Exploring oceans

Clouds over deep blue ocean

More than 70% of our planet is covered by ocean, yet 95% of it remains unexplored. This is a mind boggling fact and one which inspired me to research ocean exploration.

On March 26 2012, James Cameron was brave enough to dive to the ocean’s deepest point in the Mariana Trench, in an effort to collect scientific samples and document the experience in 3D. Diving to the bottom of the ocean is a dangerous mission as the temperature drops to just above freezing and the water pressure is high enough that your body will literally explode if the submarine fails. Anything with this level of danger will immediately appeal to students (particularly the boys) and exploring a new part of the world is exciting.

With James Cameron as inspiration, I created a lesson about ocean exploration. Prior to this lesson, the students have already studied the different layers of the ocean, marine ecosystems and the ocean floor.

Students figure out the identity of James by completing a ‘dingbats’ exercise (words are replaced by pictures) before describing the location of the Mariana Trench. They then watch a news clip from YouTube and gather information about the dive. They are given two minutes to share their information in pairs to extend their lists and are told to focus on the details (which are so often forgotten in assessed work). The BBC News theme music is played whilst a pretend email flashes up on the screen with a request from the editor of the BBC News website for the students to write an article for the website. When the article has been written there is an opportunity for peer assessment, focusing on literacy and the level of detail included. As a homework task students are asked to create a DVD cover for James Cameron’s movie, ‘Deepsea Challenge 3D’. In the past, students have even placed the cover in a blank DVD case. The only disappointment is that the actual DVD is not currently available to buy in the UK!

I hope that these ideas can inspire your own lessons about the ocean and that your students are as excited about ocean exploration as mine have been.

Rachel Hawke

Rachel Hawke is currently teaching Geography at George Abbott School, in Guildford. She completed her PGCE at the University of Oxford, during which time she developed an interest in enquiry learning. Her ideas about this subject have since been published in the ‘Teaching Geography’ journal.