Lesson plan

Water flow, Ocean Currents and Connectedness

Explore ways that water flows in rivers and/or the ocean. Discuss how it connects the regions of the planet and the living things that rely on the water.
Science content
Biology: Indigenous People's sustainable use of Living Things (K, 2, 3)
Earth/Space: Water cycle, Water conservation (2)
Earth/Space: Landforms, Erosion (3)
Earth/Space: Sustainable practices, Interconnectedness (2, 5, 7)

Run two or more of the activities, back to back, or as stations. (Either way this is an intensive lesson for materials prep.)
Ideas for overarching themes: Water Flow; Indigenous People’s relationship with Water and its connection all Life; Ocean Current formation; Animals using Ocean Currents.

The Stream flow and erosion activity shows how water flows downhill and carves out the landscape to make valleys and mountains. Flowing streams and rivers bring water to animals and plants and bring food to living things.

The Water flow with temperature and salt variation activity shows how global ocean currents arise and circulate around the planet.
The ocean currents cause upwelling of deep ocean water, which moves nutrients to the surface for life there. Ocean currents are also used by animals for migration e.g. Loggerhead turtles migrate from Florida to the open ocean (where the young are safer), then return as adults. Atlantic Leatherbacks travel from Caribbean to Nova Scotia to feed on jellyfish. Pacific Leatherbacks have the longest migration on Earth: they are born in Japan, migrate to Mexico to feed on crabs, then head back to breed, nest. The Green Sea Turtle rides the East Australian Current, though does not go out into the open ocean (Crush in Finding Nemo).

The Turbulence activity show how winds change the flow of water on the surface of the ocean, and land masses change the flow of water to produce vortices (swirls of water). The movements mix up the water, bringing food to animals that can’t move, and moves nutrients and heat around.

Complex world-wide ocean currents result from the surface currents of the ocean conveyer belt combined with local turbulence - see them on the mesmerizing NASA perpetual ocean video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/10841 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEe1bVjORN4
Use this video to show global surface ocean currents, as well as vortices formed by land masses that interrupt these large flows.


Lesson extension: On a world map, draw in the migration routes of turtles and whales (?give students countries/cities to join). Show them real migration paths (wiggly) so that they can make them look realistic. Add the ocean conveyer belt currents to the map, to see which ones the animals use in their migrations. ?Find the circles of ocean currents that form gyres.

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5