Introduction: Prior to beginning the lesson: (1) Cut out and laminate Vocabulary Cards for display in the classroom; (2) Photocopy Ocean Currents (1 per student).


Group Size: Small Group


Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

·          Explain what an ocean current is.

·          Identify the cause of ocean currents.

·          Follow the scientific process to conduct and experiment.

·          Identify and locate the Gulf Stream.


Materials: Vocabulary Cards (see attachment), What Causes Ocean Currents? (see attachment), World Map (see attachment), tin pie plates (1 per group), straws (1 per student), water, large world map



1.       Display vocabulary card “ocean current”. Ask students: Does anybody have any idea what an ocean current is? Give students time to share guesses. Tell students: A current is a moving stream, like a river, that flows in the ocean. Currents can be very powerful. Sometimes ships sail in a current because it moves them along faster.

2.       Ask students: What do you think causes ocean currents? Give students time to make guesses.

3.       Distribute a copy of What Causes Ocean Currents? to each student. Direct students to fill in their hypothesis.

4.       Divide students into groups of three or four. Distribute one pie plate to each group and a straw to each student. Fill each pie plate about half full with water.

5.       Tell students: The water in your plate is like the ocean. I want one person from your group to blow on the water through their straw. Start on one side and blow in a straight line across the plate. Demonstrate for students.

6.       Make sure each student has a turn to blow across the water. Ask students: What did you observe? Give students time to share answers. Students should observe the water ripples on the surface (waves) and circulates to the edge of the pan (current).

7.       Direct students to draw their observations.

8.       Ask students: What was blowing in the straw like? Guide students to answer wind. Direct students to write their results.

9.       Tell students: Wind is always making ocean water move. On the surface the moving water is waves. In some parts of the ocean the moving water is very strong. It is like a river or a stream flowing through the ocean. Ships can travel in currents to help them move faster. Direct students to write their conclusion.

10.    Display vocabulary cardGulf Stream”. Tell students: The Gulf Stream is a very strong current that runs from the Gulf of Mexico, up the coast of Florida to South Carolina and across the Atlantic Ocean. Display a large world map. Trace the path of the Gulf Stream on the map.

11.    Distribute students’ copies of World Map (from Lesson #1), and direct students to trace and label the Gulf Stream on their map.


Modifications: For students with special needs, provided one-on-one assistance as necessary.


Assessment: Direct students to turn to a classmate and share one thing they learned today.


Benchmark or Standards:

National Science Education Standards

NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry – As a result of the activities in Grades K-4, all students should develop:

·          Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.

·          Understanding about scientific inquiry.

NS.K-4.4 Earth Science– As a result of the activities in Grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of:

·          Properties of Earth materials.

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