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Understanding Ocean Acidification

Atziri Ibanez, Kate Thompson, Kenneth Casey, NOAA Ocean Data Education (NODE) Project

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This series of five activities about ocean acidification incorporates real data from NOAA. The activities are organized as a pathway, with five levels increasing in sophistication, and different data-based inquiry activities.

Activity will take about five 40-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 3 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 10 Cross Cutting Concepts, 11 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
Increased acidity of oceans and negative impacts on food chain due to increasing carbon dioxide levels
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7d
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • There is flexibility built into these lessons. Not all are necessary, depending on prerequisite knowledge of students. Educator should carefully read teachers' notes for explanations and other graphs necessary to build content knowledge, especially around understanding the relationship between aragonite saturation and calcification of shells.

About the Science

  • In learning about the causes of ocean acidification and its effect on coral reefs, students consider various data sets and images for ocean chemistry, including the relationships among CO2, pH, temperature, carbonate, and aragonite saturation.
  • Passed initial science review, expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This series of activities is structured into five levels - Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Interactivity and Invention. The beginning levels - Entry and Adoption- are teacher-driven, whereas the last three levels become increasingly student-directed and inquiry-based.
  • Teacher notes provide good background information about the content. Background information document is important to guide the students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Downloadable student masters are in the teacher notes.
  • Teacher notes are comprehensive and clearly written.
  • Students complete the lessons on the computer; however, it is possible to carry out these lessons with a teacher's computer and overhead if computers are not available.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 3

HS-ESS3-6: Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

HS-LS2-4: Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem

HS-PS1-6: Refine the design of a chemical system by specifying a change in conditions that would produce increased amounts of products at equilibrium

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-ESS3.D2:Through computer simulations and other studies, important discoveries are still being made about how the ocean, the atmosphere, and the biosphere interact and are modified in response to human activities.

HS-LS2.C2:Moreover, anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

HS-PS1.B2:In many situations, a dynamic and condition-dependent balance between a reaction and the reverse reaction determines the numbers of all types of molecules present.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 10

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change

HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C3.1:The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

HS-C3.5:Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C6.1:Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 11

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P3.2:Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

HS-P3.5:Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.


HS-P5.2:Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

HS-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P7.4:Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence.

HS-P8.2:Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem.

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