Why do we need to protect the ocean?

Questions to hold on to​

  • How is all life connected to the ocean?
  • How do my actions here in my community affect the ocean?
  • How can I help the ocean right here, right now?
  • Who else is working to help the ocean?

Add to your thinking

The Digital Notebook is a space to hold your thoughts, questions, and growing understanding throughout this Unit.  You will be able to access it from every Module. Use The Digital Notebook to jot your thinking, take notes, or as a space to develop your writing. You can print and export it anytime, and at the end of module 8 you’ll be reminded to save a copy for yourself.

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails by Anthony D. Frederick

Read Along with the Video

Roll over to see a synopsis and links to read-along text
Go on a field trip with Tony to a tidepool. Two pages of notes at the back of the book offer fun facts about creatures that live there.
Read Full Story

Read Along with the Video

Roll over to see a synopsis and links to read-along text
"A tied pool. One small place — this one's no bigger than a bathtub..."
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One Small Place by the Sea by Barbara Brehner

It's a challenging life for the plants and animals that call this place home!

Standards & BlueTech Alignment

Anchor Phenomenon

Meet Paul Nicklin

Essential Question

Why do we need to protect the ocean?

Student Action / Outreach


Career Connection

Park Naturalist, Marine Biologist

Blue Tech Alignment / Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP)

OLP 6: The Ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. (K-2)

OLP 7: The Ocean is largely unexplored. (K-2)

Water Issue(s) Addressed

Conservation, Trash, Pollution

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.]

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Literacy Standards




Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.


Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

Literacy Standards



Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.


Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.


Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.

Visual Arts


Individually or collaboratively construct representations, diagrams, or maps of places that are part of everyday life.


Progression of Modules 

Link to Phenomena Board

Module 1

Inquiry Launch

Meet Paul Nicklin – click here


Students explore the tide pool habitat.

Module 2

Inquiry Deep Dive

Students explore the coral reef habitat. They learn more about their local environment.

Module 3

Hands-on Investigation

Students engage as community scientists and explore their local habitats and effects on their habitats.

Module 4

Career Connection

Students are introduced to marine conservationists, ecologists, naturalists and biologists.

Module 5

Engineering & Design 

Students design a  solution to keep trash and pollution out of the ocean.

Module 6

Student Action

Students produce their Storywalk product and decide where and how to host it.

Module 7

Reflection & Assessment 

Module 8



In this module, students are introduced to a variety of marine habitats and the creatures that survive there. They wonder about these various habitats and their connection to them. They learn about special places that protect the animals and plants in these environments called Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). 

Begin by activating the student’s prior knowledge. What do you know about the ocean ecosystem?

Find out how many students have been to the ocean before, what they learned, and what they wondered. What memories does the ocean spark? If they have never been to the ocean, have them share what they know through media, stories, etc. 

Launch the Anchoring Phenomenon: 
Description of Phenomenon: Students are introduced to the various marine habitats in the ocean.

Meet Paul Nicklin – click here (scroll down the page to “The Thin Blue Line” video)

  • Why would a marine biologist become a photojournalist?
  • What story is he telling with his photos?
  • Why does he use photos?
  • What does he want people to know or do?

Look at a map, and note the interconnectedness of Earth’s oceans, and the identification of 5 specific oceans. Locate your nearest ocean.  The following texts and video are a resource for understanding that all life, no matter how far away, is related to the ocean.

The Ocean In Your Bathtub by Seth Fishman  

Exploring Oceans

  • How is all life connected to the ocean?
  • How do my actions here in my community affect the ocean?
  • How can I help the ocean right here, right now?
  • Who else is working to help the ocean?

In this unit, students will be reading a mix of nonfiction and realistic fiction focused on varied marine habitats.  They will explore the range of animals and plant life in each, and the balance between human need and activity, and the needs of other living things and their habitats. As they do so, students will move beyond identifying big ideas to exploring the ways authors use facts and details to help readers construct those big ideas.

Read Aloud
Read alouds in Module 1 will focus on exploration of varied marine habitats to construct understanding about the beauty, the range of life, the interdependence of that life, and the real or potential effects of human interaction.  The following website is an excellent introduction to these habitats. 

Ocean Habitats

Thinking and talking about these texts will introduce students to research as a process of reading with breadth and depth.  Children will emulate this in their independent reading as they research marine habitats, and their local habitats, in preparation for writing.

Module 1 begins with a deep dive into the intertidal zone, with suggested realistic fiction and informational Read Alouds to learn about the rocky or sandy shore and tide pools, and the sandy shore.  A digital read aloud option is offered when available in case texts aren’t easily accessible.

Students read, think and talk about the ways the tide pool environment supports a diversity of life, and how animals are specially adapted to survive there. 

Suggested read alouds are:

Inside One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails and Salty Tails by Anthony D. Fredericks

One Small Place by the Sea by Barbara Brehner

At Home in the Tide Pool by Alexandrea Wright

Tide Pool Secrets by Narelle Oliver

Ocean Tidepool by John L’Hommedieu

Habitats of the World: Rocky Shores by Alison Ballance

Habitats of the World: Sandy Shores by Alison Ballance

Tide Pools

Exploring Tidepools with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Tidepooling at Point Lobos State Nature Reserve

As you read informational texts, think and talk about the big ideas, and details that help readers construct big ideas.  

  • How do animals survive in this ecosystem?
  • What thoughts or questions do you have?
  • How does each author link details together to help readers build bigger ideas?
  • What is the relationship among the details?  
  • How does the text unfold over time?  

As you read realistic fiction texts, think and talk about the big ideas, considering:

  • How is this text adding to my thoughts and questions about this ecosystem?
  • How does the author’s language create a mood or tone?
  • How did the author draw from factual information in the crafting of the story?
  • How did the language and illustrations work together to bring the habitat to life?

Discuss the power of each genre, and the two combined, in developing a deep understanding of the habitat. Chart questions, big ideas, and cool facts on a Rocky or Sandy Shore / Tide Pool chart.  Add bits of descriptive language that children find particularly compelling.

Shared and Small Group Reading
Recommendations for leveled and Third Grade NGSS-aligned texts for shared and small group reading are included in the Blue Tech materials matrix.  Shared reading instruction for this unit should include:

  • Concepts about print targeted to developmental needs for students still requiring support
  • Overarching meaning making strategies as outlined in this unit

Additionally, shared and small group reading should include focus points specific to the nonfiction genre.  This genre specific instruction will support children’s meaning making as they delve deeply into meaning making in both read aloud and independent reading.  Focus points for nonfiction genre shared and small group reading in Third Grade may include any focus points included in the previous grade levels which require added support, and:

  • Differentiate fact from opinion
  • Persuasive strategies
  • Determining importance
  • Notice a mix of organizational structures within a single text 

Independent Reading
For independent reading, to the degree possible, collect texts in a range of genres on varied habitats.  These can be marine habitats, and local habitats, or other habitats that interest students.  During Module 1, encourage the children to explore a range of habitats to discover what interests them.  Encourage them to think and talk with others as they read, sharing compelling texts, questions, and ideas.

You may extend this exploration with an opportunity for field study by visiting a tide pool. If there isn’t one locally that you can explore students can go on a virtual visit – click here

Explain to students that they will be researching and exploring local habitats in preparation for writing.  As they research and explore, they will keep an inquiry notebook.  The following websites offer suggestions for keeping an inquiry notebook.  Children might want to begin by organizing their inquiry notebooks.

Resources for teaching recording in inquiry notebooks: 

Spark in Nature and John Muir Laws

The One Small Square series by Donald M. Silver offers suggestions for looking closely.  If available, these texts may help children explore local habitat(s).

As students explore their local habitat, have them record observations of different plants, animals and the environment using all of their senses. They may start to gain interest in a particular species. Encourage further study of the species life cycle and effects on that species environment and how well it survives there or not.

As students wonder about how animals survive in the ecosystem, have them gather thoughts about one animal in their inquiry notebooks and with examples of what the animal needs to survive. (For example, a sea anemone needs water to survive but is adapted to stay out of the water for a time as it holds the water in its stomach and closes up its tentacles until the sea level rises again to cover it. It needs food to eat and catches it by stinging its prey, grabbing onto it with its tentacles and digesting it through its stomach. It can survive fairly well in the tidepool but is threatened by humans who may step on them without realizing.) This environment is a great example of one where changes to the environment greatly affect the animals that live there which is a theme to return to in later modules as students grasp the concept that animals have particular needs for survival in different environments.

Writing Workshop
In this unit, children will write to advocate for the care of natural spaces through the crafting of texts to be used in story walks.  In a story walk, individual pages of a text are spaced out sequentially in the environment featured in or related to the text. Readers stroll to read each page of the text while actually immersed in the environment.  An example and explanation of a story walk can be found here.

There will be some advance planning needed for the story walk to identify a location(s), secure permission, and ensure adequate support for installation of the pages of the text.

Student’s goal for their story walks are to:

  • Convey their passion and concern for a local habitat
  • Engage others and compel them to care and act through their words and immersion in the habitat
  • Develop awareness of the relationship among varied habitats and the health of our planet and ocean

The story walk will be the exhibition for this unit, with preparation for installation in Module 6, actual installation between Module 6 and Module 8, and the walks occurring during (and possibly after)  Module 8.

Children’s writing will be strengthened through a study of informational text structures.  A variety of mentor texts are suggested as examples of sequential, cause and effect, and problem and solution structures.  Authors may choose to craft an entire text using one of these structures, or incorporate varied structures into a single text.

In Module 1, children will begin researching for their writing by locating and exploring (physically, through reading, or virtually) natural habitats in their own community.  If a water habitat is close, such as ocean, lake, river, or pond, etc., this would be ideal.  However, local mountains, a park, a greenbelt, canyon, or hiking trails, etc. will work.  If you are in an urban area, children might even choose a city block.  Children investigate the needs of the habitat, consider its care, and craft informational texts in a variety of structures that touch hearts and minds to create awareness and stewardship. 

Children should research in collaborative, shared interest groups.  Writing collectively as a group will help with the larger planning and preparing for the story walks.

With children gathered together, explain what a story walk is, and why they will be creating texts for a story walk.  Think aloud about local habitats, and list those within reachable physical distance, or that have a virtual presence. 

Note: You will want to check with officials in charge of the habitat or urban areas students are writing about to explain and discuss a story walk, and ensure they welcome the possibility.  You’ll want to discuss the area for the walk, and the method of installation of the pages of the text along the story path.

 Consider the range of questions about a habitat that might propel initial investigations:

  • What is the geographic lay of the environment?
  • Are there existing trails or sidewalks?
  • Is it a place a lot of people visit?  Why?

Brainstorm other questions to add to the investigation.  Offer time for research and writing groups to form, generate thoughts and questions about the habitat they’ve selected, and begin to collect background information and interesting facts.  Have them think about big ideas about the environment they may want to convey, and how they will gather their thoughts in their inquiry notebooks.

Share that there are people who are passionate about protecting the ocean. Because of their efforts, some parts of the ocean have become Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Watch – What is an MPA?

  • Do we need MPAs?
  • Why or why not?


What is one way you feel connected to the ocean?

Throughout the unit, students will reflect using the Phenomena Board as a way to track their sense-making and understanding of the anchor phenomenon. 

Guide students back to their Question to Investigate and have them share what they did and what they figured out. They review their chart of big ideas and connect it to the phenomenon, sharing how some animals are specially adapted to survive in the tide pools which is one of many different marine environments.


Investigative Phenomenon

Question to investigate

What we did

What we figured out

Connections to the phenomenon

Questions we still have

Tide Pools are an environment where some animals and plants can survive well and some cannot.

How do animals survive in the Tide Pools?

We read books about tide pools. We explored an animal in the tide pool and learned how it survives there. We visited a tide pool.

In the tide pool, some kinds of organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all due to special adaptations that animals there need to survive.

A tide pool is one kind of marine environment where animals have to survive high and low tides twice a day on rocky shores.

Complete with students.

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