World Oceans Day in the Classroom

The ocean is a fascinating topic for students to cover.

By Cathy Neushul


World Oceans Day

The ocean is a fascinating subject. No one can look at the waves crashing along the beach, or dolphins swimming in a pod, without feeling some sort of sense of wonder. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, there’s a celebration that gives you the opportunity to cover this topic. World Oceans Day, which was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, is June 8th and it provides a great excuse to teach your students about the ocean, ocean conservation, the important role the ocean plays in our lives, and much more.

Identifying the Oceans

The first step to learning about this topic is to identify the oceans found throughout the world. You can show pictures of different places, and start a discussion of what students see. Here are some ways to spark the discussion.

  • Show students a PowerPoint or video about the ocean. Make sure to include pictures, videos and descriptions of oceans worldwide.
  • Give students a blank world map with space for them to write down the names of the oceans.
  • Help students label each body of water.
  • Have students fill in the names of the continents and countries near these oceans.
  • Have students share what they already know about the ocean. Encourage students to make connections to current events.

Take a Closer Look at the Ocean

Discuss some of the special features of each of the oceans. For example, you could talk about the Pacific Ocean and the dolphins and plants specific to this area, such as kelp. Or you could discuss the coral reefs off the coast of Australia and the important role this area plays in the ecosystem. Once you’ve got students thinking about what makes each of these areas special, you can introduce a group project. Here are some suggestions.

  • Divide students into groups.
  • Give students a list of things you would like them to find out about the ocean of their choice, such as the animals and plants that live in that area, environmental issues, fishing, etc.
  • Ask them to do Internet research to find out the answers.
  • Have them identify the plants, animals, and special features of the ocean they are researching.
  • Have students create a group project to show what they have learned. They could design a poster, a PowerPoint, a video, or whatever way they would like to share.

Ocean Conservation

As part of World Oceans Day people throughout the United States are holding special events to educate people about the ocean, conduct beach clean-ups, and bring attention to important issues. You could look on the World Ocean Day website to see whether there is an event in your area. But even if you and your students aren’t able to take part in an organized event, you can discuss some of the challenges facing our oceans. First, you could have students make a list of the environmental concerns they encountered in their research. For example, if someone mentions the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you could have students analyze the problem and come up with solutions. You can even have students pick a particular issue and write a letter to a representative. The idea is to get students thinking about the problems, but also to know that they are part of the solution. What follows are more lessons and activities to celebrate World Oceans Day.

World Oceans Day Lessons and Activities:

Oceans of Possibility

In this lesson, students learn about the importance of the ocean. They discuss what would happen without its resources.

Ocean Temperature

Students do an experiment to determine how the sun, salinity, and other factors affect the temperature of the ocean.


This lesson has a wealth of ideas to get students thinking about the ocean. You can pick and choose from a list of topics.

The Ocean: Our Global Connector

I highly recommend this lesson because it gives teachers and students a step by step explanation of how different bodies of water around the world affect one another. It also describes how an event occurring across the globe can have long ranging effects.


Writing Guide

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Cathy Neushul