American History

American History – Ocean Lesson

Did you just read that right? An ocean lesson with American History? Yep you did! Caleb and I had just spent several weeks learning about different explorers like Leif Ericsson, Sir Walter Raleigh, and John Smith. Since we had spent so much time discussing explorers going across the ocean, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to talk about the ocean itself. Now Ocean’s is a BIG topic and can be broken down so many different ways. I decided to focus mainly on learning different ocean zones and currents. It really helped us get a better feeling of what sea captains had to deal with as they spent months at a time out there. It has been a fun unit.  Here is my post giving the outline of what else we are covering in American History.  Here is what we did with oceans:

I always like to start with short you-tube videos to introduce a topic (keeping them no more than 10 minutes).  Here are the 2 you-tube videos we watched:

Ocean Layers by National Geographic  – This ran 7:38 min. It is a typical National Geographic video. GREAT videos of actual wild life in the ocean. It very briefly talks about the different layers. It also spends time discussing the benefits of the ocean and of course ways we as humans are harming it. There is a quick scene that shows sea lions dead while trapped in fishers nets. It could be potentially disturbing to young kiddos.

Ocean Currents, Tides, and Waves – Video s 2:33. Nice and short. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one because the women was hard for Caleb to understand a few times and the pictures were a little cheesy. It is short though and did a good over view of what currents, tides, and waves are.

Next we read a few books and Caleb had to take notes.

Exploring 5 oceans – This was a perfect book to start out with. It is a VERY easy read and the pictures were bright and clear. Because it wasn’t too “wordy” we went back and forth from the book to our globe to get a bigger picture of what it was talking about. Xander and Wes sat in with us as we read this.

Ocean in Motion:Surfing and the Science of Waves (Extreme!) by Paul Mason – Another short and sweet book. The pictures were fun to look at and it gave a good amount of new vocabulary words. The bulk of the book is about surfing.

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns – This book is definitely for the older crowd but Caleb and I were really surprised how much we enjoyed it. It is mainly about an oceanographer and how his career got started with tracking trash (sneakers) in the ocean to learn about currents. It was really fascinating.

Product Details

The first of our activities was a free lap book on oceans I found over at Hebrews 110.  The directions were extremely easy to follow and it offered a great overview on many different aspects of oceans. When finished, I had Caleb give a presentation to all of us using the lap book on what he learned. He presented it with his head in front of the lap book the entire time, so we will have to work on that for the future. =)



The next activity Caleb did was to take white computer paper and fold it in half. He then cut half of it to make 3 flaps. He colored each flap and underneath gave information pertaining to waves, tides, and currents.

We than had so much fun with an experiment I found at All Things Beautiful. She does an amazing job explaining what she did with her kids and why. You should jump over there to get the fine details. Basically it was putting food color in different parts of the pan, then blowing onto the water through a straw to create a current. The boys had a blast watching how the colors swirled together. They experimented several different times using different directions and blowing strength. We also tossed in an ice cube to see what cold would do to the current. I love it when I can find experiments like this. Caleb got a much greater handle on currents because he was able to visually see it.


Our last activity with this unit was creating ocean zones in a jar. I have been seeing this all over Pinterest, but we specially followed the post that Janae wrote at I Can Teach My Child. When finished with this, I had Caleb write a lab report. He had to draw a picture and illustrate what he did, bullet point the steps, and write a short paragraph of what he learned from this (basically his big take-away.)


For each of our units, I am making it a point to find a novel or two that pertains to our topic. This time around we ended up reading 3.

The first was Magic Tree House #39 Dark Day in the Deep Sea. We are huge fans of this series.  It is written perfectly for where Caleb’s reading level is right now. He stutters quite a bit when he read and this book was written in such a way that he was able to go slow and take his time. He didn’t get hung up on any words.

Of course had to read the research guide that went along with Dark Day in the Deep Sea: Sea Monsters. The authors do an excellent job of providing more detailed information about people, creatures, and events from the story but don’t go overboard where I lose my child. Even Xander sat with us during this book. A few of the pictures of the deep underwater fish scared him. I agree with him, some of them are pretty freaky. I also happened to see a you-tube video on Facebook showing an octopus squeezing through an extremely small hole of a ship to escape. It was crazy and perfect timing for our unit.

The last book we read was Moby Dick Junior Classics for Young Readers. I have never read Moby Dick (at least I don’t think I have) so I can’t tell you how good of an adaptation it is from the real thing. The dialogue was still in old English but the rest of the novel was fairly easy to read. Caleb didn’t care for it. He thought it was boring and confusing.

We ended this unit by watching 2 different videos. The first was Bill Nye the Science Guy: Waves. We always love his videos. He keeps everyone engaged including the little guys. When we finished, Caleb went to work on recreating some of the experiments he saw.

Bill Nye The Science Guy: Waves by Disney Educational

We also watched Eyewitness DVD: Ocean.  This DVD offered a great back story of how we have traveled over the ocean through time. This is exactly why I wanted us to learn about ocean’s in the first place. Especially, since we had just finished learning about explorers. That alone made me LOVE this DVD. Otherwise, I thought the videos were pretty grainy. It came out in 2006 (hard to believe that is 10 years ago already!!). The content itself is very good and we did learn some new things.


Whew, this was a long unit! It took us well over a month to get through everything. However, we had a blast. Now onto some “normal” American History like the French and Indian War.

Happy Learning Everyone!


3 thoughts on “American History – Ocean Lesson

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