Earth and Space Science

First time teaching the causes of moving currents in the atmosphere and ocean

I teach seventh grade and I need help with activites and knowledge of the causes of moving currents in the atmosphere and ocean. Lesson must be connected to thermal energy, density, pressure, composition, and topographic influeences. Anyone have lessons that work well for middle school students? Does any know a user friendly website where my students can get current atmosphere currents and/or ocean currents. Thank you for help.

Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler
420 Activity Points

Hi Anne, You might try checking out the SciPack, "The Ocean's Effect on Weather and Climate". It has alot of background knowledge that would help you build your content knowledge and confidence about teaching a new subject. One of the sections, titled Global Circulation Patterns, has information pertaining to both ocean currents and atmospheric currents. You can also check to see if you can find a SciGuide related to your topic; There you will find many resources, including lesson plans. I have used a SciGuide titled “The Ocean’s Effect on Weather and Climate” and another called “Living in the Weather.” When you click on the different sub-sections there are often good lessons plans included. Sorry I don’t have any lessons to post for you, but hopefully this will be a good place to start. Good luck! Nikki

Nichole Montague
Nichole Montague
4675 Activity Points

I found a couple interesting articles and links on ocean currents and movements of sea water. One resource is a teacher collection with interesting articles at http://learningcenter.nsta.org/my_learning_center/my_library.aspx?cid=gZuTELgVXeY_E I put other articles in a collection so I wouldn't lose them here http://learningcenter.nsta.org/my_learning_center/my_library.aspx?cid=ZcSlUgO1bjY_E You might also try these websites http://www.cosee.net/resources/themes/oceancirculation/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowResourceDetails&ResourceID=447 http://www.csun.edu/science/geoscience/oceanography/index.html I hope there is something here that helps. Does anyone else do interesting lessons on physical oceanography? I know I came across lots of articles on marine biology but not as many on the physical aspects of oceans and I haven't had time to scope out as many of the SciPacks that might have this information.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65805 Activity Points

This isn't entirely on ocean currents, but related. The site I originally set up, the Stevens Ocean Observatory, shows tidal waters off New York City. It plays currents as a movie of 48 frames interactively, and you can see the salinity and temperature changes at the mouth of the river. You can see Coriolis as the plume curves to the right, and that Coriolis even makes the New York side of the Hudson River salter (incoming salt moves right, outgoing fresh moves left). You can look at surface and bottom currents and salinity. I don't know how much linked background information is on the site, it's not aimed at teaching middle school, but the fact that it's interactive and shows a tremendous amount of data makes it very useful. http://www.stevens.edu/maritimeforecast Just click on an area of the map and press the play button to see the current forecast play out. Change the variable you are looking at, change the vertical layer, it's loads of fun. If you can stomach the hard going, for your own background George Mellor's book on Oceanography states beautifully the overviews of the energy balance of the planet. This is a college text, and heavily mathematical, but it also has beautiful explanations in each section of what's going on if you want to ignore the math. I'm not saying you could read it to your 7th graders, but it gives you the overall knowledge of what drives the currents, and I've yet to see any middle school textbooks that do a good job. So if you want to get the real facts to relay to your students, it's worth a look. For example, he explains (in English) the total energy of sunlight that hits the earth, the difference between equator and poles, and therefore the net energy flow that must occur. On a fundamental level, all currents are about heat transport from hot area to cold ones. He gives an estimate of the ratio of air (2/3 of transport) and water (1/3).

Dov Kruger
Dov Kruger
185 Activity Points

You may also be able to find information on the AMS Datastreme Oceans page at http://www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/ds-ocean/home.html Datastream Oceans is a professional development workshop offered by the American Meteorological Society for teachers. This is the only one they offer that I haven't had an opportunity to take yet :( but I have enjoyed and learned a lot from the other classes they offer and gotten a lot of lesson ideas. This site has links to different organizations, data that could be used for student lessons or research, and a weekly "oceans in the news" information page. The other classes on weather and climate change have similar setups and I use the weather maps they provide in my classes when I do my weather units. If anyone is interested in signing up to take this course to learn more on oceans you can find out more at http://www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/DS-Ocean/index.html

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65805 Activity Points

To teach the coriolis effect, I've use this activity. Cut a 2-3" circle from manila folders and have the students (working in pairs) fold the disk in half twice perpendicularly to find the center. They label the top center north pole and the underside as south pole. Looking down on the north pole, they draw an arrow signifying the direction of the earth's rotation (counter clock wise). As their partner spins the disk the same direction, a student draws an arrow on signifying the rotation of the earth looking "up" at the south pole. The students get a ruler and draw a straight line from the center of the earth on the north pole to the edge. This simulates a straight wind blowing. Now, one student rotates the earth and the other student draws the same straight line, signifying the wind. They discover that as the earth turns, it creates a "curved wind" (i.e. the coriolis effect). They repeat for the southern hemisphere and discover that it turns and curves in the opposite direction. This can then lead to lessons on why the winds, and therefore currents move clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter clock wise in the southern hemisphere.

Ken Liu
Ken Liu
2000 Activity Points

Great idea to demonstrate the Coriolis effect simply!

In case you are interested in using an online model to demonstrate, you might want to take a look at this NOAA site: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/learning/8_ocean_currents/activities/coriolis.html NOAA has many other resources that you might find useful as well.

Jennifer Rahn
Jennifer Rahn
67935 Activity Points

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