Revealing the Ocean's Deep Dark Secrets

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Ages: 10-13

UNSDGs covered: Life below water

Used after these trips: Tioman Island, Bali, Komodo, Con Dao, Hoi An and Flores

Aim: This lesson plan is to be used in conjunction with our snorkelling and diving field trips where young students have learned about adaptations of fish on the coral reef and will now learn about what lives away from the coastlines and in the depths of the ocean.

Vocabulary: Scavenger Primary/secondary/tertiary consumer Producer Marine Snow Bioluminescence Dwarfism Gigantism Migration Water Column Water Pressure

Concepts: Adaptations- What functions do organisms have to suit their environment? Food Webs- How do food webs function without key elements?

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Materials: Blutack Whiteboard markers Pens/pencils/colored pencils Cards with 10 different coral reef species (enough for each student to have one) Blank game cards (1 per student)


1.      Topic Introduction and Review:

a. Begin your lesson with a game of coral reef ‘blind man’s bluff’. Choose 10 animals that you saw in the ocean during your Ecofieldtrips snorkeling trip (for ideas, check out the trip booklets). Make these into small cards and have students each choose one without looking at it. Have the students place the cards on their forehead and mingle around the room asking yes or no questions about their animal (i.e. “Is it an echinoderm?).

b. Once they think they know what their animal is, have the students find the other people in the room with the same animal.

c. Ask the students what all of these animals have in common? Elicit from students that these are all coral reef animals that you saw last week on your trip.

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Ask your students:

·         Can you name an adaptation of your given animal?

·         What questions did you ask to figure out your animal?


2. Reviewing Food Webs:     

a. Have your students form a group with one of each 10 animals. Hand your students some blu tack and see if they can put the animals in a food web on the white board.

Ask your students the following questions:

·         Which animals are the producers? Primary consumers? Secondary consumers? Scavengers?

·         Where do these animals live in the ocean?

Use this as a guideline of important ocean depths.

3. Understanding Ocean Depths:

a. Show the students a map of the ocean depths. See if they can point to the location where the coral reef animals live.

Ask your students:

·         Why are coral reefs found there?

·         What do coral reefs need to survive?

·         What happens if we take away the producers (coral) from our food web?

·         Do you think anything lives in the dark deep ocean?

·         Where would these animals get their food?

b. Your students may tell you that there are whales in the deep ocean. They might say that these whales feed at the coral reefs and then travel in the deep parts of the ocean.

Ask them:

·         Why would a whale need to travel in deeper parts of the ocean?

·         Could you touch the ground with your feet when you were swimming? Do you think whales could fit on the coral reefs?

c. Ask your students if they’ve heard of a sperm whale. Explain that these whales can dive up to 1,000 meters deep in the water column. Here the whales will hunt for giant squids (for more information, click here), so it is very important for these whales to migrate between the deep looking for food and the surface to get air.

5.       An Introduction to Animals of the Deep:

a. Tell your students that they will learn more about the creatures in the deep with this video.

After the video finishes ask your students the following:

·         What adaptations did you learn about?

·         Why are older animals bigger?

·         Why is it good to be small in deep places of the ocean?

·         Did you see any of these adaptations in the shallow coral reef last week? Why not?


6.       Understanding Food Webs of the Ocean Depths:

a. Show your students pictures of Giant Isopods, Japanese Spider Crabs, Anglerfish, Giant Squid and Sperm Whales. Ask your students to place these in the correct food chain on the whiteboard. The correct order will be something like this Giant Isopod (eats marine snow)-scavenger > Japanese Spider Crab (eats dead animals and shellfish)- scavenger and primary consumer > Anglerfish (eats small fish and crustaceans)- primary consumer > Giant Squid (eats all fish)- secondary consumer > Sperm Whale (eats giant squid)- tertiary consumer

Ask your students:

·         What level of the food chain is missing?

·         Why aren’t there producers?

·         What do producers need to grow?

·         What provides nutrients instead of a producer?


Use this template for your student’s playing cards.

1.       Group your students in groups of four. Show them the gaming cards. Tell your students to create four different species in their group. There should be one scavenger, one primary consumer, one secondary consumer and one tertiary consumer. These animals need names, a picture, a description and rating.


2.       When each group finishes making their card, the students can place them on the whiteboard in a food web with every group’s creations.


The final product should look something like this.

3.       Photocopy the cards so that each group can have their own set. With these cards, the students can play a game. Each student will have an even number of cards that they cannot look at. One student will start by calling out a category. Every student in the group will then flip over their top card and place it in the center. The card with the highest value in the category that was called gets to keep all of the cards. Each student takes turns calling out a category until each player runs out of cards and one winner has all of the cards. If you know different variations of the game, feel free to use them as well!


4.       Keep the decks of cards in the classroom for students to play the game during their free time!

Follow up:

Have your students consider these other questions:

·       Is there one card that always wins or always loses ?

·       Where on the food web would that animal be?

·       Can you think of any other ecosystem that might not have producers?

For added fun, have your students design a submarine that allows them to explore more cool creatures!