This new curriculum will provide middle school students with an engaging look at how the ocean impacts life on Earth. The units address a broad range of science standards, including National Science Education Standards, Ocean Literacy Essential Principles, and a range of state standards. The program is being developed with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and with the participation of scientists from NOAA, the Rutgers University Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, as well as curriculum developers at the University of California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science.
If you would like to learn more, read on for detailed descriptions of the units.
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Participating teachers will teach one or all of the units described below:
Unit 1: How do the ocean and atmosphere interact?
The ocean and atmosphere are closely interconnected through major Earth systems. These include ocean and air currents, climate and weather patterns, the water cycle, and the flow and exchange of heat energy around the planet. In this unit, students learn about these connections through exploring what sets water and air currents in motion, and how what happens in the ocean affects the atmosphere, and vice versa. Students have many opportunities to delve into density – both as an observable phenomenon and on the molecular level. Students come to an understanding of how density relates to movement of water, air, and heat on Earth. Thermal expansion and the concept that water is a heat reservoir are also explored in relation to the ocean-atmosphere system. This unit can stand alone, or it can be used to prepare students to understand the science underlying climate change introduced in Unit 2 and investigated further in Unit 3.
Unit 2: How does carbon flow through the ocean, land, and atmosphere?
An understanding of how carbon flows between carbon reservoirs in Earth's systems is crucial to understanding climate change. Unfortunately, such understanding is often lacking among those debating this important issue. In this unit, students learn about how carbon flows from animals into the atmosphere through respiration, from the atmosphere into plants through photosynthesis, from the atmosphere into the ocean through absorption, into fossil fuels and sediments through decay, and from fossil fuels into the atmosphere through combustion. They learn that the flow of carbon into the atmosphere has been increasing in recent decades through the burning of fossil fuels, causing an imbalance in the carbon cycle. They also learn how this increase of carbon in the atmosphere has led to an increase of carbon dioxide in oceans, causing ocean acidification, and affecting ocean life. This unit can be used to build upon Unit 1, and further prepare students to tackle the issue of climate change in Unit 3. The unit can also be taught separately from the other units as a carbon cycle unit.
Unit 3: What are the causes and effects of climate change?
In this unit students explore the causes and effects of climate change as well as possible solutions. Investigations address topics such as the greenhouse effect, melting glaciers and sea ice, sea level rise, human contributions to rising atmospheric CO2 levels, effects on organisms, and ocean-atmosphere connections. Students gain an understanding of the underlying causes of climate change. They also learn how pervasive its effects are on the Earth system as a whole. In the last few sessions students revisit the human contributions to climate change and the carbon cycle, which they learned about in Unit 2. They then brainstorm, learn about, and communicate with others about personal, local, and global solutions and adaptations to climate change.