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Student Projects

Ocean Explorers

Authors: Julie Hutchins, Tasia Paulson, Linda Salamanca

Grade: 1st

Children in front of aquarium kelp bed tank
Children listening to presentation
Children listening to man talking about water
Children painting with black paint
Children painting with blue paint
Classroom with ocean creature art work
Jellyfish made with umbrella and plastic bags
Deep Sea Creature made with paper mache

First grade students explored the marine ecosystem to answer the question, “Why should first graders care about the ocean?” Through out the project students engaged in work with local marine scientists which helped them gain insight into what a scientists does to study the ocean and why it is important. Students also developed collaboration and research skills through their research work on ocean animals. Another component of the project was translating their knowledge about the ocean into art to share their passion for perserving the ocean. Examples of art work ranged from collaborations with local artist to work on watercoloring projects, repurposing trash to model ocean animals and rewriting a popular pop song to express their answers to the projects essential question.
This project was a part of a grant from the WAITT Foundation, whose goal is to promote knowledge of ocean preseration and to connect K-12 students with local marine scientists. Students worked with local marine scientists to explore the ocean and learn about the different tools and techniques that scientists use to study the ocean. Students focused on types of ocean pollution (trash and sound) and explored ways each type of pollution affects the ocean and their own environments (home and school).  Students also discussed local environmental issues and drafted possible solutions. Student then shared their knowledge through art and song.

Why should we care about the ocean?

What types of animals live in the ocean?

How does the ocean affect us?

How does the ocean affect San Diego?

How do we affect the ocean?

What can the ocean tell us about the way we live?

Why do scientists study the ocean?

How do scientists study the ocean? 

Echolocation Cartoon
Students created a cartoon to share their knowledge of sound pollution and echolocation.


Angler Fish Model
Students were curious about the Angler fish and wanted to learn more about it as a class. Together in groups students made a model of the Angler fish.


Creating SCUBA gear
Students learned about different ways to explore the ocean such as SCUBA diving. Students met with a SCUBA instructor and learned about the importance of telling time and working with a partner when SCUBA diving.


Salt Watercolor
Students explored different watercoloring techniques to showcase their research on ocean animals.


Working with scientists
Students worked along side local marine scientists to study ocean pollution.


Working with scientists
Students worked along side local marine scientists to study ocean pollution.


Art Trash
Students repurposed trash to create models of ocean animals.

Students will know:

  • Types of ocean pulltion
  • Marine ecosystem
  • Sea animals that live off of the coast of California

Students will understand:

  • How to tell time in the context of SCUBA diving
  • The importance of working on a team in research and in SCUBA diving
  • Food chain

Students will be able to:

  • Discuss the different layers of the ocean and the types of animals found in each layer
  • Organize information about animals by topic (habitat, life cycle, predators and prey, appearance, diet, interesting facts)
  • Design and create a model of a sea animal based on readings and research


  •  RI1.5 Know and use various text structures (e.g., sequence) and text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
  • RL.1.6 Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.
  • RI.1.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.


  • W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
  • W.1.5 With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
  • W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of “how-to” books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions).
  • W.1.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Speaking and Listening:

  • SL.1.4 Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly. a. Memorize and recite poems, rhymes, and songs with expression.
  • SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.


  • 1.MD.3. Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks.

Students shared their knowledge of sea animals and pollution through art, writings and songs.

Week # Project Task
1 – 6  Research marine ecosystem and ocean ecology
7- 12  Reflect on local environamental issues; commision ocean animal art projects
13 – 17 Collaborate with marine scientists to study ocean pollution

Students worked along side local marine scientists to study pollution and debated local environmental issues that affect San Diego.

  • Learning about sound and creating different types of sound
  • Learning about echolocation and animals that use echolocation
  • Drafting drawings of sea animals
  • Learning different watercoloring techniques
  • Writing a song
  • Modeling tidal zone

This project asked the students to stretch their thinking and understanding of pollution. It was inspiring to watch the students make connections between ocean pollution and how it affects them. What helped with this connection was the opporutnity to work with marine scientists and learn about the different ways that they study the ocean and why they want to study the ocean. The project also asked students to work together to recreate the different ocean zones and animal models. They learned to work together, give warm feedback and specific critique to help each other. At the end of the project I was amazed at how the students listened to each other and asked questions when things did not make sense to them. The empahsis in translating knowledge into different art mediums allowed students to explore different ways to share their understanding and ideas about the ocean. It also allowed me to see student strengths, growth and needs through a different lens.

“The most challenging part of the project was learning to work with different students in the class.”

“The most challenging part of the project for me was working on multiple drafts of our reseach paper.”