Since it is beautiful and warm here in Australia today, I have been inspired to write about some of my favorite ocean activities. In Prep/1 (aka Kindergarten and 1st Grade) we did a huge “Under the Sea” unit. And with all units, the aim was to integrate as much math, literacy, science, and FUN into our work as possible! Here are a few of my favorite activities:
- Slippery Fish –
This is a great little song written by Charlotte Diamond. It is actually titled “Octopus,” but I always refer to it as “Slippery Fish,” as that is how I remember it! As with any song that involves movement and a bit of silliness, the kids love this (and so do I!) While it is not scientifically accurate, I like to start an ocean creatures unit by teaching this song because once the kids know and love it, we can quickly pop it into their poetry collections, and it becomes an excellent resource for repeat and shared reading. Read more about our poetry collections here.
The song on its own is great, but we loved making it into a super fun craft as well. Each character in the song is glued on to a clothespin, and the character’s mouth is cut so that it opens and closes when you open and close the clothespin. I also made mini versions of each character so they could be eaten.
I definitely recommend prepping a lot of the items beforehand if you plan on having every child make their own (which I did.) I gave each child a small bag with their clothespins already named. Once they cut out their creatures they worked with me or a parent helper to hot glue them on to their clothespins. Then all of their finished creatures went right back into the bag. I had them keep the “puppets” at school for a week or two so they could practice acting the song out as they read it, and then they got to take them home. And this is how cute it is!!
- Fresh Water versus Salt Water –
I love hands on experiments that teach kids concepts. Especially when it comes to the ocean, it is easy to spend a lot of (wonderful) time reading about things, but I love it when I have the chance to gets their hands into things! This is a super easy, but very effective, experiment to help them understand the difference between fresh and salt water. Simply set up two glasses of water with ice in both (this works well without ice too). In one glass, drop about five drops of blue food color in (do not stir).
In the other glass, begin by stirring in about 4 tbsp of salt. Then put the same number of drops of food color in the second glass (do not stir) and observe.
You will see that the food coloring will disperse throughout the fresh water, ultimately turning the water blue. It will NOT spread throughout the salt water. Instead, it sort of floats at the top. This is because salt water is more dense than fresh water.
- Winter’s Tail –
This is a fantastic book (and movie) about the true story of an injured dolphin, Winter, who learned to swim again with the help of some incredible engineers who were able to fashion a new tail for her. I was very lucky to have one of the engineers who worked on Winter’s tail come and chat to my class a few years back. It is truly an incredible story, and you can then branch off from this to talk about other marine life rescue efforts. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (Winter’s home) has a wonderful website to explore with your students.
- Blubber –
This is a fantastic hands on activity to help kids feel, first hand, how blubber keeps many ocean creatures warm in very cold water. You will need cold water, ice, a bowl, a plastic bag or two, and a lot of shortening (Crisco is perfect). Put the shortening into a bag, mold it a little to make a sort of shell, and then put another bag inside the shell. This keeps the kids’ hands clean, which is great.
I first have the kids feel the ice water with their bare hands. Then they put their hands into the shortening bag, and put that into the water. They quickly realize that the layer of fat protects them from the cold!
- Jump the Waves Game –
This is seriously the most simple game, but it is difficult to explain how much the kids love it. It is a fun one to integrate at the beginning of a unit to build excitement, or in the middle of a day when your kids just need to move. This activity really does not teach much curriculum, but it is fun!
You will need two long ropes to be the waves. (We used long jump ropes.) Have your kids line up so that you have one jumper at a time. Then lay out the ropes parallel to one another, a few inches apart. (perpendicular to the line)
Have each kid take a turn jumping across the gap. Obviously the gap should start small so that all kids get a few turns. After each child jumps, they rejoin the line. It moves really quickly, so don’t worry about the kids having to wait around. After the whole line has jumped, widen the ropes a bit. If someone does not make it across the gap, they are out. Continue to widen the gap until no students can make the jump. The whole game should take about ten minutes.
Of course, there are SO many ways to teach about ocean creatures. These are just a few. Remember to sign up for the FREE salt water experiment below. If you would like ALL of my ocean creatures activities, including tons of informational writing resources and graphic organizers, check them out here.
How do you bring ocean creatures into your classroom?