The Ocean

There is something elusive about the ocean – how vast it is and just how little we know about it.

This week we have our very last Blog Takeover for this session and it is a brilliant one! The creativity and ingenuity of weeSTEMers never ceases to astound me.

We’ve absolutely loved all of the Ocean activities – and we hope you do too. They cater to all age ranges so I hope that siblings will participate in fun learning through play with ease in each activity. There’s just so much to learn about the ocean it was difficult to choose which parts to learn about – so let me know if there’s anything you want to see covered.

Ocean Facts

  • 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in ocean
  • 70% of our oxygen is produced by the ocean
  • The Pacific Ocean is the lagest ocean on Earth
  • The Pacific Ocean contains around 25,000 islands
  • The deepest area of ocean is the Mariana Trench
  • The majority of life on Earth is aquatic
  • Less than 5% of the oceans have been explored
  • The world’s longest mountain range is underwater
  • There are more historic atrefacts underwater than all the world’s museums
  • Blubber on large marine mammals can be several feet thick and helps with bouyancy as well as heat insulation
  • Jellyfish have no brain, heart, or eyes
  • The Blue Whale is the largest animal to ever live
  • Zooplankton are the smallest creatures to live in the oceans
  • Octopuses have 3 hearts
  • You can tell the age of a shark by counting the rings on its vertebrae
  • When diving below 10 meters, you can’t see red or yellow

Activity 1

Sensory Ocean Play

You will need:

  • Water
  • Ocean toys/laminated pictures
  • Rocks
  • Sand
  • Weeds/grass
  • Tub/tuff spot

We set up this sensory ocean play scene and loads of ocean learning took place. We explored:

  • Tidal pools and which animals stay underwater all the time versus animals who come to the surface to breathe and others still who occasionally leave the water
  • Colour and shape – how different animals were designed for different purposes – also touching on camouflage and blending in with surroundings (see this video of an octopus for a fascinating take on camouflage)
  • Food chains – who eats what and how there are far greater numbers of each level the further down you go (i.e. there are less sharks than plankton)
  • Scale and size – we discussed how not all the animals in our tub represented the true size of the actual animal and why that might be
  • Shadows and decided that they represented plankton which are difficult to see
  • Ocean plants – how some float and others are rooted and why they are useful to the ocean as a whole

Activity 2

How Whales Stay Warm

You will need:

  • Basin/large bowl
  • Lard/fat
  • 4 x plastic bags
  • Ice
  • Cold water

Whales swim in some of the coldest waters in the world – so we wanted to explore how they do it.

Whales are covered entirely in a thick layer of blubber (fat) which helps to insulate them and keep them warm – even in freezing temperatures.

To replicate the insulating blubber layer we covered our hand in a bag (so that we could take turns – but feel free to not use any bags in this experiment!). Once inside, we plastered the hand in lard so that it was completely covered. We then covered it in another bag in order to keep it from disintigrating in the water.

We spoke about making this a Fair Test and that we could only change ONE variable – in this case one hand with lard and one hand without. Therefore, both hands should be covered in 2 bags. We also chose to put both hands into the one bowl to ensure that the water was exactly the same temperature.

You could time this experiment to see how long each hand manages to stay submerged for – does the protective fat layer really make that much of a difference?

This was defintely the favourite experiment this week! My eldest was astounded at how much longer he was able to keep his hand in the icy water (it was so warm he never had to remove it) whereas the control hand had to be removed every 20 seconds or so.

My youngest also loved having a go and feeling the different temperatures – it was also a great opportunity to explore terms like cool, cold, freezing, icy, cold, colder, coldest.

Activity 3

Recycled Jellyfish

You will need:

  • Scissors
  • Bags
  • Sellotape
  • String
  • Bubble wrap (optional)

Try watching this video of jellyfish and discuss how they move, what they feel like, what colours they are.

Using recyclable materials can you create your own jellyfish? Plastic bags & bubble wrap work particularly well for this. Cutting can be fun for children if challenged to simply cut strands for the tentacles (as there’s no pressure to cut perfect lines). Can you make different coloured jellyfish? Can you make different sizes? What would you name this new species of jellyfish?

Again, allow your kids to learn through play now that they’re equipped with new information and allow them to explore these concepts through whichever means they see fit.

We had a fabulous weeSTEMs family really take their learning further with this activity. Thank you for participating!

Melanie says: “Thanks so much for letting us get involved in this. Ewan (12) was most concerned about jellyfish having no defence so we discussed how important it would be for them to develop eyes to avoid being eaten by turtles. We then discussed how long it would take for eyes to evolve on a jelly fish and how it would happen. We looked at shapes and the way jelly fish move through water and thought about how more or less tentacles would be helpful to travel deeper or greater distances. We used plastic bags but thought that bubble wrap was more lifelike as it was transparent, shinier and can catch the light. It also gave more texture to the tentacles. We hung out jelly fish on our homemade wind chime so the breeze could emulate the movement in water (and scare the birds away from our veg pots!).”

Activity 4

Measuring Animals

You will need:

  • Paper (the larger the better if you want to record your results)
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape

We randomly chose different animals that we’d like to know size facts about and then got to measuring – we alternated between inches and centimetres and this was a great way to see the difference between the two units of measurement. Not only were we practising our measuring skills – we were also practising number recognition and ordering each time we had to find a different length on the measuring tape.

Since it was raining, we did this activity inside – however it would also be a great activity outside on the pavement with some chalk!

Here are the facts that we researched and then measured out:

  • Bull Shark tail length – 120cm
  • Giant Squid eyeball diameter – 25cm
  • Great White Shark Tooth height – 3 inches
  • Flying Fish length – 20 inches
  • Blue Whale Dorsal Fin – 33cm
  • Sunstar length – 34cm

Of course feel free to research and add your own! Let us know what ones you do over on our Facebook page.

As you can see from the pictures – my youngest took this opportunity to practise drawing his own ocean creatures and practising scissor skills. Whilst the eldest had a go at writing/sounding out the spellings. I just wanted to let you see how each activity may look slightly different for different ages of children – but both got something out of it!

Activity 5

Feed The Shark

You will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Marker pen

A really fun way to learn number recognition or complete maths questions (or anything else you want to practise! This would be great for letter and word recognition too).

We made 2 sets of number cards (I laminated them so we could use them for multiple things) and an addition, subtraction and equals sign. Both sets could be split between the children or simply used so that we could add multiples (eg 4+4).

We cut a shark shape out of cardboard and glued white teeth to the back and then got to playing. Remember that most weeSTEMs activities don’t require to be set-up in advance – making the game is all part of the process! My kids also loved gluing the teeth on!

We then started taking turns to play Feed The Shark – my youngest (aged 2) was working on number recognition – so I simply asked him to feed the shark certain numbers (eg ‘Feed the shark number 4’) whereas my eldest was working on addition and subtraction (eg ‘read the maths questions and feed the shark the answer’). They also enjoyed testing me and you could do feeding races to see who’s the fastest to feed the shark the correct number!

Activity 6

Cartesian Diver Experiment

You will need:

  • Bottle
  • Scissors
  • Straw
  • Blutak
  • Water

Named after Descartes, the Cartesian Diver is a great way to explore pressure. The diver floats when no pressure is applied and sinks when pressure is applied. Water is denser than air so when you squeeze the bottle, increasing the pressure inside, the diver that’s filled with air compresses and thus sinks.

First, take the straw and bend it into a U at the bendy bit, then cut it so that both ends are the same length. Next place blutak onto the base of each section to seal it off (enough so that the straw floats – but only just!). Finally, fill the bottle TO THE TOP – so that it’s essentially overflowing. Then screw the lid on tightly.

Squeeze the bottle to increase the pressure and make the diver sink to the bottom and relieve the pressure to allow it to float back to the top.

Activity 7

Ocean Oil Spill Cleanup

You will need:

  • Tray
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Washing up liquid
  • A range of absorbant materials (I let my kids choose anything they wanted)

We watched this video on how real oil spills are cleaned up and then created an experiment to explore what materials would be best at absorbing oil.

We learned that ‘material’ in scientific terms doesn’t just mean fabric and so selected any materials we thought might work to absorb or bind with the oil.

I poured water into the tray and added some oil and then left the kids to it. They systematically worked their way through the different materials (obviously in the real world you’d re-set the experiment for each material, however we didn’t want to waste oil in these trying times).

An agent similar to washing up liquid is used in real-world oil spills as it binds with oil quite effectively.

We improved our fine-motor-skills by using a pipette to squirt liquid onto the tray, practised taking turns, we mixed different materials together to see if they worked better combined, we used soft (flour) and hard (cork) objects to explore texture and absorbancy, and a range of materials to decide which ones binded with the oil best.

We’ve absolutely loved learning about the ocean – and have so much more to learn. Perhaps we’ll do another week of Ocean theme – what do you think?

Happy learning!

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