What’s really under the Ocean? Ocean Floor Mapping

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What’s REALLY Under the Ocean?

Ocean Floor Mapping


Students will be exposed to, learn about, and demonstrate basic understanding of ocean floor features and mapping, using near time data.
National Science Standards

  • Lithospheric plates on the scales of continents and oceans constantly move at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle. Major geological events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building, result from these plate motions.

  • Land forms are the result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces. Constructive forces include crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion




  • Bathymetry Engagement Lesson (click to open)

  • Google Earth Monterey Bay Fly Through (click to open)


  • Sonar image cards set (rift, trench, seamount, volcanic island , & ridge)

  • Classification Data Sheet Headings

  • Classification Data Sheet (teacher version, answer sheet)

  • Vocabulary word cards

  • Ocean Floor Features Assessment Image

Mapping: Also see http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/how_history.html for materials for mapping activity

  • Shoebox

  • Long, skinny stick: bamboo skewer, long pencil, knitting needle, or a dowel

  • Rocks, gravel, dirt, sand

  • Objects with different shapes to represent the various surprises found during surveying

  • Legos, toy planes, small boats to represent airplanes and ships that may sink and come to rest on the ocean floor

  • "Pretend" water - Blue Air Filter or aluminum foil

  • Sounding Box Depth Chart

  • Sounding Box Color Chart

Procedure -

  1. Introductory Activity – Based on photos of Seward, AK and Monterrey Beach, CA, students will show their predictions of the landforms under the water by drawing them

  2. After picture sharing and discussion, show students near-time images and videos of bathymetry of their prediction places, discuss comparisons

  3. Ask if they recognized any features (mountain, canyon…)

  4. Start Ocean Floor Feature Activity (Teacher: See Background Information)

  5. Review landforms features on land (continental) from previous learning (valley, canyon, volcano, mountain, and plains).

  6. Divide your class into small groups. Photo copy enough sonar image card sets for each group.

  7. Have students observe and discuss the characteristics of each image.

  8. Classify images by oceanic features. Use one classification data sheet per group.

  9. After the students classify the images under the specific descriptions of the ocean floor features, use the vocabulary word cards to label each column. Identify sonar image cards with vocabulary cards.

  10. Additional Activity: Ocean Floor Charades

Have a student select a sonar image card of ocean floor feature. Student will act out the ocean floor features.

  1. Apply their learning with the Mapping Activity - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/welcome.html

  2. Do Sounding Box activity, found at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/sounding_box_make1.html with one extra requirement: Students must represent at least three of the features they learned about in Features activity.

  3. Extension Activity: Underwater Map Dance (click to open)


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