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Educator's Guide: Oceanography Web Sites

Estuary-Net Project

Estuary-Net is an excellent website for teachers to use guided inquiry learning activities in their classroom. Estuary-Net was developed by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System in response to water quality issues arising in coastal areas. This project strives to develop collaborations among high schools, community volunteer water quality monitoring groups, local officials, state Coastal Zone Management (CZM) programs and National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS) to solve non-point source pollution problems in estuaries and their watersheds. This website provides comprehensive information about characteristics of estuaries, estuarine ecology, water quality monitoring, and quality assurance, quality control, and standard operating procedures of a water quality monitoring program.

This web site contains a database of monitoring data from National Estuarine Research Reserve sites and volunteer sites. Data includes water temperature, water level, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and stream flow. Biological variables and bioassment techniques are also included in the dataset. These include water quality, habitat, benthic macroinvertebrates,intertidal organisms, aquatic vegetation, chlorophyll/plankton, and fecal coliform bacteria. In addition to the datasets, the secondary school volunteer sites contain metadata. The metadata includes research descriptors, entry verification, experimental design, research methods, site location and character, data collection period, associated researchers and projects, data table descriptors, and remarks.

This web site provides many classroom activities from the Estuary-Net curriculum. The classroom activities are divided into three levels in order to provide various degrees of involvement in the subject, ranging from lab experiments to single field experiences to long-term monitoring. The benefit of this scaffolding is that schools which do not have easy access to watershed areas can still participate in the Estuary-Net activities by engaging in hands-on/minds-on laboratory activities. All Estuary-Net activities contain objectives, assessments, time needed, materials, procedures, and hypotheses.

Oceans Instructional Materials - Athena Project

The Athena Project has put together two wonderful interactive, guided inquiry learning activities that take advantage of oceanographic data placed on the WWW.

In "Tracking Drifer Buoys," students "experience" how oceanographers use devices called drifter buoys to track ocean currents. Students also learn about satellite imagery of ocean topography. Students are presented with a dataset of information to plot on a map. After this practice activity, students must use information from spreadsheet files to locate the Gulf Stream. Science journal activities are also included. This activity is appropriate for both middle and high school students.

"Ocean Color" is an activity that can be used in any K-12 science classroom. This activity examines how scientists interpret satellite imagery. Students create a map which identifies different productivity levels in the ocean and identify areas of continental vegetation.


WhaleNet is a collaborative project of the biology departments at Wheelock College and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. It is an educational site devoted to whales, whale research, the marine habitat and environment studies. Students are encouraged to use telecommunicatins tools to ask researchers questions on-line in the "Ask a scientist" area. The Satellite Tagging Observation Program (STOP) electronically tracks whales to study their movements and migrations. STOP includes data and observations including satellite tracking maps. Teachers are able to download a variety of tracking maps for use in their classrooms. Curricular lesson plans are included to guide the study of the range of whale movement during their migrations.

This web site also contains classroom activities in which students study therelationships between whales and their marine habitat.

At the WhaleNet web site, students can read logs of oceanographic research vessels. These logs can be used in a variety of activities with K-12 students including graphing a ship's position by plotting coordinate data on a map, analyzing meteorological data such as wind speed, air temperature, water temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity and classifying the plants and animals encountered by the research vessels on their voyages.

WhaleNet also contains an area of curricular activities which provide ideas on how to use the WhaleNet data and information for a variety of topics including navigation, water testing, plankton tow and analysis, data collection, photo identification of whales, bathymetry, topographic models of the ocean bottom marine pollution and data analysis.

This web site also contains a multimedia collection of whale movies and images that can be used by teachers as visual resources in their science classrooms.

The Ocean Drilling Program

The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) consists of research into the history of the ocean basins and the nature of the crust beneath the ocean floor. This web site can be used in an upper level secondary education science classroom to learn about oceanographic science processes. Students can learn about laboratory equipment and the types ofresearch which are conducted on board the research vessels. Students can access online data from a database containing downhole measurements taken from core samples. Students can analyze the data to look for patterns in the phsical properties, paleomagnetism and chemistry of the core samples. This web site provides excellent maps of the drilling sites. Science teachers can also use the resources at this web site for mapping activities with their students.


This web site is the homepage of the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite. Teachers and students can learn how TOPEX/POSEIDON maps ocean surface topography and how oceanographers use ocean topography to monitor ocean currents and use data to compute the ocean's heat budget. Many of the resources at this web site can be incorporated into secondary science curricula.

The TOPEX/Poseidon science images highlight many of the scientific discoveries of the TOPEX/Poseidon mission. Teachers can use the images to illustrate different ocean characteristics to their students.

The "near real time data" section includes data sets of sea surface heights, ocean wind, significant wave heights, and map coordinates. Science teachers can use this data for data analysis activities and mapping activities with their students.

The "image library" includes graphics of dynamic ocean topography, sea surface variability,significant wave height, wind speed, and precipitable water vapor.

The Educational Resources section contains an online tutorial which presents ideas on how to incorporate the TOPEX/Poseidon data on the Internet into the classroom. This tutorial can be used effectively as a stand alone tutorial for secondary students in a networked computer lab. Many sections of the tutorial contain images which can be used by teachers as presentation materials to explain oceanographic science processes and concepts.

El Niño Theme Page

This web site contains a wealth of information about El Niño. The material at this web site is appropriate for students in grades 10 -12. Graphic images and animations facilitate learning about El Niño. Extensive information about the impacts of El Niño and benefits of El Niño prediction are presented with many web links to recent graphic images on the Internet. Teachers and students can access the latest El Niño forecasts and measurements which include global sea surface temperature, equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature, and tropical Pacific buoy data. These datasets can be used in the classroom for graphing and data analysis activities.

Ocean Planet

Ocean Planet is an online exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. This online exhibit contains extensive information on many different oceanographic topics including ocean science, sea people,"SEA store", marine pollution, threatened habitats, global change, fishing issues, and much more. This exhibitcontains many great animations and movies of ocean topography and also many audio sounds of the sea. Ocean Planet has many excellent K-12 lesson plans throughout the exhibit.

A special section of this web site contains marine science and classroom lessons activities from the Smithsonian which adapt several themes of the exhibition for use in the middle and high school classroom. Each lesson plan contains teacher and student objectives, materials, detailed procedures,downloadable student handouts, and links to additional resources on the WWW. These lessons include:

"Sea Secrets" which explores ocean geography, "Sea Connections" which looks at the plants and animals that live in different marine ecosystems, "Ocean Market" which identifies and values many products of the seas, "Pollution Solution" which examines the effects of an environmental crisis,"Stranded Along the Coast" which explores both natural and human causes of animal strandings, and "Reflections on the Sea" exploring the influence of oceans on language and literature.

Ocean Planet is a great resource for teachers who wish to give their students a terrific educational oceanic experience without leaving the classroom.

Sea World/Busch Garden's Teacher's Guide

This web site contains many hands-on science lessons for grades K-8. The focus of these lesson plans is for students to learn how people interact with their environment and how they can best care for Earth's resources. Many of the lesson plans are interdisciplinary. They integrate science, mathematics, geography, art, and language. In the "Water Unit", students explore the forms and properties of water and recognize its key role in sustaining plant and animal life. In "Ocean Olympians", students learn to conserve our valuable natural resources by increasing their awareness of the interrelationships of humans and the marine environment. Each lesson plan contains objectives, teacher documentation, background information, materials, and procedures. Illustrative graphics complement the activities.

SeaWifS Project -
The Living Ocean Teacher's Guide


The materials presented at this web site were prepared for teachers of grades 9-10 by NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth's Education Office and were published in publication EP-307. This web site presents information about viewing ocean color from space, the role of phytoplankton in the food chain, the carbon cycle, and the greenhouse effect. Discussion questions with answers are included. This web site also includes a hands-on activity for students to make a greenhouse.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution K -12 Resources

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has put together an extensive list of web resources about oceanography. The specific content areas listed here include animals, aquariums, careers,museums, polar areas, weather, whales and marine mammals, and miscellaneous resources. This web site is a good starting place for K-12 educators looking for a variety of oceanographic information located on the World Wide Web to incorporate into their classroom curricula.

The Sea Around Us - Geosciences 40

Geosciences 40, "The Sea Around Us," is a 3-credit Penn State University General Education Course. This web site serves as a good resource for people who are interested in ocean and earth sciences.An interactive syllabus with online lecture notes serves as an excellent resource for background materials and information for K-12 educators who are teaching oceanography in their curricula. The site contains a syllabus with many great graphics of oceanic processes that can be used as visual resources to facilitate student learning.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library -
Oceanography on the Net


This web site contains an extensive index of oceanography web links. The index is divided by the following content areas: biology/marine biology, climatology/meteorology, oceanography, marine technology, and geology and other earth sciences. This web site serves as a good resource for science teachers looking for additional background information on a variety of different topic areas.

Oceanography from the Space Shuttle

Oceanography from the Space Shuttle is a pictorial survey of oceanic phenomenon visible to the naked eye from space. Fantastic visual images are accompanied by text descriptions. The oceanographic content includes coastal scenes, islands, local winds, waves, ship wakes, pollution at sea, spiral eddies, and suloys. The web site images taken from the space shuttle can be used to supplement a textbook for a variety of oceanographic topics. These images can also be used by K-12 science teachers for journal writing activities for students.

The MarineLab Experience Home Page

This site is an excellent source for information about planning an extended field trip in marine ecology. MarineLab is located in Key Largo, FL. The MarineLab Home Page gives you information about field trip descriptions and destinations. Programs are available for elementary through college students. The main topics covered are seagrass ecology, mangrove ecology, coral reef ecology, field identification of reef fish, invertebrate diversity lab and astronomy/plankton tow. Whether you are a snorkeler or SCUBA diver, suitable programs are available. Information is also available about the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. There are many photographs and even a virtual field trip included.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation

This site provides information about on going projects by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. Contents include reef fish pictures, distinctive features, fish descriptions, description of the fish survey, survey data, and how to interpret the data. The survey data would be useful for designing an activity based on reading a table, or determining fish distribution. Information is also provided about the organization's training programs, collecting sites, how to become a member, and the "REEF" publication. Also included, is a list of other links related to marine biology. This site would interest elementary level students interested in learning about different types of marine fish and also high school students interested in population and distribution studies. It will be necessary to have a description of the number code in hand when interpreting the survey data. Navigating this site will present no problems.

The Coral Reef Alliance

This site has a photo gallery, a place to make diver reports, and is a good source of information about reefs. It also provides you with information about the organization membership.

USGS Science for a Changing World

This site includes Fact Sheets on 28 Coastal and Marine Geology projects. The projects are very diverse .The information could be used in any 9 -12 science classroom . This information would be good for demonstrating the relevance of science in everyone's life. Some fact sheets have to do with energy sources and economic impact of environmental disasters. Each fact sheet includes graphics and projects. There is nothing interactive here. But the information could be a basis for other student work.

Adapting to a Changing Sea - Homepage


The JASON VII expedition was conducted in 1996. This JASON Project investigated marine life and living conditions, including habitats and food sources at the edge of the sea. During JASON VII, researchers, students and teachers investigated several interconnected shallow water habitats in Southern Florida including the Everglades, Florida Bay, Florida Keys and relic reefs. The JASON VII Homepage contains many good learning activities that can be easily incorporated into K-12 science curricula. Detailed descriptions of the entire expedition is provided online, including an in-depth look at the equipment used by the research team.

Other Oceanography Web Sites of Interest:

Institute of Ocean Science - Ocean Acoustic Group

North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve

Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act

UBC - Geo 202 - Carobonate Environment Page

Ocean Challenge/Class Afloat

Institute of Marine and Coastal Science - Rutgers

Aquatic Network

Neuse River Estuary MODeling and MONitoring (MODMON) Project

CHL-FRF Duck Research Facility

USGS-Science For A Changing World

CoastWatch Program

Global Rivers Environment Education Network

Marine Life

MI-Net: Marine Institute Networked Educational Topics

Wind and Sea - An Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences Internet Locator

Ocean Voyagers Program

Estuary, Marsh and Coastal Dune Plants

Assateague Plants

Salt Marsh profile

Dynamics of the Salt Marsh

Coastal Ecosystems Program - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Restore America's Estuaries

North Carolina Coastal Federation Home Page

Year of the Ocean

Science with OAR


Project YOTO Drifters

Educator's Guide | Carolina Coastal Photojournal | The Shell Island Dilemma | Inquiry Images | Coastal Research Technology | Relocating A Lighthouse

Carolina Coastal Science

©1999, Alec M. Bodzin for the Science Junction, NC State University. All rights reserved.

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