Teaching Ocean Currents | Water Movement for Upper Elementary

You’ll enjoy teaching ocean currents with five lessons. First, students read a short passage and watch a video. Then they explore tides. To delve deeper, they complete two labs on water density. Finally, students use a map of ocean currents to answer questions.

Mr. Grow Prepares for Teaching Ocean Currents

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat in the conference room with her former student teacher. “Next,” said Mr. Grow, “I’ll be teaching ocean currents.”

Ms. Sneed opened her laptop. “Let’s start by searching Teachers pay Teachers for some supporting resources.”

Mr. Grow looked over her shoulder and pointed out one resource. “This looks like a well-rounded resource on ocean currents,” he said.

Teaching Ocean Currents

“Right,” Ms. Sneed responded. “Your fifth grade students would begin by watching a video from NOAA. There’s also a sheet with background information.”

When teaching ocean currents, lead with this one-page summary. Follow up with a video and ask kids to take notes.

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Learning About Tides

“Then they move on to  tides,” Mr. Grow added.

“I never thought about including tides when teaching ocean currents, but I guess it makes sense,” said Ms. Sneed. ” And I like the way kids have to graph height above sea level.”

You can include tides when teaching ocean currents. This worksheet explains tides then asks fourth or fifth grade kids to graph tides for one day in Jaffrey Point, New Hampshire.

Exploring Warm and Cold Water

Ms. Sneed clicked around a bit more. “Next,” she said, “student explore the densities of warm and cold water with a water science experiment.”

“Simple and straightforward,” said Mr. Grow. “I’ll just have to grab some food coloring from the science supply room.”

In this activity, students first add hot water to room temperature water and observe that the hot water floats on top. Then they add cold water to room temperature water and observe that it sinks to the bottom.

Layering Liquids

“You can also use it for this,” said Ms. Sneed. The two teachers read over a lab for layering liquids.

“Hey, this is really cool! My students will love it!” Mr. Grow studied photographs of kids experimenting with cups of different colors of salty water. “And just look at the skills each lab group will use: making organized lists, measuring, making generalizations, even fractions and decimals!”

In this activity, kids explore how salinity affects density and allows them to actually layer liquids.

Teaching Ocean Currents with Maps

“It wraps up with a map,” said Ms. Sneed. “These questions are tricky. Kids must really think.”

“I can see myself teaching with this resource.” Mr. Grow grinned. “Not only will my kids learn about water movement, they’ll also practice other skills.”

To wrap up teaching ocean currents, kids analyze a world map to answer a series of questions.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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