Across Time, Across Curricula
by Connect Staff
Just mention the word ocean to a group of first graders or middle school students and their responses will suggest a vast number of interdisciplinary learning opportunities. From showing off a shell collection to studying deep-diving robots, to exploring the many forms of literature about the sea, the options are amazing.
Mathematics is everywhere from the area of sail on a racing boat to subsurface mapping, pressure gradients at various depths, data on ships and shipping. Weather data alone offers many practical math opportunities. Compare the weather on land to the data from automated buoys anchored at sea. Track storms as they move across oceans.
The science and math learning that can be found in any study of oceans can also help us to look at human history and at many cultures. When the land bridge existed, connecting modern Siberia to Alaska, many humans migrated across it to North and South America. Why were ocean levels so low at that time, permitting a crossing? Where was all that H2O?
What were the navigation skills used by Pacific islanders to travel vast distances to other islands? What do we know about the amazing Chinese exploring fleets whose ships were far bigger than European boats of the time?
The Egyptians, Greeks and others were skilled at sailing the Mediterranean both for trade and for war. They fished extensively as have almost all cultures with access to the sea. What did they trade for? What fish did they catch? How did they preserve those fish and other foods?
Centuries later, as trade grew to global proportions, people imagined digging vast canals and eventually completed them: the Erie and others that moved products to a seaport, then the Suez and Panama to connect seas. In studying canals alone, the science, math and technology opportunities are huge, as are the historical elements. In the age of European empires, ocean-going ships were the main means of transport to and from colonies. How did canals between oceans change these empires? What is the value of the same canals today?
These topics and questions are only hints and any one of them can be approached on a simple level or with greater complexity. Ask your students for their ideas about oceans. Your studies could take you in any direction!
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