Importance of Earth’s Oceans STEM


In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of the ocean and what we can do to help keep it clean. First, they will discover the benefits of the ocean and how it supports life on Earth. Then, they will learn about the threats that mining and plastic pollution pose to the ocean.

Students will also build an invention that would help keep the ocean clean and sea life safe. In addition, they will help plan a school event for World Ocean Day. By the end of this lesson, students will better appreciate the ocean and its importance to our planet.

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What our Importance of Earth’s Oceans lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Importance of Earth’s Oceans STEM teaches students about why oceans are so vital to the planet. Students will discover the many benefits that oceans provide. They will also learn about how ocean mining and plastic waste harms oceans. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, and colored pencils.

Options for Lesson

You will find several additional ideas and activities to incorporate into the lesson in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page. One option is to show students videos about the ocean from the BBC or other news channel. You could also show them the documentary on Netflix called A Plastic Ocean. Consider having each group of students present their idea for World Ocean Day and then discuss them as a class. Then combine the best ideas and pitch the celebration to the school administration. One more idea is to incorporate a math lesson into the planning phase as students calculate how many decorations and supplies and how much food the celebration will cost.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson. You could also choose to teach this lesson in conjunction with others related to oceans or pollution. You can use the blank lines to write down any other ideas or thoughts you have about the topic as you prepare.


Introduction to the Ocean

The Importance of Earth’s Oceans STEM lesson plan contains three pages of content. Students will first discover that seawater makes up two-thirds of our planet. Most of the water on Earth is found in the five interconnected oceans. While the oceans range from the small Arctic Ocean to the gigantic Pacific Ocean, they each play an essential role for our planet.

The ocean is vital for our planet and for humans and all other living organisms that inhabit the earth. There are many benefits to keeping our oceans healthy. The lesson provides seven specific examples of such benefits: air, climate, employment, transportation, recreation, medicine, and food.

Oceans produce over half of the world’s supply of oxygen. They also absorb 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. The ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, which helps regulate weather patterns. And over 75% of U.S. trade use marine transportation. In addition, ocean-dependent businesses employ around 3 million people.

Other benefits of the ocean involve recreational activities. Fishing, boating, whale watching, and deep-sea diving are all fun activities people can do in the ocean. Many medical products come from things in the sea, and such materials help people fight diseases and stay healthy. And, of course, the ocean provides a lot of food for humans and other animals. Ingredients in peanut butter and soy milk can also be found in the ocean.

However, scientists agree that our oceans are in crisis. And if the oceans are in crisis, it can have many long-lasting impacts on our ecosystem. That’s why it’s so important to take action and help stop practices that hurt our oceans. Two of these harmful practices are ocean mining and dumping plastic waste.

Ocean Mining

Ocean mining involves using large robotic machines to excavate the ocean floor. These mining machines look for precious metals like silver, gold, copper, manganese, and cobalt. The precious metals are found in vents about 3,000 to 6,500 meters below the ocean’s surface. The materials get pumped from the ocean floor to a ship. At the same time, the ship dumps leftover wastewater and debris back into the ocean. The wastewater and waste form large sediment clouds underwater.

The plumes of sediment blanket sections of the ocean and choke filter-feeding species and fish swimming in the debris. The scraping and vacuuming from mining not only destroy habitats, but it also creates a lot of noise, vibrations, toxic vapors, and light pollution. Such factors are very unfamiliar to many ocean creatures.

Underwater mountains are home to ancient coral reefs and sea creatures that can live for hundreds of years. Because they grow so slow and live so long, they are incredibly vulnerable to physical disturbances. In addition, noise from the machinery harms marine animals that use echolocation like whales and dolphins.

Effects of Plastic

Students will discover that over 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. Plastic gets into the ocean in a lot of different ways. Most often, it is blown into the sea by ships and beaches. Abandoned fishing nets and ropes make up most of the plastic in the ocean.

All this plastic affects marine life in negative ways. Many species can mistake the plastic for food and eat it. Others will suffocate from getting entangled in it. Seabirds, whales, fishes, and turtles often mistake plastic waste for prey. They end up dying of starvation because their stomachs are filled with plastic debris instead of healthy food.

Plastic does not decompose. It sticks around for a very, very, very long time. Even when tossed around in the ocean, it just breaks into smaller pieces called microplastics rather than breaking down and being absorbed back into the earth. Even worse, organic pollutants attach to the plastic, and ocean currents transport it all over.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawai’i and California. It is twice the size of Texas! This mass of plastic sits near the surface of the ocean and is estimated to equate to 80,000 tons. That’s a total of 1.8 trillion (1,800,000,000,000) pieces of plastic just floating in a giant patch. Put another way, that’s 250 pieces for every human in the world.


The Importance of Earth’s Oceans STEM lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work in groups to complete the activity. With their groups, students will create an invention that helps keep the ocean clean. The instructions provide a few examples of things they can focus on. Students must provide a drawing of the invention. They will also explain how the invention works, how it helps the ocean, and how it helps people. Each explanation should be at least a paragraph in length.


For the practice worksheet, students will again work with a group to plan a school event for World Ocean Day. There are seven bullet points on the worksheet of questions to help guide them as they complete the assignment. After they consider all the questions, they will create an advertisement, poster, brochure, etc. to present to the class.


The homework assignment has two sections. The first section provides a diagram of a map of the earth. Students will name the five oceans by matching them to the letters on the map. On the next part, students will write one fact about each ocean.

Worksheet Answer Keys

There is an answer key for the homework assignment at the end of the document. The answers on this page are sample responses. Students’ answers may vary given the nature of the prompt. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits this page. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep this as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade


Science, STEM

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.