A few weeks ago we completed our Ocean Unit Study. I already shared a couple of posts about things we did, but this one is the whole interdisciplinary enchilada.

ocean-unit-studyThis unit began like most all that we do. My son (4.5) told me he wanted to learn more about the oceans and ocean animals. Now, I know that he already knows a LOT, so I started a list of things that he didn’t know. I also checked out an obscene amount of library books. Some subjects are hard to find books, but ocean is not one of them. I search for fiction and nonfiction books and group them together.

Book table - Ocean Unit Study

So all those books pretty much take care of literacy as far as I’m concerned. He reads them and sometimes we read together and talk about things. We did two simple activities that could fall under literacy besides just reading.


  • Read fiction and nonfiction books.
  • Create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast whales and sharks. (Our diagram was somehow ruined before I snapped a photo, but you can get an idea here.)
  • Use Scrabble tiles to unscramble¬†words that pertain to the ocean. (Example: I give him T-C-O-P-S-U-O and he rearranges them to make OCTOPUS.)

Ocean Unit Math - Greater Than Less Than

We had two main activities for the concept of inequality and comparisons. This also ties in with the idea of compare/contrast from literacy. Inequalities can be tricky for kids mostly because the terms “greater than” and “less than” aren’t part of ordinary speech. Also the whole symbol thing is weird. So I wanted to really illustrate the concept and didactically teach him the terminology.

Ocean Unit Math - Inequalities with Sharks

We’ve also been measuring a lot recently. That’s definitely something that comes up more naturally. Since we were learning about the ocean, though, I decided to do some comparisons with marine animal length. It was a good way to reinforce the comparison concept.

Ocean Unit Math - Comparing Size


  • Use Goldfish and shark mouth to illustrate inequalities. (I told a whole story about the shark being hungry and gobbling up the fish. Loads of drama. He loved it and started making up his own stories.)
  • Measure the length of a few ocean animals using a tape measure and painter’s tape as a marker. Learn to visualize measurement in feet and practice comparing size. (Including his own.)

Ocean Unit Math - Measurement


I’m a bit nerdy for geography and I hate that it’s really not taught in schools anymore. But we definitely see it as a must-learn topic. I decided to help him get familiar with the major seas, gulfs and other water features around the world. Plus we got this beautiful map. He was crazynuts for this. You can read all the details here.

Mapmaker Activity - Combine Art with Geography to make a World Map


Ok so I tend to shy away from “crafty” activities. My son was not really into it, but what he does like is building scenes and models. This is spectacular because it uses a lot of the same skills and concepts as other art projects. We made this coral reef using an egg carton, pipe cleaners and some glass stones.

Making a Coral Reef

Here’s what we did:

  1. Paint the inside of the clear egg carton. Let dry.
  2. I stabbed holes in the bottoms of each egg hole.
  3. He poked pipe cleaners into the holes.
  4. We twisted them around to make different shapes of coral.
  5. Glued that all plus a few stones into the bottom of a plain plastic bin. Let dry.
  6. Grab some Lego peeps and ocean animals and play!


Obviously, a ton of this is sciencey, but I’ll just mention this one proper experiment that we did. You can read all the details here. After doing this experiment, he’s been really interested in “testing” things and conducting little experiments of his own. The bathtub is a particularly fertile testing ground.

Ocean Unit Science Experiment - Saltwater Sink or Float

And speaking of the bath… we also had a little fun after reading about the Midnight Zone and bioluminescence. I twisted some glow-in-the-dark necklaces into fish shapes and turned off the lights. They had a grand time playing with the light and creating imaginary stories about the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean.

Glow Sticks make bathtime a Midnight Zone

There are so many creative ways to tie in different themes or interests across subjects. There’s a ton of overlap and this helps kids see connections, transfer concepts, and reinforce prior knowledge. The ocean unit study was a perfectly broad topic to explore.

We also got to have a “field trip” to the National Aquarium with a scavenger hunt. I am hooked on the idea of creating scavenger hunts to make familiar places a new challenge.

Ocean Unit Study - Interdisciplinary Learning

We are in the middle of a huge snowstorm. I’m glad I am publishing this post before the power maybe/probably goes out. I’ll be Instagramming my first blizzard all weekend!



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