Ocean Floor Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Ocean floors can be fascinating environments for students to study. With these project ideas, your students can find engaging and hands-on ways to apply their knowledge about ocean floors.

The Ocean Floor

The seabed, or ocean floor, contains a vast array of ecosystems. However, it is often difficult to access and thus mysterious in many ways. Many of the most important discoveries about the most extreme parts of the ocean floor have only been made in the past 40-50 years. These project ideas will give your students different ways to explore and apply their knowledge about the seabed. These projects are also designed to be easily adaptable for students of different grade levels and abilities.

Ocean Floor Project Ideas

Topographic Model

Assign each student a wide marine area in the world's oceans to study. Students will study this area and learn about its sub-surface features, ecosystems, flora, and fauna. Students will then create a topographic model of the ocean floor in this area. To start, they will have to either locate or create a topographic map that shows elevation change. They will then translate this into a 3-D model by cutting out the shapes of each level using thin sheets of foam board and stacking them. Once the basic model is complete, students will add plants and animals (either as clay models or paper cutouts), and label the relevant seabed features like continental shelf, abyssal plains, mountain ranges, ridges, and trenches.

  • Materials: Thin foam boards (or similar materials), rulers, scissors or precision craft knives, glue, paint, other art and craft supplies as desired.

Creative Writing

Assign each student an actual place in the world's oceans. Students are going to research this place, learning about the physical landforms of the ocean floor, the sediments of various regions/zones, plant and animal life, and other features. With this knowledge, students will write a short work of fiction in which they imagine being a scientist/explorer piloting a submersible through this place. Their narrative, which should contain a plot/climax/resolution, must display a depth of understanding about the realities of this geographic and ecological space. Ask students to consider what they see in each place, how the landforms were formed, how plants and animals survive and interact, and even how the effects of light are changed at different depths. Once they've completed their writing, have students share their work in small peer groups. You can also expand upon this by having them create a cover for their book. As a fantasy-inspired alteration, you can also ask students to create a mermaid/Atlantean society for this space instead of following a scientist.

  • Materials: Research and writing supplies

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