OceanWorld

Topic: Currents and Ocean Circulation
Theme: Energy

One characteristic of our planet that sets it apart from the other eight known planets in our solar system is the presence of water. Not only is water present, but it exists in all three states-gas, liquid, and solid. Water as a liquid exists only on Earth. Water in the form of ice crystals exists on smaller planets such as Mars and Pluto and on other satellites (moons) of other planets. The large gas planets contain the elements for water, but they're lost in the greater quantities of hydrogen and helium.

Over 70% of Earth's surface is covered with water. Earth has really only one ocean, but scientists and geographers have divided the ocean into three regions--Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean. We have coastal oceans and the open ocean which is further divided into layers--surface, transitional, and deep layers. Why, you might ask, is this important? Well, that's where you and your team come into play.

Mission:

According to oceanographer Dr. Ben Giese at Texas A&M, if you're interested in taking a swim in the Pacific Ocean, one of the first things you might do--after checking for sharks--is determine the water's temperature. The surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean can vary from hour to hour, season to season, and decade to decade. Much of the short-term temperature variation comes from the direct influence of the sun. The water is warmer during the day than at night and warmer during the summer than during the winter for the same basic reason: The sun's rays are more intense during the day and in the summertime and less intense during the evening and the wintertime.

Assignment 1

Your team is to design an experiment to check out Dr. Giese's assumptions. How can it be done? THINK about what you already know (about the sun and its position in the sky during different seasons and during the day and night). THINK about what you NEED TO KNOW. Ask your team, HOW CAN WE FIND OUT what we need to know.

Assignment 2

Check out seasonal SST (sea surface temperature) differences in the three oceans--Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian on a real-time data site. Create a line graph of the three and compare the differences and similarities. Line graphs depict trends over long, continuous intervals. For instance, you would use a line graphs to show the number of women and men in Congress over thirty years. Decide with your team:

How you would design the graph to best display this information?

How you would show three different oceans on the same graph?

Assessment:

Your team will be evaluated on the design of your experiment to show the effects of the sun on water temperature and on your line graph depicting the seasonal temperatures of each of the three major oceans. Below is a rubric to show you what your teacher will be looking for.

A Rubric for Evaluating Line Graphs

This rubric can be used to evaluate line graphs submitted by individuals or teams. If an item seems to fall between categories, feel free to score it
with in-between points.

Scoring Rubric for Line Graph

Score Point 4

All of the following evident:

accurate display of data on the line graph.
correct label for both axes.
data displayed at equal intervals on both axes.
key is accurate.

Score Point 3

Three of the following evident:

accurate display of data on the line graph.
correct label for both axes.
data displayed at equal intervals on both axes.
key is accurate.

Score Point 2

Two of the following evident:

accurate display of data on the line graph.
correct label for both axes.
data displayed at equal intervals on both axes.
key contains minor inaccuracies.

Score Point 1

Only one of the following evident:

accurate display of data on the line graph.
correct label for both axes.
data displayed at equal intervals on both axes.
key is missing or inaccurate.

Score Point 0

blank
off-task, off-topic
illegible/unreadable.

**Note: This rubric came from a Maryland Consortium Task

**Note to teachers: Check NSTA Project Oceanography Book and Ocean World's Activities Page is you are looking for predesigned labs on this topic.

Lesson Ideas created/adapted by Margaret Hammer (Graduate Research Assistant) and Judith Kenworthy (Technology Mentor Fellowship Associate) Texas A&M University. All comments and questions can be directed to stewart@ocean.tamu.edu