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ACTIVITY: Open Ocean Survival

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

The activity below draws from the content in the page Survival in the Open Ocean.


Some animals survive better in certain habitats than others.


Why are some animals able to survive better than others in specific habitats?

Guiding Questions:



Be a part of the chaos that is survival in the ocean! Explore the abilities of organisms’ survival in various ocean zones. Learn that some organisms to survive well, others less well, and some not at all in a given environment.


Part A: Find your new identity

  • ID Cards
  • Hole punch
  • String or yarn

Part B: Story time

  • Game script (attached below. Also included in teacher guide)


Teacher Recommendations:

  • To encourage active participation, movements will be created that are related to species structure and function the open ocean. Students can create gestures to represent each animal during the game (allow them to practice):
    1. Tiger Shark: Hand on top of head to represent dorsal fin.
    2. Yellowfin Tuna: Hands to side close to form a torpedo-shaped body.
    3. Humpback Whale: Arms out to side to represent giant pectoral fins.
    4. Green Sea Turtle: Hands on hips with elbows back to represent shell.
    5. Squid: Cup hands in circles around each eye to represent large eyes for life in the twilight zone.
  • You can prepare the creature cards ahead of time (laminate them to use in future activities) and assign (or let students choose) creatures. 
    Note: Remember, each group should have at least one creature from each zone, indicated by ... ?


Part A: Find your new identity!

  1. Follow along on your worksheet to survive in the open ocean!
  2. Split up into groups of three.
  3. In your student worksheet, there are 3 different sets of organism ID cards. Choose (or distribute) one set per group. 
  4. Create your creature cards!
    1. Cut out the creature ID cards and descriptions for your group on the indicated cut line.
    2. Fold on the indicated fold line and glue the two halves together (you should have a creature image on one side and the description on the other). 
    3. Hole punch the top corners.
    4. Cut out a piece of string or yarn about a foot long. Tie each end to the hole punched corners on the ID cards. 
    5. Assign (or choose) roles so each student has one creature ID card.
    6. Drape it around your neck as your new ID!
  5. Read the back of your card to learn about your creature. Write down a few things about how your creature survives:
    Note: Pay close attention to the words in bold, they will help you know what action to take later on!


  6. Create your own animal dance that represents your creature! For example, if you are a shark, you could put your hand on top of head to represent dorsal fin.

Part B: Story time!

  1. Your teacher will be the narrator. Listen as they read the story. 

Part C: Class discussion


Activity Questions:

  1. What ocean creatures were in your group?
  2. Which one survived best in each of the habitats?
    1. Sunlight Zone:
    2. Twilight Zone:
    3. Midnight Zone


Further Investigation:

  1. Open Ocean Zones Interactive Game: Play the interactive game below to further explore the creatures that live in the zones of the open ocean!

Note: This game requires flash. If you cannot view the entire interactive on your screen, press Ctrl-Minus (-) on a PC and Command-Option-Minus (-) on a Mac to zoom out.


Table of Contents:

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.