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This site celebrates the west coast marine environment and promotes ocean literacy in Canada.

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February 20th, Ocean Literacy Workshop Follow-up

Hello participants of the Ocean Literacy Workshop held February 20, 2015 at the Royal BC Museum. What a wonderful day that was, getting to know each other through the ocean literacy conceptual framework puzzle, going to the different galleries and learning so much from each other. I really appreciated what Michelle Washington brought to the day through her perspective, the First Peoples’ gallery and the voices of the land and the sea.

I had a lot of fun doing hands-on activities with you on the Climate Change and Ocean portion of the workshop. It always amazes me how much you can learn by simply messing about in boats, or in this case by simply messing about with water.

As promised, here are some resources for you. Below is a bit of a list and the outlines of activities that we did follow the list. I also added a few that I talked about but didn’t demonstrate, at the very end. Stay in touch and please join us in Vancouver for the First Canadian Conference on Ocean Literacy. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the conference.

Thanks for being part of that special day.

Ocean literacy

Ocean literacy campaign http://vimeo.com/45536990

Canadian Network for Ocean Education http://www.oceanliteracy.ca

Climate change and oceans

Digital explorer video – Melting ice-cubes in salt water & fresh water (cans of peas, Jamie in Antarctica)


Digital explorer web-site, you need to register: http://oceans.digitalexplorer.com/

Ocean Acidification

I have included quite a few Ocean Acidification resources because for the most part we only really got around to lowering the pH of the water (and measuring it colour-metrically) by making bubbles. That is by adding carbon dioxide through the straw and through the yeasty-sugar bubblers. I would love to do a workshop that is just on ocean acidification next time. It is such an important topic. You will notice below a lot of the resources are from just to our south. They have been motivated by ocean acidification threatening their shellfish industry, what are we doing?

Pacific Northwest/ Washington State Ocean Acidification https://vimeo.com/54408927

or as below


http://oceanacidification.noaa.gov/AreasofFocus/EducationOutreach/AdditionalResources.aspx has excellent links to further resources

20 Facts about Ocean Acidification: http://www.whoi.edu/fileserver.do?id=165564&pt=2&p=150429

Ocean Acidification in the Pacific North West: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oa/201405­

Fairly technical but written for the lay person- six things we know about ocean acidification in Pacific Northwest coastal waters: http://coenv.washington.edu/research/major­initiatives/ocean­acidification/ocean­acidification­in-the­pacific­northwest/

To learn more about the science behind ocean acidification, visit NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

For more information on the impacts of ocean acidification on humans and marine life, visit the NRDC’s website:http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/

NRDC has produced a film diving into the causes and consequences of ocean acidification: http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/aboutthefilm.asp

For more on what you can do to help, reduce C02 emissions & visit the Deeper Dive at Ocean Conservancy: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/ocean-acidification/deeper-dive…

Read about the $2 million Xprize for ocean health an award from Wendy Schmidt to develop a new better, tougher, easier to use pH sensor for measuring ocean acidification. http://oceanhealth.xprize.org/ (Inspiring.)

Health & Safety Note 

Alway go over potential hazards and how to mitigate and increase safety for any experiment. There is a reason that salt in is listed in the Material Safety Data Sheets. Be especially careful with hot water, fire hazards, water/salt water and electrical hazards etc. Use common sense and preventative measures to protect children (and carpets). Some of these experiments are more fun run outside. For example, pour water down the string works well on an outdoors stairway but remember the falling hazard. (yikes)

Enquiry and peer learning on basic properties of water: Small groups of 2 – 3 students to run simple experiments, make predications, collect data, graph & present findings to peers (quickly and informally).

Cohesive properties of waterHow many drops can you fit on a penny? … Extension ideas -with versus without soap, hot versus cold, heads vs tails etc. tally it, control for extraneous variables, graph it, talk it up.

As a follow-up check out some of these amazing wave images under seascapes and relate back to cohesion properties. http://raycollinsphoto.com/

Adhesive properties of water – This one is more of an engineering challenge. Move water on a string. (2 cups, cotton string, water) – transport a cup of water using cotton string and gravity from one side of room to the other side). Extension ideas – time of travel or volume transported as a function of wetted versus dry string. Have students work together to mop the floor, get up on a chair and pour the water down the string, catch the water in a cup at the other end without getting their fingers in the way, too much.

What is the difference between what happens to sea level, when sea-ice melts in the Arctic and glacial ice melts in the Antarctic?


Two containers

Measuring device



Cans of peas




Design an experiment that would model a comparison of sea level rise from melting sea ice (In the Arctic, sea ice is already in the ocean so make sure that your model has the melting ice already in the water.) and melting glaciers (In the Antarctic up to 90% of the world’ freshwater is bound up in glaciers on land, so make sure that your melting ice is “on land”.)

Get approval for set-up, run experiment. Measure, record data and graph for sharing (aka big). Remember to give the graph a title, note the units & label axes.

Adapted from Digital Explorer. See video as listed at top of page.

Melting Ice-Cube Experiments http://mirjamglessmer.com/?s=melting+ice+cubes&submit=Search

We did a fairly simple version of this endlessly interesting example of how much you can learn about the physics of water with a couple of cups of water, some salt, ice and the ever cool, food colouring. I refer you here, to the queen of the melting ice cube and wonderful teacher Mirjam Glessmer of Germany. Mirjam has multiple variations on the theme of the melting ice-cube. Her amazing web-site is all about oceanography and teaching, brilliant, in my opinion. http://mirjamglessmer.com/

Colourful Density-Driven Currents Experiment

How do changes in salinity and temperature form density-driven currents? (Also know as thermohaline currents)


2.5 L, or larger tank or tub (must be able to look through the sides to see what happens, doesn’t have to be totally clear, just clear enough to see how the coloured water moves and mixes). Glass give best visibility but is a safety risk as it can break.

Aluminum foil

Food colouring blue and red preferably

Duct tape

Several containers

Graduated cylinders or small buckets

Large plastic syringes without needles, or turkey basters ; – )


  1. Engineer a wall to divide a tank in two using aluminum foil and tape. Test your wall to insure it is watertight.
  2. In a container mix at least 1 L of water with 150 g of salt and some red food colouring. Fill a second container with 1 L fresh water with blue food colouring..
  3. Carefully pour the coloured waters into each side of the tank at the same time. Keep adding hot, fresh red water to one side and cold, salty blue water to the other side.
  4. Puncture two holes (pencil sized) in the barrier, one just below the surface of the water and the second hole near the bottom of the aquarium. Observe what happens.
  5. Investigate further. Can you create a tank with three or four layers of different coloured water? Can you create a current between two layers of water?


  1. What did you observe when you put holes in the dividing wall? Which water was denser?
  2. How do temperature and salinity affect the density of water?
  3. How to temperature and salinity form currents in the oceans?
  4. The big ocean conveyer belt that carries water masses on very long (100s of years) travels around the world, is a density driven current. It starts where the north Atlantic interacts with the Arctic. There very cold, very salty water is super dense and sinks through lighter water pushing the current.
  5. How might climate change affect density driven ocean currents?
  6. What can we do as individuals, schools, communities, provinces and nations to reduce the effects of climate change on oceans?

Adapted from Count Marsili and the Mediterranean Current by SEA semester, available at http://www.sea.edu/academics/k-12_detail/count_marsili_the_mediterranean_current

 Thermal Properties of Water – Specific Heat Capacity


balloons, tea candle, lighter or matches, water, air, safety goggles, lab coats (optional)


Specific Heat Capacity The amount of heat that must be absorbed or lost for one gram of a substance to change its temperature by 1o C. Water has the highest specific heat of any known substance.

Theory: High specific heat capacity allows organisms, which are mostly water to absorb heat energy without changing temperature. Even the heat generated by reactions in cells would damage or destroy cells if not for the high specific heat of water. Think about the colour of our planet and how important the ocean is in regulating temperature. It is both our air conditioner and heater because of its specific heat capacity.

Safety – Use safety glasses for this activity. Fire burns so wear your lab coat and tuck in loose clothing and hair. Avoid the flame ; – ) Do it outside or somewhere that can get wet! For younger students this is a demo.

Method – Fill two balloons, one with water, one with air. Predict which balloon will blow up first and why. Light the candle. Control variables like how the high above the flame you hold the balloon. Record the time to explosion for both substances in a table. (Maximum 2 minutes.) Repeat a few times. Graph. Reflect, conclude, discuss in relation to water molecules hydrogen bonds. What were the weaknesses of this experiment? How would you improve it?

Thermal Properties of Water – Latent Heat


Latent Heat: Heat absorbed or released as the result of a phase change (solid – liquid or liquid – gas) is called latent heat.

Latent heat of fusion: Is the amount of heat absorbed during melting or released during freezing.

Latent heat of vaporization: Is the amount of energy absorbed during evaporation or released during condensation.

SafetyDo not use mercury thermometers with students. A broken thermometer is a sharp hazard. Discuss what to do if a thermometer breaks.

Take six equally sized pieces of paper towel. Wet three towels and leave the other three dry. Check & record room temperature with four numbered thermometers. Wrap four thermometers with the paper towels as similarly as possible. Measure the temperature after five minutes for each numbered thermometer. Take an average for wet and dry. Graph your results. Label graph, axes & show units.

Have fun, be safe, make discoveries.