the bottle halfway with water. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and swirl it around until it mixes.
  2. Using a funnel, add oil up to the top of the bottle. Put the lid on tightly.  You may want to put a little hot glue around the rim if you’re worried about it leaking.
  3. Now rock the bottle on its side gently to create a wave that goes back and forth.
ocean in a bottle

If you want to, you may add small shells, sand, or tiny fish-shaped beads before sealing the bottle.

Step 3: Show What You Know

During this unit you can make an ocean lapbook that shows what you have learned. Let each child show off their lapbook on the final day of learning about oceans and give them big applause!

For this activity you need file folders or stiff card stock, which you can tape together, and the ocean lapbook printables.

file folders
Pick out the blue ones from this pack. Later you can use the other colors for other file folder projects. If you can’t get file folders where you live, blue card stock, taped together along the long sides, will work great.
ocean lapbook printable
Click on this picture to get the ocean lapbook printable.

Each lapbook is made of a single file folder.  We refolded the folder so it has a cover with a center opening, one flap on the left and one on the right. If you used two sheets of card stock, taped up the middle, you could make the same folds.

inside of the ocean lapbook

We spent several weeks on this lapbook, making one bit at a time as we learned about oceans.  For example, we watched a YouTube clip about the ocean zones and then labeled and colored in the ocean zones paper strip and glued it into the lapbook along one side.  On another day we read several books from the library about the ocean and ocean animals and made index cards about ocean facts.  We put the ocean fact cards in a pocket that is glued to the lapbook.

The first page of the printable is meant for the cover. Your kids can illustrate anything they like about the oceans to make a colorful cover. You’ll cut this sheet in half along the seams of your file folders where they meet in the middle.
We stapled the maps, above, to the back cover. You could also just use one map of the oceans and glue it to the back cover.

Additional Layers

Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.

Writer’s Notebook

Create your own “undiscovered” marine animal.  Where does it live?  What features does it have to help it survive in its environment (most really deep sea fish don’t have eyes because it’s too dark to see anyway).  What does it eat?  Name it, draw a picture, write a story, and describe what it’s like.

Additional Layer

Focus on learning a lot about one particular ocean animal.  Learning about one thing in detail can help you understand other animals, hone research skills, and heighten interest as you discover fascinating things about the world.

Expedition

This is an aquarium on the Oregon coast. In this display you could carefully and gently touch the tide pool sea creatures.

Take a trip to the seashore or to an aquarium during this unit to see the ocean up close.

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5 thoughts on “Ocean Currents, Ocean Floor, Ocean in a Bottle Craft, and Ocean Lapbook”

  1. This map is great but your North Atlantic Gyre has the bottom arrow in the wrong direction. The Northern Equatorial current runs along the southern part of the Gyre opposite the Equatorial Counter Current then feeds into the Gulf Stream.

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