CH. 1 of Explore the Salish Sea



NOTE: This unit is in draft form. Revisions and additions will be made until this note does not appear. For questions or suggestions, contact:


The ocean is the lungs of the earth. Physically, its circulation is responsible for our weather and climate and biologically, for most of the oxygen we breathe. Just how does the ocean circulate? In this unit we will wonder about the physical drivers of ocean movement, explore density differences, and take a look at some tiny creatures who struggle to keep their place in the water column in the midst of all that ocean motion.

By downloading this curriculum, I agree to complete the educator surveys and pre- and post-assessments with my students.

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Find a unit plan here, including Learning Targets, Success Criteria, Next Generation Science Standards addressed, and an overview of the resource-rich lessons, activities, games, labs, and guided explorations that will help students get at the essential question they develop together as a class.





Use these PowerPoint slides with video and resource links as an aid to help guide, but not dominate, your learning progression. Feel free to modify content and add or remove slides to best fit your learning goals. Where there are place-based maps, videos, or project examples, replace with similar content, specific to your school’s region or relevant to your students’ lives and interests.



Gauge pre-existing knowledge and interest with this brief quiz.. When the unit is finished, don’t forget to take the post-assessment. Classroom teachers, use student achievement data gathered from these assessments for a TPEP Cycle of Inquiry.



Give your students a visual or sensory experience that provides a chance to wonder at movement in the ocean or a particular aspect of it. This may be a hands-on outdoor activity, an observational field trip, or an in-classroom presentation or video. Use the “Friendly Floaties” slide about the rubber duckies spilled overboard in the Ocean Motion Slideshow to get students thinking about the ocean being a dynamic body of water and wondering what makes it move.

The largest river in the Salish Sea emptying into Georgia Strait.  NASA

The largest river in the Salish Sea emptying into Georgia Strait. NASA

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After the experience in 2. above, it is time to give a Stormwater Student Journal to each student. Let them get acquainted with it then turn to Journal p. 3 and read Explore chapter 2, Why the Salish Sea is Special. Here is a time to write thoughts, ideas, and questions inspired by their reading into their journals. After students have read and written, invite an open discussion with the class. Develop an essential question around what is most important in this chapter.

Egg yolk jellyfish,  Phacellophora camtschatica , adrift in the Salish Sea.  Drew Collins

Egg yolk jellyfish, Phacellophora camtschatica, adrift in the Salish Sea. Drew Collins



Once you have established an essential question, the information-gathering begins...or continues. The Explore the Salish Sea book is a great place to start, there are some additional resources in the link below, and you may find many more of your own. Of course, you’ll come back to this step throughout the process, as your questions and claims will require support.

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This is when your students take that larger essential question and distill it down into specific, testable questions that can be measured and answered through engineering, experimentation or a survey.



Identify variables, design a procedure, carry out an investigation, analyze data, and see where active discovery leads. To answers? Solutions? More questions to test? Or maybe even back to the drawing board to start all over again. The scientific process is never linear and never ends, but it is always an adventure! Find resources in the Slideshow and Student Journal.

SeaDoc Educator Workshop participants sampling inlet to Metro Parks Tacoma stormwater filtration system to test water quality before and after filtration. Photo by Jess Newley.

SeaDoc Educator Workshop participants sampling inlet to Metro Parks Tacoma stormwater filtration system to test water quality before and after filtration. Photo by Jess Newley.



This is a crucial part of the scientific process. It is the part where the results of all your hard work can make a difference. This may be a difference in the choices a few citizens make each day to help the sea or a new bill on the Senate floor that changes the way our whole state helps the whales. Click on the Learn More button below for three options for Science Communication, with resources to guide you and your students toward making your work public.



At the end of the unit, administer this post-assessment and record the results, then calculate the difference between the pre- and post-assessment scores to measure student growth for the individual and the whole class.