Project Two: Ocean Life

First Grade Overview

I selected Ocean Life as my theme for a first grade and third grade unit. The first grade activities will introduce and familiarize students with the various ocean animals, as they may not have had as in depth exposure to them. Since first grade students may have little experience in fostering their own inquiry, the ocean life unit will be very controlled. The students will have the ability to create their own questions with regards to the ocean animal that they chose; however, the resources that will be utilized and the final product will have been pre-selected.
The Ocean Life unit for first grade will be approximately ten days during the Social Studies/Science period. The Indiana Science Standards that will be addressed are:
  • 1.4.2 Observe and describe that there can be differences, such as size or markings, among the individuals within one kind of plant or animal group.
  • 1.4.3 Observe and explain that animals eat plants or other animals for food.
  • 1.4.4. Explain that most living things need water, food and air.

The information standard that will be addressed is
  • 1.1.3 Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.

I have included an outline of the ten days and a plan for the first day of the unit. Additionally, I have provided multiple handouts for the students to utilize to create their questions and organize their information. The students will be guided through each step of the handouts as each first grader may be on a different reading level. Furthermore, I will have larger copies of each handout to use as my own on the board; students will be able to easily refer to these if they become confused or lost. For assessments, I have attached a checklist for the student to fill out as well as an assessment for the teacher. Each lesson does not have a specific assessment. Rather, observation will be utilized each day to make sure that the student is remaining on task and working on his project. On the teacher’s assessment, it does list the components that the student will be graded on, but does not specify the point value. The focus is on the overall process and product, not on the assignment of a certain grade.
Scaffolding will be a component of many of the lessons. First graders reading skills typically do not lend themselves to chapter books or very many websites. Therefore, I have incorporated a video and non-fiction picture books. These tools will allow the children to listen or analyze pictures for information. Furthermore, students will have the option of collaborating with another student, who chose the same ocean animal, to create their stories. While they will be locating their own information, the students will be able to combine all of their information to create a more detailed product.

First Grade Ocean Life Unit

Day One: Create KWL chart. Read “A Swim through the Sea” by Kristin Joy Pratt. Create Questions about animals (see handout)
Day Two: Watch video “Deep Sea Dive” by Kate Youngdahl & Jonathon Grupper (National Geographic Society) 45 minutes. Discuss.
Day Three: Explore non-fiction books from classroom library and school library.
Day Four: Answer questions about specific animal- write key words in web.
Day Five & Six: Write a story about the animal (can work in partners).
Day Seven & Eight: Create class mural with all of the animals that were chosen. Complete KWL.
Day Nine & Ten: Share stories.

First Grade Lesson Plan (Day One)
Objectives: The student will be able to:
-write what he knows about ocean animals.
-write what he wants to know about ocean animals.
-choose an ocean animal to explore.
-draw the specified ocean animal.
-create three questions about that ocean animal.

-My Ocean KWL chart (for each student & teacher)
-“A Swim through the Sea” by Kristin Joy Pratt
-Ocean Animals handout (for each student & teacher)

  1. Explain that we are going to be learning about the ocean and its animals. Pass out KWL charts to students & place large version on board. Ask students what they know about the ocean. Have students write in their K column (I know…) of the KWL charts as you write on the one on the board.
  2. Have students sit on carpet for group time. Read “A Swim through the Sea” by Kristin Joy Pratt. Discuss the various ocean animals and plants that were in the book. What other ocean animals were not included in the book?
  3. Have students think about an ocean animal that they want to know more about. Return students to their desks and pass out Ocean Animals handout. Place larger version on the board or use an overhead so that students can follow along.
  4. (Model this step on the larger version for students). Have students select an ocean animal. Write its name in the blank on the handout and draw a picture of it in the oval.
  5. Have students think about what they want to learn about their animals. Tell them that we are going to make at least three questions about that animal.
  6. Discuss “good” versus “bad” questions. Ask students what would be a poor question; provide example of “Is the octopus brown?” Explain that a better question to ask would be “What colors could an octopus be?” or “Why are octopi different colors?” Emphasize that better questions do not have one word, “yes,” or “no” answers; rather the answer to a better question will give you a lot of information about your topic. Have students provide examples of good questions.
  7. Once students have demonstrated their ability to discern the difference, they will write three questions about their specific ocean animal on the Ocean Animals handout. Monitor the classroom to see if students need additional help with their questions. Check the students’ questions before they complete the Ocean Animals handout.

Third Grade Overview
The third grade activities will focus on the issue of ocean pollution, how it affects the ocean animals as well as our everyday lives. Third graders will have more experience with the inquiry process, so this unit will be guided. The students will be able to select the resources that they will utilize, though both websites and books are required. While they will have numerous choices for their final product, it will still be in a format that has been approved by the classroom teacher. The Ocean Pollution unit will be approximately twelve days and will incorporate the following Indiana Science Standards:
  • 3.1.8. Describe how discarded products contribute to the problem of waste disposal and that recycling can help solve this problem.
  • 3.2.3. Keep a notebook that describes observations and is understandable weeks or months later.

The information standards that will be addressed are:

  • 1.1.3 Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.
  • 1.2.1 Display initiative and engagement by posing questions and investigating answers beyond the collection of superficial facts.
  • 1.2.5 Demonstrate adaptability by changing the inquiry focus, questions, resources, or strategies when necessary to achieve success.

The unit outline is provided as well as the first lesson. There are numerous handouts for the student to utilize to assist him in determining and refining his questions, both are the same handout, and organizing the information that he obtains. In addition, I have provided a sheet to record the names of resources and a copy of the Venn diagram. For assessments, I have created a checklist for the third grader that enables him to determine if he has finished all of his tasks. For teachers, I have supplied a rubric for grading the student’s process and final products. Since the students have already been introduced to the inquiry process, the rubric specifies the points that can be awarded to the student for each element.
I have incorporated scaffolding components throughout the Ocean Pollution unit. For students who are more visual learners, the comic and numerous organizers are excellent resources. The observations at the pond will be a break from the classroom and will provide the students with the ability to apply and personalize the information that they have learned to their own experiences. In addition, students will have the option of collaborating with a partner to create their final products.

Third Grade Ocean Pollution Unit

Day One: Discuss “The Other Coast” comic. Brainstorm questions on web.
Day Two & Three: Explore books and internet websites.
Day Four: Re-evaluate questions and make adjustments (on new handout).
Day Five: Write answers in sentences on sheet.
Day Six: Pond observation introduction; how to make observations & take notes; similarities between pond & ocean.
Day Seven & Eight: Pond observations- write in notebook.
Day Nine: Make connections between observations of pond and knowledge about ocean in Venn Diagrams. Make class list of possible solutions to pollution.
Day Ten & Eleven: Incorporate all information into project of choice to represent knowledge- must be in another’s perspective. Can collaborate with partner who selected same animal (i.e. sign, poster, script, letter).
Day Twelve: Share final products.

Third Grade Lesson Plan (Day One)
Objectives: The student will be able to:
-write why ocean pollution is an important problem.
-select an ocean animal.
-create six questions about ocean pollution from that ocean animal’s perspective.

-“The Other Coast” comic handout (for each student & teacher)
-Ocean Pollution & My Animal handout (for each student & teacher)

  1. Explain that we are going to be learning about the ocean pollution and its affects on ocean animals, ocean water as well as our lives. Pass out “The Other Coast” comic handout to students & place large version on board.
  2. Have students read the comic to themselves as you read it aloud. Ask students what the comic is about and its message. Have students answer the question “Why is ocean pollution an important problem?” in complete sentences on their handout. Once students have had ample time to write their response, have them share their opinions and discuss as a class.
  3. If not mentioned in discussion, ask students how ocean pollution affects ocean animals. Pass out Ocean Pollution & My Animal handout to students & place larger version on board. Have students select an ocean animal. Write its name in the oval on the handout.
  4. Have students think about how pollution may affect their chosen ocean animal. Tell them that they need at least six questions about pollution and their animal.
  5. Briefly review how to create quality questions.
  6. Discuss the importance of creating questions from the perspective of the ocean animal. For example, “How do people pollute where I live?” or “How does pollution affect the way I move?” Have students write their questions. Monitor the classroom to see if students need additional help. Check the students’ questions once they complete the Ocean Pollution & My Animal handout.

Information Inquiry Skill

Questioning is an information inquiry skill that is utilized by every student information scientist. As Harada & Yoshina state “questioning is at the center of the learning experience” (2004, p.2). The questions that the inquirer creates are the basis for the entire inquiry process; they direct the student information scientist through his journey. Stripling & Hughes-Hassell write that “the process of generating questions is fundamental to critical thinking” (2003, p. 53).
Novices in questioning are learning that it is important to create questions that do not have a “yes,” “no,” or one word answers. According to Callison & Preddy, “questions that have single, factual answers are not useful for inquiry exercises” (2006, p.10). Through modeling by instructional specialists, these student information scientists learn and practice how to develop clear and challenging questions that are age appropriate and applicable to their own interests.
As the student evolves into an expert, his questions will become more evaluative and interpretative (Callison & Preddy, 2006). He understands that there may be more than one answer to a question and that more than a few resources are needed. In addition, the expert will re-evaluate his questions after obtaining some information, thus determining if his specific questions are helping him address his main topic or issue. The expert student information scientist will be able to generate questions that will guide him successfully through the inquiry process. Furthermore, his questions will enable him to apply the meaning of his knowledge to his own life and others.

Lesson Comparison

While there is only one year between first and third grade, the students will have different experiences with the inquiry process. For many first graders, this will be one of their first exposures to questioning and inquiry. Therefore, the Ocean Life unit is extremely controlled, with a heavy emphasis on the role of the instructional specialist who will be modeling numerous components to the student. While this does not provide much freedom to the students, the topic is very interesting to students and they will still be able to select their own ocean animal. For these student information scientists, the focus is on how to develop effective questions. Scaffolding is provided through a thorough, interactive discussion on “good” and “bad” questions. These terms are used loosely; however, the goal is for the students to understand the importance of their questions in the inquiry process. In addition, it may be difficult for some children to think of more than three questions about their animal. Therefore, the emphasis is placed on the quality of questions, not necessarily on the amount of questions. Although one student may have twenty questions about his specific animal, they may not be as effective as two or three properly worded questions. Furthermore, it can be very difficult for a first grader to determine the links or relationships between two items. To address this issue, the Ocean Life unit requires the student to focus only on one ocean animal. While the first graders experiences with inquiry will be controlled, the third grade unit will provide students with more options.
Third graders typically have more experience with inquiry than first graders. Therefore, the Ocean Pollution unit is guided inquiry, not controlled; thus allowing the students more freedom in their process and the instructional specialist will have less intrusive role. The focus of this unit is for the third graders to develop questions from someone else’s perspective, not their own. Since the students should be aware of how to create quality questions, they will not require as much scaffolding in this aspect. However, some scaffolding will be providing when discussing how to create questions from another’s perspective. The ability to develop these questions demonstrates the student information scientist’s growth in questioning. Through the creation of these questions, the students are able to look outside themselves, see how their actions affect others and understand life from another’s perspective. In addition, the unit will require the third graders to refine their questions. After their preliminary search has been completed, the students will re-evaluate their questions and refine them. In addition, they will comprehend the importance of altering their questions to better suit their needs. Furthermore, the third graders will be utilizing numerous resources, i.e. websites, books, personal experience, to answer their questions. With observations at a local pond, the students are provided with the opportunity to apply their questions to their own lives.
The growth of the student information scientist is portrayed through the information standards that apply to each unit. Both the first and third grade units address standard 1.1.3, which states the student’s ability to develop and refine a range of questions. However to emphasize the growth in questioning skills, the third grade unit also addresses information standards 1.2.1 and 1.2.5. These demonstrate the student’s ability to create questions and search for answers beyond simple fact, as well as adapt the questions as needed. While both ocean units focus on the importance of questioning, the maturation of the student information scientist is represented through the depth of the skill shown by the student.

Callison, D. & Preddy, L. (2006). The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Harada, V.H. & Yoshina, J.M. (2004). Inquiry learning through librarian-teacher partnerships. Worthington, OH: Linworth.
Stripling, B.K. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2003). Curriculum connections through the library. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Here is a little something that could be used for fifth-graders.


Fifth Grade Overview:

Fifth grade activities can further build on what students learned in both first and third grade. Fifth graders will have more experience with the information inquiry process so this activity can be more student-led, with the teacher acting as a facilitator or guide. Like the third grade unit this unit also focuses on ocean pollution. Students will focus on how pollution affects animals, research different kinds of ocean pollution and come up with ways that they can help reduce ocean pollution.

Indiana Science Standards Addressed:

5. 5.16: Explain how the solution to one problem, such as the use of pesticides in agriculture or the use of dumps for waste disposal, may create other problems.

5.26: Write instructions that others can follow in carrying out a procedure.

5.45: Explain how changes in an organism’s habitat are sometimes beneficial and sometimes harmful.

Information Standards Addressed:

1.1.3: Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.
1.2.1 Display initiative and engagement by posing questions and investigating answers beyond the collection of superficial facts.


The students will be able to…
1) Identify different kinds of ocean pollution.
2) Identify the effects that pollution has on the ocean.
3) Pose simple solutions that they can carry out in real life.

2 websites on ocean pollution (see below)
Handouts or PowerPoint presentation on ocean pollution (teacher’s choice)

Day One: Review ocean pollution. Teacher may create a handout or PowerPoint presentation to accomplish this. Have students use the Internet to navigate “Ocean Pollution” ThinkQuest project in order to learn a little bit about ocean pollution.

Day Two: Engage students in a class discussion about what they learned through the ThinkQuest project. Use the blackboard to take notes. When the discussion is finished have students divide into groups and formulate questions they may have about ocean pollution based on the notes from the discussion.

Day Three: Divide students into groups and have them explore the following website:

Ocean Pollution<span style="mso-spacerun: yes"> The website is divided into different types of ocean pollution. Assign one kind of ocean pollution to each group and challenge them to research and pose solutions that they can help contribute to in everyday life. Have students draft initial questions (similar to what they did the day before) they wish to explore.

Days 4-6: Allow time each day for students to research their specific kind of ocean pollution. Ask them to take notes using NoteStar ( as an organizer.

Day 7: Have students work in their groups to analyze the notes that they took about their kind of ocean pollution. Challenge them to brainstorm and explore ideas that they can use to help stop that kind of pollution.

Days 8-9: Have students prepare a presentation over their proposed solutions to ocean pollution. Students may choose any kind of presentation: PowerPoint, skit, song, etc.

Day 10: Have students present their solutions.

The second parenthesis around the Notestar link was included in the hyperlink, causing it to not work, I took it out of the hyperlink and just made it normal. The link should work now.

8th Grade – Ocean Floors:

Overview 8th graders will venture into the depths of the ocean to learn about the movement of the Earth plates. They will be able to speculate scientific theories on the continental drifts.

Standard 3
The Physical Setting

Students collect and organize data to identify relationships between physical objects, events, and processes. They use logical reasoning to question their own ideas as new information challenges their conceptions of the natural world.
Earth and the Processes That Shape It
8.3.3 Explain that the solid crust of Earth, including both the continents and the ocean basins, consists of separate plates that ride on a denser, hot, gradually deformable layer of earth. Understand that the crust sections move very slowly, pressing against one another in some places, pulling apart in other places. Further understand that ocean-floor plates may slide under continental plates, sinking deep into Earth, and that the surface layers of these plates may fold, forming mountain ranges.
8.3.4 Explain that earthquakes often occur along the boundaries between colliding plates, and molten rock from below creates pressure that is released by volcanic eruptions, helping to build up mountains. Understand that under the ocean basins, molten rock may well up between separating plates to create new ocean floor. Further understand that volcanic activity along the ocean floor may form undersea mountains, which can thrust above the ocean’s surface to become islands.
Unit on the ocean floor:
Day 1. Begin the lesson with the Pangaea Theory. Provide each student a paper with our present day 7 continents fitted together. Without telling the students what the picture is ask the students to talk among themselves for 2 minutes to give an educated guess to what this picture is. Most students will come up with the idea the globe pushed together. Have them cut the continents apart to place the pieces to a more ‘normal’ portrayal of what our globe looks like. Talk about the Earth and the layers that make it up. Talk about possible theories on continent positions.
Driving Along the Ocean Floor, Part 3 by Patti Hutchison
This lesson – although stated for a 6th grade activity, will begin the visual image of the ocean floor. Volcanoes erupt through plate movement.
Show clips or a whole video on volcanic eruptions/earthquakes in the ocean.
Concentrate now on the ten tectonic plates. Using the Smart Board or computer projected screen share the site:
This explains plate movement.

Day 2. (Haven't actually investigated this well, but it looked interesting)
In this lesson, students will be able to describe at least three beneficial impacts of volcanic activity on marine ecosystems, and will be able to explain the overall tectonic processes that cause volcanic activities.

Day 3. Students are grouped into teams of 4 or 5. Using the paper cut outs from day 1 on a large piece of butcher block paper, students will show 4 or 5 variations starting from the Pangaea Theory of how through history the earth has changed due to the tectonic plates on the ocean floor.