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STEM,  Unit Study

World Ocean Day

June 8th was World Ocean Day so we did a week-long ocean unit study. We started with turtles! We went over the life cycle of a turtle thanks to these awesome Safari LTD. models we bought from Michael’s. We read books about the ocean and learned some interesting facts about turtles from our Smithsonian Animal Encyclopedia. My youngest completed a count the turtles math worksheet and used our glass number tiles to fill in her answers. We learned that mother turtles remember which beach they hatched on and travel back to that same location to lay their eggs! One of my favorite kids’ books that we read for this unit study was Into The Deep-The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe by David Sheldon. The illustrations are beautiful and there is so much information within about the life of Mr. Beebe and how he created the Bathysphere to observe animals deep in the ocean.

Ocean Unit Study (Turtles)

Safari LTD Life Cycle Models

The following day our lesson was about whales! I like to lay out all of our materials for the kids so that when they venture over to the table, they’re drawn in by all of the color and things to touch and look at! The kids use our letter tiles to practice spelling our topic and I usually incorporate library haul books to begin our lesson. I will start by asking what they know about the topic, then I’ll read some storybooks while they color a themed worksheet or draw in their nature journal. Then we move onto going over some facts from our encyclopedias and watching informative videos! We learned about whale anatomy and that whales are mammals-not fish! My kids’ favorite ocean library book from this stack was Woodrow At Sea by Wallace Edwards because it is illustrations only (no text), so they had a lot of fun describing what was happening in the pictures, narrating the story and creating their own dialogue. I preferred a small blue whale by Beth Ferry and Lisa Mundorff because the story was adorable the the pictures were gorgeous! If it fits with the theme, I always like to bring out our Aleksandra Mizielinska books which are full of information and so well designed. So, we looked through the UNDER WATER pages and discussed the facts about whales that are listed in there. We learned that whales don’t have teeth and instead have baleen. They draw all of their food and seawater into their mouths, then spit the seawater back out and baleen catches the food and keeps it in their mouths.

Ocean Unit Study (Whales)

Wednesday, we continued our unit study with seashells! Woo Hoo! We had planned a trip to the beach but we were rained out. So we brought the beach inside. I brought out our seashell collection and the kids counted and sorted the shells in our nature tray.

The kids and I made some salt dough (my daughter LOVED kneading it with her bare hands) and they made some impressions of our different shells. Some of their transferred really well and left beautiful ridges! This is a really great sensory activity for kids of all ages that can be incorporated into any lesson!

My son wrote how many words he could come up with out of the word seashell (free and easy vocabulary builder as well as spelling/reading/writing practice.)

We finished up with some water color paintings of the beach while listening to ocean sounds of waves and birds. It was a very relaxing way to wrap up our school day!

Our final day we studied sharks. This was probably my favorite day! I brought out our shark toys, we once again looked to our UNDER WATER Mizielinska book and read a few shark library books as well. My kids’ favorite one was Land Shark by Beth Ferry. It’s a story about a boy who wants a pet shark but his parents get him a puppy instead-super cute!

Ocean Unit Study (Sharks)

In our shark packet for the day, I had a worksheet for the kids to practice using a ruler to measure different parts of a shark. My son identified and wrote the names of different breeds of sharks based on the hints after we read from our encyclopedia. They cut out different shark teeth and pasted the into their nature journal and we observed my son’s real shark tooth he got from the Florida Aquarium.

Last but not least, my son made an awesome shark poster to display the new vocabulary terms he learned and showcase his chart of the different sizes of sharks!

This was such a fun week long unit study on ocean life and I can’t wait to do it again with a focus on different ocean animals and organisms. I hope these photos explain why I love unit studies so much. We incorporated science, reading, writing, math, art, critical thinking, fine motor skills, sensory activities and more all under the umbrella of a fun and interesting theme!

If you haven’t tried putting together a lesson like this, I encourage you try, it’s not as hard as you think and makes the learning experience a blast!








  • Heather

    I love this ocean unit study! You seriously need to package it up and sell it. I love the idea of a unit study and incorporating all the subjects but I don’t even know where to start to look for resources. This is giving me inspiration though.

    • admin

      Thank you so much Heather for the wonderful compliment! I’m glad you found inspiration in reading my post! I will be publishing more on unit studies and how I create them in the future in an effort to help and empower families who don’t know where to start!