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Science Projects: Water and the Oceans



This article has information on science projects involving water and the oceans. Ideas for water and the oceans science projects are offered for 1st-4th grade, 5th-8th grade, and 9th-12th grades.

Water and the ocean are the topics for this group of science projects planned to extend students’ textbook and classroom learning. Several tips are provided for each band of grades. As you might expect, projects have greater complexity and are more demanding for older students. The science projects given here are designed to be modified, easily adapted to become easier or more demanding. Additionally, you can change projects from a lower or higher band of grades than your child’s to fit his or her level, as desired.

1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Grade

Tips: Students in this grade range are more likely to need assistance in planning long-term projects, as well as carrying them out. Your assistance may also be needed if their writing skills are not sufficiently developed for recording observations.

  • Mix powders with cold, very warm, and hot water and note reactions (e.g., JELL-O, instant milk, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, dishwasher detergent, bubblebath powder, yeast). Illustrate or diagram your results.
  • Mix liquids with hot and cold water and note reactions (e.g., vinegar, oil, food coloring, milk, liquid soap, liquid dish detergent, laundry detergent). Illustrate or diagram your results.
  • Make a recipe that uses yeast starting with cold tap water. Use a thermometer, a tea kettle, more tap water, and/or ice cubes to get the water to the proper temperature so the yeast will grow.
  • Collect water from different locations (e.g., tap, puddle, pond, lake, ocean, rain), and examine it under the microscope. Describe what you see.
  • Make a model of the water cycle.
  • Visit the closest body of water (river, pond, ocean, lake). Look for any signs of pollution and wildlife. Describe it.
  • Interview someone at a local agency about the condition of water use in your state.
  • Using the meter readings, plus bills from the previous year, analyze your family’s water use. Discuss any changes that your family would consider making to lessen water use.
  • Make an illustration showing people’s many uses of water.
  • Make a diagram showing how people obtain water in your state.
  • Make a glossary that includes words and pictures and distinguishes different types of bodies of water (e.g., bays, lakes, ponds, oceans, rivers, streams, etc.).
  • Make a model of a watershed.

5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade

Tips: The intermediate projects are more challenging that the elementary projects and you may expect students to be able to carry them out with more independence.

  • Collect water from different locations (e.g., tap, puddle, pond, lake, ocean, rain), and examine it under the microscope. Identify what you see.
  • Make a 2-D or 3-D map of the ocean floor with labels for main features.
  • Explain the relationships of bodies of water to weather (e.g., Gulf Stream, lake effect, etc.)
  • Diagram the effects of ocean currents.
  • Find a tide table here: http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/  and click through to get a plot of tide predictions for a month. Print it and annotate it with data about the phases of the moon and how they related.
  • Write a report on what you find to be the three most interesting bottom dwellers in the ocean.
  • Create a model of a molecule of water.
  • Set an ice cube on a dish. Write 100 observations about it.
  • Pretend you don’t know the boiling and freezing points of water. Design experiments to discover them.
  • Create a poster to illustrate the erosive effects of water.

9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Grade

Tips: These projects for high school students can be adapted or extended to fit an advanced curriculum. They can also be altered in mid-stream if the student makes discoveries that suggest reshaping the project would be fruitful. For long projects, plan check-in points to help your student maintain focus.

  • Collect water from different locations (e.g., tap, puddle, pond, lake, ocean, rain), and test it to identify its chemical make-up. Create a chart or graph to show your findings.
  • Create a project to illustrate the importance of the ocean’s salinity to the world. Consider events such as Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha as well as food fish, the water cycle, etc.
  • Choose a topic related to resource management in the ocean (such as fishery laws) and trace the history of this type of management.
  • Compare and contrast estuaries and other boundary points between fresh and salt water with fresh and salt water bodies of water in terms of salinity, wildlife, etc.
  • Analyze the importance of the polar ice caps.
  • Create a Power Point presentation that charts the effects of tectonic plate movement on the world’s oceans.