Concept Design for the Ocean Motion module

The Ocean Motion teacher and student guides are based on two themes; Seafaring and Climate and Weather variability. The lessons are stand-alone and student-directed, meaning the students shift from a role of passive knowledge receiver into a role as constructor of meaning. Each lesson has 2 components: a student guide and a teacher guide, which were created using the teaching-learning cycle and the 5 E’s model. Each lesson was created with the end product in mind--evidence of student understanding. Teachers may evaluate their student's progress through use of the holistic rubric provided at the end of each lesson.

All five lessons focus on real-world issues, related to ocean surface currents, which are investigated using satellite data, most collected by satellites and models. Students are able to work with near real-time data, through the easy interface of the data visualizers. The visualizers allow students to manipulate controls that show data in charts, graphs, and maps. Students then can draw their own conclusion about ocean-related phenomena.

Lessons were created using a modification of curriculum design developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in Understanding by Design. In their book, Wiggins and McTighe “…describe the most effective curricular designs as backward.” Originally described by Ralph Tyler in 1949, he described backward design as providing a task and then determining how one gets there.

The Ocean Motion development matrix shows educators the blueprint used to construct each lesson. The matrix includes projects content descriptions for the following concepts.

Enduring or Fundamental Understandings can be defined as overarching principles, concepts, or processes that can be thought of as the linchpin of what is being taught and can be transferable to other scenarios. They have lasting value beyond the lesson, are abstract and often counterintuitive.

Essential questions provide perplexing questions about facts, problems, patterns, and processes that motivate students to explore existing knowledge in the lesson.

Performance tasks are evidence of student understanding of “big” ideas and learn what they should Know and Do.


Teacher and Student Guide Development Matrix



Weather and Climate Variability


The rotating Earth and Sun set up patterns of water and air circulation.

Energy transfers happen at the ocean surface. These lessons show how satellite measurements serve to track ocean heating patterns and variability.



The rotation of Earth causes current patterns that affect ocean travel.

Surface currents distribute solar energy around the planet and impact our weather.



How does the rotating Earth affect ocean surface circulation?

How do surface currents and winds affect ocean voyages?

What are patterns of surface currents?

How can models help us better understand ocean surface energy transfer?

What are important processes that affect ocean heating and cooling?

What do we learn about the surface currents and variability in the ocean surface from global satellite data?



The Coriolis force varies with latitude and it causes objects to curve right in the NH and curve left in the SH.

Ocean gyres are driven by solar energy and shaped by the rotating Earth.

Travel on surface currents is affected by current variability.

Navigation on the ocean was accomplished with a log line and compass as well as with the Sun, moon and stars.

The temperature of water is a measure of the heat energy it absorbs or releases.  The density of water decreases with rising temperatures.

The sun, currents and energy transfer processes affect the global pattern of sea surface temperatures.

Measurements of the ocean surface reveal both cyclical (annual) and variable changes.


Performance Tasks

Students will:

Lesson 1
Create and conduct an experiment that measures the speed of a boat and analyze factors that impact speed of boats on water.

Search the Internet for information and write about how speed and direction were measured by sailors and explorers of the ocean.

Manipulate and collect data from a visualizer that uses Columbus’s observed speeds and headings and accounts for magnetic declination and surface currents.

Search captain William Bligh's journal for his magnetic variation measurements and compare them to a computer model.

Lesson 2
Using a model of heating water on a stove, propose an explanation for the behavior of the movement of water.  Predict how this applies to fluids moving on or near the Earth’s surface.

Observe an animation of a rotating Earth and draw conclusions about the speed of objects at different latitudes.

Predict the effect of radius and speed on the tension of a string connected to an object in circular motion. Relate these predictions to the formula for centripetal acceleration.

Use the online Coriolis model to generate trajectories on the surface of a smooth Earth-like sphere.  Judge if each trajectory follows Coriolis’ rules.

Use the online Coriolis model to investigate the curvature of trajectories of object launched with the same speed but different latitudes.

Lesson 3
Respond to questions regarding ocean surface data collected from satellites.

Manipulate an online surface current visualizer, collect data and determine changes in surface current speeds at different latitudes and longitudes.

Examine data from Sea Surface Environment visualizer to determine patterns in sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific, Atlantic & Indian Oceans

Identify weather-related patterns in data for ocean surface currents, temperature and winds with special attention given to El Nino.

Lesson 4
Describe the use of scientific models.

Identify similarities and differences between simple concrete, everyday models and target, weather-related elements. 

Manipulate a computer model and accurately read data from near real-time data collected from the OSCAR project.

Predict how energy released by the ocean surface will affect layer temperatures and compare predictions with a computer model.

Lesson 5
 Compute the means and standard deviation of data values and interpret their significance.

 Identify parts of the energy balancing mechanisms of Earth and compare their function to energy regulation functions of the human body.

Compare patterns of diurnal heating and cooling of the atmosphere to predictions of a Daily Metabolism model.

Determine when solar intensity is highest and lowest at various sites on Earth using global images showing daily incident energy.

Identify patterns in ocean surface currents and temperature data.



Key Concepts

#1: The Earth has one big ocean with many features

#3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate


Related Careers

Why is ocean travel still important today? 

What are jobs/roles that relate to ocean commerce?

What are jobs/roles that are affected by weather and climate changes

•  Chamberlin T. C., (1931), The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses, Journal of Geology, Vol. 39 No. 2, Univ. of Chicago, 155-165
•  Bondeson, S. R., Brummer J. G., Wright, S. M., The Data-Driven Classroom, J. Chem. Educ., 2001 78 56-57
•  Trowbridge, L. W. and R. W. Bybee.  1990.  Becoming a Secondary School Science Teacher, 5th edition. Merrill: Columbus, OH.
•  National Research Council (NRC), 1996 National Science Education Standards: Observe, Interact, Change, Learn, Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.
•  Gilbert S. W. & S. W. Ireton, 2003, Understanding Models in Earth and Space Science, NSTA Press.
•  American Association for Advancement of Science (1993) Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, Project 2061), Oxford University Press
• Wiggins G., and McTighe J., (2005), Understanding by Design, Association for Supervision & Curriculum Deve; 2nd Expand edition, ISBN: 1416600353