Deep trouble in the ocean!

Lesson overview

Having learned about how the environment is changing through carbon emissions, this lesson examines the impacts of these changes on the ocean. This lesson will touch on some of the more obvious examples of climate change and increased atmospheric CO2 on the ocean from polar ice to coral bleaching.

Learning outcomes
  • Understand how too much carbon in the atmosphere has caused climate change
  • List the different impacts climate change has on the ocean
  • Share your learning using a poster case study

The slideshow is a large file as it contains two embedded videos.

1. Recap on the carbon cycle and climate change (5 mins)

Use slides 2 to 4 to connect to the previous lesson’s learning if you have taught this, then introduce the learning objectives to the class. This lesson focuses on what happens to the ocean if there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Use slides 6 to 12 to teach students about the greenhouse effect, where increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to increased temperatures. They should be able to link this learning to the graph in the previous lesson.

2. Visiting the reef (10 mins)

This section focuses on the coral reef in the Maldives and adds an emotive edge to the study of climate change impacts on the ocean. Use slides 14 and 15 to introduce the location for this lesson, the Maldives and the coral reef. Students should use an atlas or online map to locate the Maldives. Use slide 16 to show the correct location.

Later in the lesson, if students complete activities early, there is the opportunity for them to conduct independent research on the Maldives and share any additional information with the whole class.

The core of this section features two videos from the Maldives’s coral reef. The first video embedded on slide 18 shows a healthy reef. Students will probably note the diversity of different fish life, the variety of colours and movement. If students were in the water, they would probably hear the snap, crackle, and pop of life on the reef.
The second video embedded on slide 19 shows coral rubble after bleaching. Bleaching occurs when warmer ocean temperatures can lead to coral dying. After coral has died, the structures are battered by the waves and turn into rubble. With the loss of coral, there is less life overall.

Review the videos using the questions on slide 20. Coral scientists feel emotions too, and mention their feelings of sadness and anger when they see damaged coral reefs, and how they can use these to power their work to protect the reef.

Slides 21 to 23 focus on a common misconception when dealing with the ocean: that it is too large for humans to have an impact. Sadly, this is not the case as the information on the slides shows.

3. Climate change impacts (15 mins)

The lesson then broadens to look at climate change impacts on the ocean. The Student Sheet Climate change and the ocean contains bite-size information about the different climate impacts on the ocean. This information is replicated on slides 25 to 30 to facilitate shared reading of the text. There are five comprehension questions on slide 31 that students can answer individually or in pairs, with answers on the subsequent slide.

4. Maldives poster activity (25 mins)

The lesson returns to the Maldives to create a poster to create a poster or presentation about coral change in the Maldives. If students are making a poster, hand out print-outs of Student Sheet Maldives coral case study. There is a zip gallery of images that can be used if students are making a presentation on a tablet or laptop. Depending on the level of the class, this can be done in small groups or individually. Some classes may wish to extend this into a home learning activity. You may also need to go through all of the different pieces of information with the class.

5. Let’s reflect (5 mins)

The lesson ends by asking students to reflect on the changes to coral reefs in the Maldives and elsewhere. Instead of asking students to come up with personal ideas for carbon reduction, this lesson asks students to think about how they adults might or should be doing more. The final slides point to the learning in the next lessons and some positive news!