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Oceans of Energy


NOAA Ocean Explorer

This lesson focuses on the importance of ocean exploration as a way to learn how to capture, control, and distribute renewable ocean energy resources. Students begin by identifying ways the ocean can generate energy and then research one ocean energy source using the Internet. Finally, students build a Micro-Hydro Electric Generator.

Activity takes four to five 45-minute lesson periods. Additional materials needed.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Energy Literacy

Energy is a quantity that is transferred from system to system.
Other materials addressing:
1.1 Energy is a quantity.
Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
Other materials addressing:
1.3 Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
Energy comes in different forms and can be divided into categories.
Other materials addressing:
1.5 Forms of energy.
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Electricity is usually generated in one of two ways.
Other materials addressing:
4.5 Electricity generation.
Water plays a major role in the storage and transfer of energy in the Earth system.
Other materials addressing:
2.4 Water stores and transfers energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.

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

  • Educators should prepare many of the components of the micro-hydro electric generator in advance.
  • However, it is important that the students do the final assembly themselves to solidify their understanding.

About the Science

  • The quality of the science in this resource is a function of the quality of the web sources used by the students to answer the questions on the Ocean Energy Inquiry Guide.
  • Student understanding of the science process will depend on how the educator presents the background on the exploration mission of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.
  • Significant background information as well as additional resources provided.
  • Comments from expert scientist: It explains the difference between different forms of energy and discusses how not all of the energy contained in the ocean can be harnessed by humans.
  • The lesson outlines all of the major forms of ocean related energy that could be used by humans.
  • It clearly describes the different forms of energy, and how the different harnessing technologies work.

About the Pedagogy

  • Aside from a conventional guided-inquiry component, the activity also includes the construction of a micro-hydro electric generator.
  • While there are 32 steps in this construction, this element of the lesson provides a strong grounding in how electricity is generated from a primary source of energy. This is useful for both terrestrial and ocean energy sources.
  • Teachers guide is organized, complete, and contains helpful suggestions. Significant time will be required by the teacher to prepare materials for the the micro-hydro electric generator.
  • Students will likely be engaged by this activity because it addresses a topic rarely covered in science classes and involves hands-on building.
  • Activities move between class discussion, background reading, group and independent learning, and final presentations.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All the primary links work as of April 5, 2011.
  • This is a good introductory lesson to renewable energy with a focus on oceanic sources.
  • Costs: materials for micro-hydro electric generator.
  • The construction of all the components of the micro-hydro generator is likely too difficult for middle schoolers.
  • The preparation time is very extensive, and it would be helpful to create a micro-hydro electric generator as a model.
  • This is classic project-based learning and may be applicable as a unit of instruction.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-PS3-5: Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-PS3: Energy

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C6.2:Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.4:Ask questions to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P4.6:Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error), and/or seek to improve precision and accuracy of data with better technological tools and methods (e.g., multiple trials).

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P6.7:Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

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