Creating a homeschool marine biology unit study isn't for the lackadaisical researcher. One needs to LOVE research and study when going the unit study route of education. Which style type of unit studier are you?
- The Done for You (DFY) - no fault of you're own, you just don't have the time to create in-depth studies backed by hours, days, weeks..heck, sometimes MONTHS of research! You're relieved when you can purchase a unit study that's ready to download. Looking for some GREAT DFY ocean themed unit study templates and lapbooks? How about some from a homeschool mom? Click here to view these beautiful templates from Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.
- The Build it ALL Yourselfer (BIY) - you're the die-hard DIYer. You want to work by the sweat of your brow even if you're up until 2 am downloading rich resources, writing your own stories, creating all the math word problems related to your topic. Just be careful you don't burn out. Been there, done that. I hope you're able to publish that puppy!
- Somewhere in between 1. and 2. - You're happy when you find parts of a unit study, including resources, lapbooks etc. but, also love joy of the study/research journey. You write some of the materials yourself.
Personally, I'm #3 and this post will be for homeschoolers that want to join in the thrill of creating at least some of their Marine Biology unit study. Don't you just love the joy of the research and the learning journey? I also (and I bet you do too) enjoy scrounging around the Web browsing through the myriad of the best-of-the-best scholarly yet free educational resources.
In this post, I'm going to bang it home and give you the framework for a super awesome Marine Biology unit study. Why is it awesome? Because it's actionable steps you can take and do to create your very own original unit study tailored around your students academic interests and subjects you want to cover across your curriculum. Bookmark this now so you can use this giant resource in your homeschool for years to come!
Come on, let's get ready! Let's take a journey together from shore to the greatest sea depths.
If You Have Access to the Sea Like Right Now (the rest of us can go there in our imagination)
If you're a homeschooler with regular beachfront access (maybe you even LIVE there), consider yourself extremely fortunate as most do not have such a privileged luxury. I invite you to go out onto the beach alone in your stocking feet with a journal, your favorite writing utensil and an enclosed cup of tea or coffee. Let me help you brainstorm some out-of-the-box connections you can make with your beautiful achingly awesome beach access. This is a living classroom for you and your children. The rest of us can sip tea or coffee from wherever we are and use the template below.
How to Begin Your Marine Biology Unit Study
- Look down at the sand your standing or sitting on. What patterns do you see? Pick up a handful of sand and notice the colors and size of the grains. The grains of sand collectively are fractals or self-similar. If you zoom into different points of the sand - imagine a large square surrounding certain points of the sand pile. Make it smaller and smaller in your mind. It will look the same at each zoom either in or out.
2). Look where the sea waves are rolling. Do you see any ripples in the sand?
Looking at patterns in sand you'll find wave patterns and fractals. These are mathematical connections that could keep you busy for HOURS! See where we're going here?
3). Draw these sand/math patterns in your journal.
One of my most favorite past times is beachcombing, especially for washed up seashells. When I was a girl I called it "shell hunting."
4). Beachcomb along the shore for a while. Those of you without beachfront access, beachcomb in your imagination. Turn over various seaweeds and see what's beneath. Collect a few of the best seashell specimens. Draw them in your journal.
5). Notice patterns on the shells you find. One of the most common patterns are spirals on gastropod shells and lines on scallops. Draw your best specimens in your journal.
What I'm encouraging you to do is to use a free-style journal. You'll want your children to later join in the fun with each of their own journals. Journaling is an important part of scientific study. Using a free-style journal for your unit study will foster creativity, free-thinking, art and you can incorporate a variety of subjects in one book - the journal! What do I mean by free-style journal? It means students can freely design and arrange their learning along the pages in any format they want. Granted, this may not work for every child and they may need structure handed to them. In which case you can have them draw some boxes with a ruler or affix templates inside the journal.
Below are more activities you can do connecting your beachfront access across the curriculum:
- Gym class - have races across the beach, play badmitten, or volleyball. Boogie boarding can be fun too!
- Geology - collect different stones. Discuss the erosive activities that occurred to make each stone the shape it is. Surely the ocean waves had a big part.
- Physics of wave movement - study the waves as they roll or crash in. Photograph the waves. Draw them in a journal. Make a diagram of the different parts of the wave.
- Art - Do water color painting of the ocean waves, sky at sunrise and or sunset
- Literature/Poetry - Sit on the beach and write poetry about the scenery around you
- Geological History - Write an imaginative history of how your beachfront became what it is today over whatever span of time you decide - 100, 1000, 10 thousand? More? You decide.
Onward to More Marine Biology Unit Study Learning Fun!
Marine Biology is the study of life in the oceans. I'll give you a breakdown of the major Marine Biology unit study topics you'll want to cover in your studies. I would suggest dividing the unit study into several sections per listed topic below. This study could take anywhere from 5 weeks (covering two topics a week) to a few years (a few topics per year covered in great depth) depending on how often and thoroughly you want to do this study.
I have always started with the smallest organisms and worked my way up to the largest organisms, but, you can study the topics in any order you and your learners want. The most popular topics (with most of the others unfortunately getting skipped) are the marine vertebrates and habitats. I encourage you to not skip the topics that seem less alluring. You get a broader more thorough study when you cover each of the major topics, which, by the way, are covered in college Marine Biology classes. Therefore, if your child is on a Marine Biology career track, it would be beneficial for them to get an early start on content they'll later be studying in college.
Marine Biology Unit Study Notebook Set-up
If you haven't used notebooks before, they are a wonderful diversion from workbooks because they become a personal learning journey record authored by your children. It may take some initial work to setup, but the rewards are great. The more consistently you use them, the more reliant you'll become on them and feel liberated from workbooks.
Pick your notebook style:
- 1 - 3" 3-ring binder stocked with loose-leaf paper per child
- 3-ring hole punch (this will be handy so you can hole-punch and add in coloring pages and other handouts per topic studied
- 3-ring dividers with index labels
- A blank journal per child
- Optional: folder per child - for keeping separate handouts since it's not as easy like the 3-ring binders to put handouts in a journal
- If using the blank journal: Alternatively, you can keep handouts in them and not use a folder. Here's a way to keep them closed and those loose handouts from falling out.
- Your chosen coloring media: colored pencils, markers, crayons, paints etc.
Directions for Notebook Setup
- Set up the three-ring binders with divider labels or journals with each section listed below per child.
- Decorate the cover of each section. This can be done as a fun routine right before each section study. You can use picture printouts, coloring pages or you child can draw an appropriate image about that section.
Marine Biology Unit Study Topics
- Scientific Method in Marine Biology - used since the 17th century, a systematic observation including measurement, experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
- How Life Began in the Seas (according to your worldview)
- Taxonomy & Phylogeny (how the plants and animals are identified and labeled)
- Physical Oceanography - describing and understanding ocean circulation and fluid motion including the distribution of its properties such as temperature, salinity, dissolved chemical elements, and gas concentrations.
- Marine Plants - including algae, seagrass, marsh grass, and mangroves
- Marine Mircrobes - the microscopic plants, animals and bacteria. Diatoms, microscopic living algae jewels are beautiful and colorful marine algae to study.
- Marine Invertebrates (animals without backbones) - sponges, mollusks, jellyfish
- Marine Vertebrates (animals with backbones) - fish, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals etc.
- Marine Ecosystems - (I'd suggest having your children choose one to individually research and study) - examples include: estuaries, coral reefs, lagoons, salt marshes, intertidal zones, mangroves, and one of my personal favorites, the deep sea! You can ENROLL HERE in my Dramatic Deep Sea Creatures online course.
- Human Use and Impacts on Marine Life - Jacques Cousteau's resources are abundant with great material for this study.
Some studies are more alluring than others. You can let your learners choose what you they want to learn first (marine animals, right? Ha ha!), or start from #1.
1. The Scientific Method in Marine Biology
This could be a lot of fun. I realize many of you don't have access to a beach. But those few fortunate homeschoolers that do, you might like to try the fun activity with your children all the while practicing the scientific method. Those of us without beach access can still appreciate the example of how the scientific method works for an experiment.
2. How Life Began in the Seas (according to your worldview)
For years I've been teaching non-faith and faith-based families. How did we all get along in the same class? By my not teaching origins. But, by all means, you'll be teaching what you believe to your children whether it be Evolution, Creation or something in between.
- History of the earth
- Write an imaginative story about how life in the seas began.
- What was life like for the first whale or other favorite sea animal.
- What was life like for the first coral reef community? What did the animals look like? Any different? The same?
3. Taxonomy & Phylogeny
Learning basic taxonomic principles early is important. Children can gain a huge head start and understand scientific books better when they learn it young.
Here's a FANTASTIC printable:
4. Physical Oceanography
Physical oceanography is describing and understanding ocean circulation and fluid motion including the distribution of its properties such as temperature, salinity, dissolved chemical elements, and gas concentrations.
- Integrate middle/high school chemistry concepts for marine salinity, dissolved chemicals and gasses parts.
5. Marine Plants
Marine plants include algae, seagrass, marsh grass, and mangroves. You can study the different types of plants according to their ecological role in their community including the animals that can live in or around them. This will make the plants study "more colorful", as some children have a hard time focusing on plant life.
- Seaweed pressing - If you live near the sea, you can collect and press seaweed; there are tons of tutorials online on ho to do this.
- Creative Writing - Write stories about a seagrass, marsh grass or mangrove communities. Include the different kinds of animals that can live in and around these types of plants.
6. Marine Microbes
These include microscopic bacteria, algae, dinoflagellates and also diatoms. Diatoms are tiny jewel-like algae. Foraminfores are also microscopic beautiful organisms with geometric shells or tests.
Diatoms are some of the most fascinating marine algae. They are composed of symmetrical glass-like organisms.
Other Academic Connections:
- Math - study the shapes and patterns found in diatoms and dinoflagellates.
- Biochemistry - dinoflagellates are known for their glowing or bioluminescent properties seen at night on the ocean's surface. Study the chemicals that make up their bioluminescence.
7. Marine Invertebrates (animals without backbones)
Marine invertebrates include a myriad of animals such as sponges, jellyfish, mollusks (clams, conchs, mussels), comb and box jellies (the later two not related to jellyfish). Children typically love to study animal life. Therefore, once you start diving into marine invertebrate studies, students can get very excited.
8. Marine Vertebrates (animals with backbones)
Marine vertebrates are absolutely the most popular topic studied in homeschool marine biology. They include the most charismatic of life in the seas. Examples include fish, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals, sea otters, and polar bears.
Marinebio.org - Marine vertebrates has a thorough research page.
Other Academic Connections for Marine invertebrates and vertebrates:
Please Note: Try to give equal time for marine invertebrate and vertebrate animal studies. Each group of animals has characteristics that are well worth your child's time getting to know allowing them to cover valuable biology study content.
- Math - observe the patterns and shapes of the animals as you study them. Make it part of your routine to make "mathematically descriptive sketches" of various marine invertebrates and vertebrates in your free-style journals. Write about numbers, patterns and shapes that you see on the animals as short bullet points drawn to the mathematical aspects found on the animals bodies.
- Literature - Find fiction and non-fiction stories about varying marine invertebrate and vertebrates that your child is interested in learning about.
- Creative Writing - Have your child select a favorite marine animals and read fiction and non-fiction stories about it. After completing some research about their chosen animal, they can write a fictional story about the animal's day-to-day life.
- Poetry - Have your child chose a favorite poetry style and write a poem about their favorite marine animal.
- History/Biography - Study famous marine scientists and their work with invertebrates and or vertebrates.
9. Marine Ecosystems
There are so many resources and library books you can find about marine ecosystems. Go to the library and look as many of the following marine communities you and your children want to focus on at a time:
- Open ocean
- Coral reefs
- Abyssal plain (whale falls, deep sea coral, and brine pools)
- Polar (Antarctic and Arctic)
- Hydrothermal vents
- Deep sea
- Rocky shores
- Sandy shores
- Kelp forests
- Salt marshes
Academic Connections for Marine invertebrates and vertebrates:
- Math - As you read through the library books, choose select ecosystem pictures and diagrams to focus on and make "mathematical sketches" in your notebooks
- Creative Writing - Each ecosystem will inspire creative writing stories. Have your child choose their favorite ecosystem. What if they could build a house and live in one of the ecosystems underwater? Which ecosystem would it be? Write that story.
- Poetry - Research poetry about each of the ecosystems. Students can create their own poetry inspired by a chosen ecosystem.
10. Human Use and Impacts on Marine Life
In my Marine Biology online classes, we study the life and works of Jacques Cousteua. When I was a child in the 70's I remember the dreamy French accent and the mesmerizing documentaries of Cousteau. I believe it was a big reason why I was so influenced early on to love studying marine life and create my own math/marine biology notebooks at 8 years old.
- Math - Study instruments that people use in marine conservation. There are a lot of math connections involved.
- Writing - Students can write about how how we can best clean up the oceans.
- Poetry - Along the same theme of protecting what we love, students can write inspirational stories about protecting and cleaning up the oceans.
Make it up as you go
Don't be afraid to make it up as you by following your learner's daily topical interests! Here are some leading questions to get them to think for themselves in how they can create their very own marine biology cross-curricular unit study.
- Math - What numbers, patterns and shapes are related to this study? Come up with interesting word problems. You can affix most elementary and middle school math concepts to any of the topics. Use your library books to get ideas for mathematical thought per topic.
- Creative Writing - What's your favorite aspect of this study? If you could be there in person, what would you do or say? Come up with a fun story about it.
- History - What have we learned through history about this topic?
- Art - What kind of art do you want to do in relation to your favorite study within a topic today? Help them brainstorm their favorite kinds of art and what would go great with their chosen interest within the topic.
Want to learn more of the same? I wrote a post specifically about those crazy looking deep sea creatures. Take a look!
Looking for a DFY online Marine Biology class experience for students ages 10 and up?
Until next, time!
Gloria aka NatureGlo