Outline and Lesson Plan for High School Oceanography Project

Outline and Lesson Plan for High School Oceanography Project
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Students are often interested in the mystery and adventure of ocean environments. A series of lessons on Oceanography, the study of the physical and biological aspects of the oceans, is the perfect outlet for this interest. 11th grade oceanography studies are as big as the oceans themselves, but the following project can help students narrow their focus of interest and perhaps encourage them to further studies.


Students will work together as a team to learn about underwater engineering, ocean research vessels and how human actions can affect ocean plants and animals.


Give the students the following scenario to get them started on the project:

A new source of renewable energy has been discovered near the Great Barrier Reef. This source is buried beneath the ocean floor and a drill will need to be used to extract it for refinement. Scientists and environmentalists are concerned about how the presence of humans so close to the reef will affect the ocean life in the area. The Australian government has decided a 6-month study must be completed to determine if a traditional drilling platform will disturb the local ocean environment. The students have been asked to design this underwater research facility. The facility must create the smallest impact possible to the local environment.

Challenge students to design an underwater living and research facility that provides access for underwater research vehicles, space and equipment for laboratories and living quarters. They will need to research current technology for underwater vessels and underwater living. Students will also need to research how scientists can assess the possible affect of drilling on the ocean and reef. Students will create a presentation that details how the drilling may change the local geography, how it may impact the plants and animals of the reef and present their design for the research facility.


Students will be divided into groups of three or four. Each group will create a presentation for the class that outlines their design for the underwater habitat, and the tests scientists will need to perform to understand the possible impact of a drilling platform. The presentation should include details on why their laboratory design creates the smallest impact on the environment. They can create a model if desired. They should also include a report on the best way to drill for the new energy source so the environment is impacted the least. Students will need to research the following topics

  • Underwater engineering
  • Drilling engineering
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Types of observations or experiments to be performed by the scientists
  • Types of plants and animals in and around the reef
  • Types of underwater research vessels
  • Ocean currents in the area
  • Local ocean geography

This project can be broken into a series of lessons where students research each aspect, then put all of the information together to create a final presentation. Each research topic can be an individual lesson where students do research online, interview experts or visit local universities to explore the subject. Online research should be verified as accurate. Students may want to use only resources that end in .edu or .gov as these are educational and government sites and more likely to have the most current information.


Each individual lesson should be evaluated to ensure students have a complete understanding of the topic. At the end of each lesson students should write an outline of the information they have learned that they think will be helpful for the final project. Students can review their summary with the other members of their group to ensure they have the most complete information. This outline should be saved to be used for the final project. Each student should also keep a record of all of the resources used so they can go back for additional research if necessary.

The final presentations can be assessed on a 4-point scale.

1 – The habitat is not a viable underwater structure. Little or no additional information is presented.

2 – The habitat may be viable underwater, but does not address all of the minimum requirements (living quarters, research labs, access to research vehicles). Some information is given on types of testing, but it is incomplete.

3 – The habitat will work underwater and fulfills the minimum requirements of living quarters, research labs and access to water vehicles. Information is presented on types of experiments or observations to determine how the drilling would affect the reef, animals, plants and the local geography

4 – The habitat will work underwater and provides additional items beyond the basic requirements. Specific information is given on types of research vehicles as well as types of experiments that can be performed in the laboratories. Information is presented on experiments or observations beyond the basic requirements of reef, animals, plants and geography.

This 11th grade oceanography project will encourage students to think creatively about how humans can affect the oceans and their inhabitants. Some students may want to expand their research into a lifelong career.




Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Multicorer-ps_hg.jpg - Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany