An Awesome Ocean Homeschool Unit Study for Elementary Schoolers

This fun Ocean Unit Study is perfect for elementary school kids of all ages!

It’s designed for homeschool students in grades 1-5 and can easily be adapted for Kindergarten and middle school students if needed. 

What topics does the Ocean Unit Study cover?

This Ocean homeschool unit study covers the following topics: 

  1. Earth’s oceans
  2. Ocean zones
  3. Waves and currents
  4. Ocean animals
  5. Icebergs
  6. Ocean pollution

If you are interested in other science unit studies from The Reluctant Homeschool Mama, check out these other topics we have right here:

Free Unit Study Planner printable pack

If you haven’t already grabbed the Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s free Homeschool Unit Study Planner printable pack, you’ll definitely want to do that now!

It will help you plan your own fun and organized homeschool unit study for any topic you’d like!

Click right here or on the image below to get access!

 

free unit study planner

{{Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you click through or purchase at no cost to you. For more information, click here.}}

How to schedule the Ocean Homeschool Unit Study

This unit study is designed to take up to eight to ten 1-hour science sessions. 

In our homeschool, we do science two days a week for an hour each time (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), so this unit study took us four weeks to complete. 

If you do science every day, you can definitely adjust as needed. You may want to consider spending eight to ten days, each about 60-minutes in length. 

Of course, you can always adjust these ideas to fit your schedule and your kids’ learning needs – that’s the beauty of homeschool after all! 

Here’s an in-depth look at the Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s Ocean Unit Study!

Earth’s Oceans

A really fun way to introduce the different oceans is to have your kids put together a puzzle of the earth!

As they put the pieces together, have them pay attention to the names and locations of each of the oceans.

We’ve used this bright and fun World GeoPuzzle for almost ten years now, and my homeschool kids still love it!

Once your kids have identified all five of the world’s oceans, have them label them on a blank world map worksheet of their own.

You may even have them come up with a fun acronym, rhyme, or song to help them remember the names of the oceans.

*Note: We included the Southern Ocean in our Ocean Unit Study, as the majority of books and resources we used mentioned the Southern Ocean as being uniquely different from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Comparing the different oceans

You may want to spend another day discussing the five world oceans and how they are unique from each other.

Begin by reviewing the names and locations of the five oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern).

Then use a great ocean reference book to help your kids compare and contrast the five oceans.

Our very favorite book about oceans for homeschool kids is Ocean Atlas: A Journey Across the Waves and Into the Deep by Tom Jackson.

Your kids could look to find which ocean is the:

  • deepest
  • largest
  • has the most volume
  • coldest in temperature
  • has the longest coastline

For younger grades, you could have kids fill out the Ocean Winner worksheet in The Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s Free Resource Library to help them remember how each ocean is unique!

Alternatively, upper elementary and middle school students could fill out the Ocean Factfinder worksheet about each of the oceans to get a more in-depth picture of how the oceans differ. (This is also in the Free Resource Library!)

Free Ocean Unit Study Printables

If you’re considering an ocean study for your homeschool sometime soon, be sure to grab the free Ocean Unit Study Worksheets in our Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s Free Resource Library!

You’ll get worksheets about the ocean zones, fun word searches, an ocean creatures A-Z page, an ocean animal study worksheet, charts to complete, matching definitions, word unscrambles, and a final unit study review!

Click right here or on the image below to get access!

Ocean zones

After your kids are familiar with the five different oceans, it’s time to start learning about the different ocean zones!

Ocean zones are based on depth, not location.

Most books list at least six different ocean zones:

  1. Tidal zone
  2. Sunlit zone
  3. Twilight zone
  4. Midnight zone
  5. Seabed zone
  6. Hadal (or Trench) zone

In our experiences, it’s a great idea to spend one science session studying the first three ocean zones and a different science session focused on the last three ocean zones.

Again we used the fantastic Ocean Atlas by Tom Jackson to learn about each of the ocean zones.

Using the Ocean Zones worksheet from the Free Resource Library, have your kids draw a few small pictures of some ocean creatures that live in each of the ocean zones.

Then have them color the water in varying shades of light blue to black, based on the amount of light each zone receives.

Ocean depth demonstration

To help your kids understand how ocean depth is measured, you can do this simple and engaging science demonstration!

Tie a 2-foot long string or piece of yarn to the middle of a ruler.

Then tie something small and heavy to the other end of the string (a magnet, large LEGO piece, etc – just nothing that will float!).

Next, tie visible knots in the string one inch apart, starting one inch above the weight for 6-8 inches.

Fill a bathtub or large sink with water. In the meantime, slowly wind the string around the ruler by holding one end of the ruler in each hand and rotating the ruler around and around in one direction until the weight is touching the ruler.

Once the tub has about 4-5 inches of water, turn off the water and have your kids take turns slowly unraveling the weighted yarn from the ruler.

When they hear the weight touch the bottom of the tub or sink, have them mark the highest spot on the yarn that the water reached. Now they can know how deep the water is!

Waves and currents

Waves and currents are great topics to include in your homeschool ocean unit study! Look to spend one science session discussing waves and another separate session covering ocean currents.

To introduce waves, fill the largest bowl you own about halfway full with water. Then have your kids take turns slowly blowing water across the top of the bowl to generate waves.

Alternately, if you have a pool or a pond nearby, have your kids make waves by hitting the water with pool noodles or dropping in rocks.

At this point, my kids got pretty excited about waves and were asking about the largest ocean waves ever generated.

So we veered slightly off of our lesson plan and started learning more about tsunamis. (Again, one of the beauties of homeschool, right?!)

There are lots of really interesting and informative YouTube videos about large waves.

We really liked the 10 Biggest Waves Ever Recorded:

Ocean currents

Learning about ocean currents and their path around the earth is another great topic to cover as part of this ocean unit study.

Start your discussion by helping your kids visualize a conveyor belt at the grocery store. Then have them imagine a big conveyor belt that carries water through the different oceans all over the earth.

The Ocean Atlas has a fantastic spread about ocean currents, with a beautiful map that your kids can use as a guide to help them fill out the free ocean currents worksheet in the Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s Ocean Unit Study printable pack!

You can perform a simple ocean currents demonstration by filling your bathtub halfway with warm water.

Then pour a pitcher of ice water into the water in one corner.

Have your kids push the water in one big swirl around the outer edge of the tub and feel the cool water move through the warm water.

*Bonus idea: If your kids are really into this subtopic of ocean currents, or if you also happen to be studying the American Revolution, you could easily tie in a lesson about Benjamin Franklin, as he did a lot of research about the Gulf Stream current as he sailed back and forth between Europe and North America.

Ocean life

There are so many great ways to teach your kids about ocean life! We took a broad look at ocean creatures, and may come back to make this topic a separate unit study in the future.

Start by giving your kids our Ocean Creatures A-Z worksheet. As a group, see if you can come up with an ocean creature for every letter of the alphabet!

(We couldn’t get anything for letter Q, so if you know of an ocean creature that starts with the letter Q, leave it in the comments for us! Thank you!)

ocean life

Because there are so many different ocean animals, it can help learn about the five major groups of ocean life:

  1. Fish
  2. Mammals
  3. Birds
  4. Reptiles
  5. Invertebrates

You can use our Ocean Animals classification chart to help your kids organize the different animals on their A-Z list into the different categories!

Or you can give them a great book about ocean creatures and let them spend some time listing different animals in the proper groups.

For this activity, we highly recommend the book Earth’s Incredible Oceans by Jess French.

Finally, you may also consider assigning your kids to do a report on one particular ocean creature of their choosing. It may be really surprising to you which animal they choose! (FYI: My 8-year-old picked giant tubeworms.)

Ocean Pollution

Before you conclude your oceans unit study, it’s important to discuss the current state of our oceans due to pollution all over the world.

The book Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion is a fascinating multi-day read aloud!

You could also study how different ocean animal populations are affected by ocean pollution, such as oil spills.

ocean pollution

If your kids become passionate about this topic, help them write a letter to a government official or check out this list of 15 Organizations Fighting Ocean Pollution to see how they can get involved!

You may also consider expanding this topic to cover the shrinking polar ice caps and more.

Review 

If you have the time, it’s always a great idea to have a review day at the end of any homeschool unit study!

Have your kids look back through their Ocean Homeschool Unit Study worksheets to see what they enjoyed learning about the most or finish up any vocabulary or other exercises they may have missed.

Discuss their favorite demonstrations or experiments and what could be done to make them even better in the future.

Additionally, you could write your own homeschool Top 5 or Top 10 list about things they learned.

Finally, have your kids take a minute to fill out the Unit Study review page at the end of the Ocean Unit Study worksheets so you can see what they really enjoyed or learned from your Oceans Unit!

Field trip ideas for a homeschool ocean unit study

Taking a field trip is a fantastic capstone event for a homeschool unit study!

Depending on your schedule, budget, and location, here are some fun field trip ideas for a homeschool ocean unit study:

  • visit the ocean
  • aquarium trip
  • attend a traveling Titanic exhibit
  • check out the educational programs available at SeaWorld or SeaLife

Final thoughts about this ocean homeschool unit study

Hopefully, this Homeschool Ocean Unit Study will be a fabulous learning experience for your kids!

Remember to adapt it as needed for your kids’ grades and interest levels. If one of them suddenly develops a strong desire to learn about pirates and shipwrecks, icebergs and the Titanic, or about a specific ocean zone or creature, don’t be afraid to detour off course a bit and let them learn!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about this Ocean Unit Study in the comments below!

Related articles about homeschool unit studies:

5 Easy Steps to Creating a Homeschool Unit Study

Homeschool Unit Studies – What Are They? And Why Do People Love Them? 

Pin the image below to return to this article in the future!

ocean unit study

Have you considered putting together an ocean homeschool unit study?

An Awesome Ocean Homeschool Unit Study for Elementary SchoolersAn Awesome Ocean Homeschool Unit Study for Elementary SchoolersAn Awesome Ocean Homeschool Unit Study for Elementary SchoolersAn Awesome Ocean Homeschool Unit Study for Elementary Schoolers

Hi there! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m Jen, a former reluctant homeschool mom who is ready to help you actually enjoy homeschooling too. Read more here…

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