Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math - PRISM

Curricula Open Ocean

A Hands-on Guide to Hawaiʻi’s Open Ocean Ecosystem

Download curriculum in individual sections at the bottom of this page. Also see some more examples of student work. Some of the files are large. Read on for a description of the open ocean unit or download the unit introduction for a complete description of the lesson format, assessment, and content.

Grade Level: 5th Grade

Purpose: This curriculum is designed to communicate:

  • How the open ocean around Hawaiʻi and the Pacific is physically and biologically structured.
  • What the major natural and human induced impacts to the open ocean ecosystem in Hawaiʻi are.
  • How science helps us to study open ocean environment and manage the people and resources in that environment.
Students super fish
A student's superfish with its adaptations
3D big island
A 3D portrayal of the big island bathymetry

Rationale: The open ocean accounts for approximately seventy percent of the Earth’s surface. In Hawaiʻi, forty one percent of the state is ocean. The ocean creates Hawaiʻi’s weather, provides Hawaiʻi’s residents with food, and surrounds our islands to make us the most isolated island chain in the world.  Therefore, understanding how the ocean functions, how we use and study the ocean, and how that use impacts the ocean is critical for Hawaiʻi youths to understand. This curriculum uses hands-on activities to promote interactive learning about the open ocean ecosystem.

Hawaiʻi Content and Performance Standards Addressed (HCPS III): 5.1 Scientific Investigation, 5.2 Nature of Science, 5.3 Organisms and the Environment, 5.4 Structure and Function in Organisms

Open Ocean Concepts

  • What is the open ocean?
  • What are the physical properties of the open ocean and how to currents change them?
  • What are some of the organisms in the ocean?
  • How to the physical properties of the ocean define what organisms live there?
  • How do the organisms in the open ocean interact with each other in terms of food webs?
  • Introduction to fisheries?
  • How do the open ocean organisms structures fit the physical parameters of the zones of ocean they live in?
  • What happens to the structure of ocean food webs when we remove organisms or whole levels?
  • What are the current threats to the open ocean ecosystem including marine debris and noise pollution?
  • How do scientists study the open ocean?
  • How do they use this knowledge to manage this ecosystem
  • How do the kids describe their view of the open ocean?

Lesson Plans

This unit is structured to last nine weeks or a full quarter.  The lessons plans are structured to last two 50 minute classes per week. This means the unit takes at least 18 class periods to complete.  This structuring is a result of most 5th grade classes having at least two science classes per week.  If there a teacher has more than two science classes per week then there are several optional activities which supplement the unit and are included in this curriculum.  Taught as an entire unit the lessons flows together, however many of the lessons may be taken out of context to deliver a particular concept.

  • Materials need for this curriculum are minimal, however there are some expendable materials that may have to be purchased.  Prior to teaching this unit, the instructor should browse the lesson plans and catalog which materials may have to be obtained.  Some of the final project research requires the use of a computer with internet access and therefore access to computers should be requested at the appropriate time.

  • Each lesson plan includes a summary of the lesson and primary objectives as well as a vocabulary list which may be used in vocabulary lessons or spelling lessons. The lesson plans also include background information for the instructor as well as additional internet links that provide background information on each lesson.

A student recording information about their squid
A student recording information about their squid
The Waikoloa class doing their computer research
A Waikoloa class doing their computer research

Downloadable Lessons

The open ocean unit was created and piloted by Blake McNaughton and Robert Lozano.