Posts Tagged ‘lessons learned’

Students in Oceanography class, which is taken by high school juniors and seniors, were assigned a research topic with presentation for their final assignment. Presentations, given by the students during their final exam period, were a wonderful wrap-up to oceanography and segue to marine biology next semester. Their presentations also provided a means for covering a lot of ocean resource topics in a short time period, as each student was assigned a different resource, but all with the same essential question:


The assignment

Big Idea: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. The oceans are a connected system of water in motion that transports matter and energy around Earth’s surface.

Assignment:  In the role of a marine scientist, you will research a marine resource and present an argument for a position related to use of that resource, supporting your position with scientifically valid evidence.

Product:  On the day of the final exam you will (1) turn in a 3- to 5- page paper, and (2) give a five- to ten-minute oral presentation, with video support, of your research results.


Commercial Fisshing slide by Jesse

Marine Resource Topics:

To make sure that each student had a separate research topic, I printed the following list in large font and spread them out on the table for students to choose from. Sometimes I assign by putting the topics in a “hat” and students choose blindly, but this is typically followed by a lot of negotiations for swapping; the way I did it this time still had negotiations, but between only those that were quickest with the grab rather than everyone. No perfect way to do this because everyone wants coral reefs.

  • Petroleum and natural gas
  • Marine sand and gravel
  • Magnesium and magnesium compounds
  • Salt
  • Manganese Nodules
  • Phosphorite Deposits
  • Metallic Sulfides
  • Fresh Water from the Ocean
  • Methane hydrates
  • Offshore wind energy
  • Energy from waves and currents
  • Energy from ocean vertical thermal gradient
  • Coastline protection
  • Coral Reefs
  • Medicine and drugs
  • Crustaceans and molluscs
  • Commercial fishing practices
  • Aquaculture
  • Whaling
  • Managing biological resources

Students were encouraged to narrow down their topics to make them more manageable. For example, “Aquaculture” could be narrowed down to shrimp farming.

To make the assignment clear to the students, I broke the description into two pages: the paper and the presentation.

Research Guidelines:


Wave Energy by Jacob

1.Required Length: 1000 words (approximately three pages of text), not including references and not including quoted material.

2.  Required references: a minimum of five relevant scientific articles and/or internet sites related to the topic. This is the minimum amount of reference material — you may need more to do an adequate job of researching your topic.

3.  Things to focus on in your research:

  • define the problem – what part of the world’s ocean does it affect?
  • how did the problem come about? How is the problem being made worse by humans/is it being made worse by humans? What are the various causes of the problem?
  • what are some possible solutions to the problem? Are any of the feasible?  How will we implement some of these solutions?
  • what is the importance or significance of the topic?
  • what methods have scientists used to investigate the topic?
  • what kinds of information and data have scientists found?
  • what major results and conclusions have scientists made, based on the above?

4.  Format of the paper:

  • Lead off with a separate title page, containing: title, your name, course name, school name, date
  • Body of at least three pages of text (~1,000 words):
  • Begin the body with an introduction: a section (one or two paragraphs) that clearly states the purpose of the paper and reviews the main points that the paper will cover
  • Break up the paper into logic sections using subheadings to identify the subject of the different sections
  • End the paper with a conclusion (one or two paragraphs) that wraps up and summarizes in specific ways the main points of the paper
  • Spell-check and grammar-check! (sloppy spelling errors and poor grammar will result in a poor grade)
  • A page (or more) of references per MLA guidelines

5.  Submitting your paper: Submit your paper in electronic format, preferably in Microsoft Word or Google doc.

6.  Plagiarism: Don’t. Just don’t. You know better.


Background and Reflective Thoughts

Our school only teaches MLA formatting. With my 18-year background of  writing engineering documents, I find it frustrating to constantly be getting english-style essays rather than scientific documents. Starting next year, I plan on teaching my students APA formatting, and directing students to understand the difference between technical writing and english-essay writing.

The word length is only 1000 words because I wanted the students focussed on finding good resources and highlighting the issues, rather than being focussed on “getting the right number of words”. In meeting the research requirements most students were concerned that they had gone too far over the minimum.

Our librarian has stacks of research record templates in different colors for students to use to document their research, with teachers assigning a different color for the type of resources, e.g., blue for a book, green for technical article, etc.. Our librarian has, for her entire career here, been proactive in helping students to learn the difference between “good” and “bad” resources, to understand what paraphrasing is and isn’t, and to use databases beyond the internet. She teaches all freshmen how to research a topic and has written a research guide for students.

  • A coral reef is the rainforest of the ocean with all its diversity.” – Sam

Presentation Guidelines:

You may use the board, posters, handouts, or a PowerPoint presentation to help provide visual aids. Following your presentation, there will be time for a few questions. You should know your topic well enough to answer all reasonable questions on the topic. Grades will be based on both what you present and how well you know the information.

If you just read a few paragraphs directly from a sheet of paper or from your slides and cannot answer basic questions on your topic without your notes, you should not expect a passing grade on the presentation.

You have studied many physical aspects of the ocean. Include a detailed discussion of at least one of these in your paper and presentation. They include:

  • Understand and describe some important properties of water: Before we can understand the numerous and amazing ways the oceans impact our lives on land, we need to understand some special qualities of water. Properties such as surface tension, capillary action and solvency make water one of the most unique substances on Earth.
  • Explain how waves form and shape the coastline. Understanding conditions on the shore will help us understand some ocean habitats.
  • Describe the differences between wave and current formation and qualities.
  • Explain how ocean currents influence climate on land.
  • Describe and identify ocean floor features Understanding the shape of the ocean floor will help us understand ocean habitats.
  • Analyze different ocean zones of life and categorize organisms that live in each.

Background and Reflective Thoughts

I enjoyed the student presentations and really wish I had thought to video tape them.  To make sure that students were paying attention to other presentations, they were given a sheet of paper to record thoughts and impressions, and this paper was collected:


I was inspired by many of the presentations and it gave me the idea that, in my mixed CP/Honors Marine Biology class next semester, the honors students (who will have work in addition to the rest of the class) should give presentations to the CP students.

A couple of closing thoughts from the students:

  • Fishing to extinction of species is evolution going in the wrong direction.” – Josh

  • You never think about not having earth’s resources until you do not have them anymore, but by then it is too late. Everyone must be mindful of Earth’s natural resources because so we do not find out one day that they’re all gone. ” – Kelsey

Amen to that.

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Sustainability-dimensions-and-examples-3241422We can describe “sustainable resources” as renewable resources which are being economically exploited (used) in such a way that they will not diminish or run out.  People want or need to use the ocean’s resources but a balance must be maintained to ensure that they will be there for the future.

Over the past two weeks you have heard about marine conservation work, watched the movie “Blackfish”, and read from the text book about marine resources. With this classwork as a backdrop, blog about the following:

  1. What role does the marine wildlife and nature play in your life?
  2. How does the use of marine resources impact you on a personal level?
  3. Specifically, what new thoughts do you have about marine resources and the way they are used by people?

Finally, what Code of Ethics will you take to protect marine resources both now and in the future?

Criteria for assessment of your blog post:

  • at least three paragraphs in length (a paragraph is 8 – 10 sentences long);
  • each answer includes supporting information;
  • there is a link to a site that provides more information about a particular resource discussed;
  • a picture that provides applicable visual interest is embedded, with a citation to the original source.

Photo credit: UCL Inst. for Sustainable Resources

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Ocean currents help navigate objects in the ocean because of the Coriolis Effect as well as gyres, which systemize the currents formations within the ocean. Currents also decide where storms are going too be located because of Ekman transport which controls the winds which blow or navigate the water currents. Ocean currents affect everyday life by putting powerful currents against fishing industry determining the time of return of ships and boats around the worlds ocean. Sea life such as certain fish migrate towards warm ocean currents seasonally therefore also determines the amount of sea food captured by fishermen from their native countries. This is what I know about ocean currents and why they are important in the cycle of the oceans in the world.

I own a house in Machias, Maine located in front of the ocean and bay. The bay has a lobster fishing port where a number trash originates from. Ocean currents out further often transport trash and non degradable waste in front of my home which pollutes many beautiful natural waters and places due to pollution and shifting currents bringing in trash within our bay. This saddens me because plastic products such as bottles to plastic buckets destroy beautiful parts of nature due to the irresponsible of humans and their contamination. Often in the summer I and my family go for boat rides passing random trash within our ocean. In order to stop my dissatisfaction of these waters, I will help retrieve trash in open waters that I encounter. Ever since I was little my father and I have picked up trash washed up on the shores because of someday hoping the world can be cleaner again. If this occurs then pristine beauty as well as life will flourish again bringing the natural world closer to what it was ages ago.

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In Oceanography class we have recently been learning about oceans and how pollution can effect the creatures living in our oceans. We use a lot of plastic in our everyday lives and we need to be more cautious about where that plastic is going in the long run. What most people dont realize is that if we are careless and dont recycle or cut down on the amount of plastic we use, we are hurting sea creatures because of where that plastic ends up. In class, we have learned about currents and we have watched graphic videos of sea creatures being hurt by the plastic that is in our oceans. We need to take action and change how much plastic we use and we need to make sure that we recycle the plastic that we do use. By using less plastic, we can have a big impact on the cleanliness of our oceans and better the lives of the creatures in the oceans. One action that we could take in order to reduce ocean pollution is to make sure that we are recycling all of our plastic. Another thing that we could do to prevent plastic in our oceans is reusing the plastic that we have so that we create less waste in the long run. Keeping our oceans clean is an important thing and we have many ways that we can help keep creatures safe from the harm that plastic poses. Changing minor parts of our every day lives can help ensure a longer, healthier life for the animals that live under the sea!

An example of the destruction that ocean pollution causes in West Hawaii

Mae West, the snapping turtle stuck in six pack can packaging
A video of Mae West in action:

Beth Terry, an activist for a plastic-free life
A link to her blog: http://myplasticfreelife.com

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We have learned about ocean currents, the Coriolis effect, Ekman transport, salinity, densities, and how nutrients are moved throughout the ocean. Through learning all of this, we have learned about the devastating effects that plastic has on the ocean. The ocean is becoming polluted due to plastic. The plastic that is going into the ocean is being moved throughout the oceans. We read stories about rubber duckies, we saw the image of the turtle; it was awful. When learning all of this we decided we need to make changes to help our environment and oceans. One action item Kyle would like to do is to use paper bags instead of plastic ones. Gerry also agrees with this. Calvin will reuse plastic bottles, so that all the plastic does not go into the ocean because there will be less of it. I will now use reusable water canteens instead of plastic Poland Spring water bottles. We will also recycle the plastic Tru Moo containers at lunch. With these simple changes, we believe we could have a positive impact on the ocean and reducing plastic pollution.

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Ocean currents are constantly moving mixing hot and cold water. They move in circular motions and can change depending on surrounding weather conditions. Things that end up in the water that don’t dissolve (like plastic) get carried around the oceans in a never ending loop. We have learned that plastic harms both fish and us. There is no such thing as a organic fish because the entire ocean is contaminated by the plastic in the water. We are planning on decreasing our purchases on water bottles. Instead we will drink out of glass and aluminum water bottles/ cups.

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