Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Under Pressure: A Study of Issues in Oceanography

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Under Pressure: A Study of Issues in Oceanography

Article excerpt

Byline: Diana Payne

My marine science and environmental science students often ask how science relates to their lives, so I developed a four-week ocean unit in which students investigate multiple disciplines and their connections to everyday life. The unit encourages exploration of a topic that considers human activities, values, and abilities and highlights the broader connections between science, technology, and society.

The unit was designed using the Multiple Menu Model (Renzulli, Leppien, and Hays 2000), which emphasizes authentic content and processes and places the student in the role of a practicing professional. Students research, communicate, and think like a practicing oceanographer without actually getting wet.

Why oceanography?

More than 50% of Americans live within 50 miles of the nation's coasts, yet few people understand the important role the ocean plays in the global ecosystem. The biodiversity of the ocean may hold the answers to pivotal questions concerning medicine, food production, and global climate. Marine genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity may provide insight into principles of conservation biology, population and community ecology, and evolutionary biology.

The global ocean ecosystem is under pressure-from the increase in the number of people living near the coasts, to controversies regarding fishing rights, to international conflicts regarding endangered species. The interdisciplinary nature of oceanography and its importance in global issues provide a rich and interesting topic of study.

An oceanography overview

The initial activities in the unit are designed to stimulate an interest in oceanography, introduce oceanography's interdisciplinary nature, and assess students' prior knowledge. Students begin the unit by considering "central questions" and examining materials at topical interest centers throughout the room (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Oceanography central questions and interest centers.

The unit is introduced by asking students to consider central questions and examine materials assembled at topical interest centers throughout the classroom. Alternatively, student groups can be assigned to produce each of these interest centers, with guidance from the teacher.

History and Technology of Ocean Exploration Central question: How do humans study the ocean? Resources: Images, videos and websites of historic and modern oceanographic boats, ships (HMS Challenger, R/V Atlantis), manned submersibles (DSV Alvin, Johnson Sea Link), remotely operated vehicles (ROV Hercules), underwater ocean laboratories (Aquarius), and images from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NURC (National Undersea Research Program), and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Additional reference materials for this center include excerpts from "diaries and logs" from ocean explorers-including members of the HMS Challenger expedition, Charles Darwin, Captain James Cook, William Beebe, Sylvia Earle, Bob Ballard-and from the Dive and Discover and Ocean Explorer websites.

The Influence of Access to the Ocean on Culture and Politics Central question: Why are most major cities throughout history located near water? Resources: Images, videos, and text from great coastal cities such as Alexandria, Egypt; Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey; Auckland, New Zealand; New London, Connecticut; and San Francisco, California. Reference materials may also include documents discussing the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Sanctuaries throughout the world. A copy of the recently ratified Ocean Commission Report ( is an important resource on the web. Reference materials on topical global ocean issues, including whaling, trawling, seal hunting, and fishing can be obtained from a variety of print and web media.

Life in the Ocean Central question: What organisms live in the ocean? …

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