Science at home: Curriculum and resources

The education and editorial staff at MBARI have gathered some educational resources that may be useful to parents and students while sheltering in place. This page lists a small collection of activities and lesson plans from MBARI and various other organizations that can be used at home. We will continue adding to this site throughout the coming weeks.

Please send any suggestions to Education Specialist George Matsumoto (mage@mbari.org). Additionally, reading to your children is always a great activity that doesn’t require printouts or supplemental content. You can also find a primer compiled by the Santa Cruz Department of Education on talking to children about coronavirus here (this is a Google docs file).

Education and Research: Testing Hypotheses (EARTH)

EARTH is a professional development workshop where educators create activities based on real data. There is a wealth of activities on this website that are either published lessons or lessons in development (created during the workshop, but not yet edited). These lessons are cross-linked to both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Ocean Literacy Standards. They can also be accessed via keywords.

Here are a couple of highlighted lessons with short descriptions:

  • What’s the Bigger Picture? combines art and science to interpret and illustrate graphs to help students better understand the bigger picture of climate change. 
  • Critter Characteristics encourages students to apply their knowledge of natural selection, ocean life, and ocean zones to learn about the unique adaptations of deep-sea organisms.
  • Elkhorn Slough Nitrogen Case Study focuses on estuaries that are home to a wide variety of organisms and represent delicate ecosystems. Elkhorn Slough is the site of numerous human activities, including agriculture, recreation, transportation, fishing, and energy production. With so many user groups struggling to coexist in the slough with as little disruption of the natural environment as possible, several essential questions arise. Do these activities add additional nutrients to the slough? Are they changing the delicate balance of life in the slough? What can be done to alleviate problems that may occur? This online case study will help students examine these questions.
  • Blue Mud Shrimp Mystery has students focus on zombie shrimp in order to learn about the effects of invasive species on ecosystems.

MBARI YouTube videos
Check out all of the great videos on our YouTube channel to see some incredible deep-sea life and learn more about the science and technology behind these discoveries. Or, just watch and enjoy!

MBARI’s Creature Feature – these pages have links to some of the fascinating creatures that MBARI has seen over the years – and it represents the first series of deep-sea stickers that MBARI has created. Follow us on social media for information on how to win one or more of these!

The Deep-Sea Guide, created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), provides easy access to the institute’s database of millions of records of deep-sea animals, seafloor habitats, geological features, and research tools.

Monterey Bay Aquarium 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a variety of standards-based curricula and activities to enrich learning at home. Some of the activities are exhibit-focused, but you can modify them to reflect the habitat in your backyard or somewhere else in your neighborhood. There are also coloring activities and games available for download. All of these are designed for preK-12 grade levels. 

Southern Ocean “Deep Dive” Educational Resources

SOCCOM researchers study the vast Southern Ocean using special automated floats. Image by SOCCOM.

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM) is a multi-institutional program focused on unlocking the mysteries of the Southern Ocean and determining its influence on climate. The SOCCOM team produced six educational videos on Southern Ocean phenomena called “Southern Ocean Deep Dives.” The videos feature helpful animations as well as interviews with SOCCOM researchers. Feel free to download them and use them in your online or at-home teaching. There are also accompanying learning modules here.

Shape of Life

Shape of Life offers classroom media and resources depicting the evolution of the animal kingdom on planet earth. Explore animal adaptation, animations, and behaviors along with the amazing scientists who bring their stories to life. Discover a rich selection of Next Generation Science Standards materials including lesson plans, readings, illustrations, and activities that inspire a deeper dive into animal phyla.

Shape of Life content is free to students and educators all over the world. The videos are amazing and you can search them by phyla, behavior, taxonomy, genetics, paleontology, and many more. There are interviews with researchers as well as some beautiful animations. There are lesson plans provided and everything is cross-linked to the Next Generation Science Standards. Highlights include a full unit on the climate crisis and a blog that covers a variety of current topics.

California State Parks

Students are invited to interact live with State Parks interpretive rangers broadcasting from across the state. Many of their Home Learning Programs take place in coastal California State Parks and include marine topics such as:

  • How marine protected areas (MPAs) preserve marine ecosystems
  • Tide pool ecology and adaptations
  • Kelp forest habitat
  • Deep-sea habitat
  • Sea birds
  • Watersheds and estuaries
  • Plus many other non-marine topics!

You can visit the website to view their calendar and register for one (or all!) of the free Home Learning Programs. These engaging educational experiences will be offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for grades Kindergarten through 12.

They also provide a variety of free online content for teachers and students to explore in California State Parks though the Flipgrid Disco Library, Smithsonian Digital Learning Lab, and Google Treks. Students with interest in the ocean can also explore California’s Marine Protected Areas through the MPA Online Learning Modules.

 National Science Foundation

  • Learn to code using Scratch (ages 8-16) or ScratchJr (ages 5-7):
    With Scratch, kids can program their own interactive stories, games, and animations, and share their creations with an online community. In the process, they develop software graphically as a way of learning the fundamentals of coding language. Launched in 2007, Scratch helps children improve their mathematics, computation, and problem-solving skills.  
  • Explore art and science through the Colors of Nature project (ages 11 and up):
    Think science has nothing to do with art? Think again! Explore the creativity of science through a series
    of education kits that highlight how art and science work together to help us understand the world. The activities in the kits promote observation and the use of household items to explore color through the lens of chemistry, biology, and optics.
  • Keep math skills sharp using GeoGebra (ages 13 and up):
    GeoGebra is mathematics software for all levels of education that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics, and calculus in one easy-to-use package. To get started, check out the “
    learn how to use resources page.”
  • Get quality on- and off-screen through NSF-funded PBS shows (ages 3- 13):
    Many of the NSF-funded science shows on PBS also have websites full of games and activities that allow kids to get creative and dive deeper into STEM concepts.

  • Become a citizen scientist and help collect and analyze data for scientific research (all ages):
    People of all ages and backgrounds can help scientists do real research on everything from ants to astronomy. Find a project near you or online with the NSF-funded
    SciStarter website, which has more than 3,000 active projects, including the Earth Challenge 2020. The site offers projects to do while at the beach or in the car, and the search function allows you to filter by age group and by location type. Older kids might enjoy the NSF-funded documentary The Crowd and the Cloud, about the impact that technology-enabled citizen scientists are making in the world. Zooniverse allows anyone to help scientists classify galaxies. Researchers, with the help of Zooniverse volunteers, can analyze information more quickly and accurately than when working alone. Zooniverse volunteers, including high school and undergraduate students, even helped researchers discover a new type of galaxy—the Pea Galaxy—named after its small size and greenish color. One of our favorite citizen science pages is Jellywatch which is used to document presence and absence of gelatinous zooplankton (jellies or other jelly-like things) that you might see. create an account and submit a photo and your data to this worldwide effort. We hope that the app will be back online soon. 

Distance Learning Resources from the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is an amazing portal providing links to over 1.7 million online tools geared specifically to students and educators. There are STEM webcasts, history podcasts, and many lesson plans. There are 2.8 million high-resolution images from its collection, live webcasts by museum staff (next one scheduled for April 9), and over 50 additional recorded webcasts on a variety of topics. Check it out! 

Additional activities

  • Some great articles just posted in a scientific journal for students! Recent paper on bioluminescence (The Dark Ocean is Full of Lights) published in a collection of ocean papers for students.
  • Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will be streaming weekly seminars on a wide variety of topics on Thursday afternoons at 4 pm PST.
  • OkGo is an amazing musical group and lately they have been working with Dr. Ann Marie Thomas’s lab group. They just released a great video on optical illusions and included some challenges and activities by grade level. The Writing on the Wall is the name of the video – do yourself a favor and watch it!
  • Lost Cities is an amazing interactive video story about coral reefs that was produced by Ruth Gates (before her passing) and the @GatesCoralLab
  • Want your students/children to learn some programming? or maybe you want to learn some? Check out the MIT scratch website and get started creating stories, games, and animations.
  • Here’s a quick roundup of NOAA’s most popular educational resources to help you safely hunker down while learning about the ocean and atmosphere.
  • Do you want to be an Astronaut? Interested in space? check out the online material from Rachel Brachman, a Jet Propulsion Lab researcher who has posted some great educational material.
  • Skype a Scientist Live offers an existing schedule of live and recorded web chats as well as an opportunity for you to schedule your own session. Coordinated by a scientist, this site is maintained by donations and all scientists participate without charge. It’s a great opportunity to enrich your students on a wide variety of topics.
  • Every Monday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m. PST, the Virtual Marine Biology Camp is running a Q&A featuring guest speakers and an opportunity to ask questions about marine mammals. They are based in Seattle and running their camp on Facebook and Instagram (@oceansinitiative) Live. You can email questions to team@oceansinitiative.org. They will choose 10 to talk about. No ticket or registration necessary. 

Resources for parents and educators

  • Common Sense Media provides an overview of digital resources for parents who might want to get a little more information before letting their children download and/or start interacting with different programs.
  • Google Teach from Home provides a lot of resources and information for those faced with the challenge of interacting remotely with students.
  • If you are looking for climate change content, Climate Central has an amazing number and variety of content types: from videos and images to interactive sea level change maps. Take a few minutes to browse this site!
  • And, don’t stress too much about trying to run a school in your home—NYTimes published an interesting opinion piece on March 19 (apologies if you hit a paywall).