Exploring Our Fluid Earth

exploring our fluid earth logoThe Exploring Our Fluid Earth curriculum is grounded in the inquiry approach to learning and examines marine and freshwater systems of the earth by studying the influence of water on the planet. Exploring Our Fluid Earth is based on the nationally recognized Fluid Earth/Living Ocean (FELO) aquatic science curriculum (Klemm et al., 1990; Klemm et al., 1995).

Exploring Our Fluid Earth comprises the essential elements of a year-long course in marine science at the high school level. The curriculum is organized into modules with a series of related lessons that build conceptual understanding in four content modules: physics, chemistry, biology, and ecology. The disciplinary focus allows teachers to utilize the most relevant portions of the curriculum in their teaching—to teach their course concepts in the context of the aquatic environment.

Exploring Our Fluid Earth is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Ocean Literacy Principles throughout the curriculum. Alignments are outlined in the Standards Module and searchable via the search feature. Elements of scientific practice are explored in the standards module.

The teacher community provides a hub for educators to interact and share resources. All comments and materials are embedded in the content and aggregated in the teacher community.

Navigating the Curriculum


Exploring Our Fluid Earth is organized into six modules. Each module is further divided into units and then into topics. Each unit contains media resources, activities, questions, special features, and teacher resources for use in the classroom or in informal education settings.
Left: Visual sample of modules on the front page

Media Resources

Images, video, and online links help connect Exploring Our Fluid Earth to current topics.


Activities are an integral part of the Exploring Our Fluid Earth curriculum. Activities scaffold to build content knowledge within units, and it is through the activities that students construct their understanding of the concepts.


Questions include question sets, which address topics covered in the module text, as well as further investigations, which expand on topics covered in the text and provide suggestions for more in-depth discovery and research. Activities also include questions that directly address the content of the activities themselves.

Special Features

Throughout the Exploring Our Fluid Earth modules, students will investigate, discover, evaluate, and communicate about aquatic science issues. The special features help connect the curriculum concepts to the real world and to the process of doing science. There are several categories of Special Features, including Climate Connections, Compare-Contrast-Connect, Practices of Science, Voice of the Sea, Traditional Ways of Knowing, and Weird Science.

Teacher Resources

Teacher text resources include background content information and resource links for topics covered in the Exploring our Fluid Earth curriculum. Teacher activity resources include background information as well as suggestions for classroom implementation, including supply needs, activity extensions, and activity modifications.

Professional Development

Exploring Our Fluid Earth forms the curriculum base for the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG)’s professional development series in Teaching Science as Inquiry: Aquatic (TSI Aquatic). The central premise of TSI is that learning, including that done at the professional level, is best accomplished through authentic application of knowledge and skills. Through TSI, teachers learn to help students understand not only basic scientific concepts, but also the process used to gain and refine those concepts over time. Teachers learn to help students evaluate and decide which tools and techniques to use, and teachers are encouraged to provide students the opportunity for social interaction, within the context of science, both inside the classroom and beyond.

Research and Evaluation

The Exploring Our Fluid Earth curriculum has a rich classroom-tested research history from the Fluid Earth/Living Ocean texts (Klemm et al., 1990; Klemm et al., 1995). The current Exploring Our Fluid Earth curriculum and website are undergoing an extensive, iterative process of research, evaluation, and revision to study the implementation of the curriculum and the effects of the curriculum on students’ learning. Members of the Exploring Our Fluid Earth curriculum community contribute to the research effort and improvement of the final product. Research components of Exploring Our Fluid Earth are currently focused on professional development, online interactions, classroom implementation, and readability.

Selected Publications

pdf document Philippoff, J., Duncan Seraphin, K., Seki, J., & Kaupp, L. J. (2015). Chemical solitaire: Stepping through history to build an organizational model of the elements. Issue on the Nature of Science. The Science Teacher. 81(7). 43–51.

pdf document Seraphin, K. D. (2014). Where are you from? Writing towards science literacy by connecting culture, person and place. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(1), 11–18.

pdf document Kaupp, L., Philippoff, J., Lurie, M., & Duncan Seraphin, K. (2013). Catching waves: Making wave prints as an introduction to wave properties. Science Scope37(2), 49–58.

pdf document Spalding, H.L., K.M. Duncan, & Z.N. Nuu. (2009). Sorting out sediment grain size and plastic pollution in sand. Oceanography, 224: 244–250.

pdf document Tice, K.A.* & K.M. Duncan.* (2009). The case of the sick coral: Translating authentic research into a classroom inquiry investigation of ocean literacy principles. Current, 25: 2–9.*Both of these authors contributed equally.

pdf document Baumgartner, E. & K.M. Duncan. (2009). Evolution of students’ ideas about natural selection through a constructivist framework. American Biology Teacher, 71: 218–227. 

pdf document Duncan, K.M. & T.S. Daly-Engel. (2006). Using forensic science problems as teaching tools: Helping students think like scientists about authentic problems. The Science Teacher, 73: 38–43.

pdf document Handler, A.T. & K.M. Duncan. (2006). Studying hammerheads in Hawai‘i: High school students work with biologists to study sharks as part of a partnership research collaboration. The Science Teacher, 73: 36–39.