Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2019

Ocean School

Interactive but incomplete oceanography site has potential

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Kids are empowered to use technology and engineering to solve ocean problems.

Cons: While plans are laid out for further activities, currently there are limited inquiry options for kids.

Bottom Line: If teachers can supplement with additional scaffolded activities, Ocean School can help inspire youth to take ocean conservation action.

Ocean School is best used by middle or high school life science classes. Additionally, students in science or marine biology clubs could use this tool as a way to launch their after-school adventures. Teachers could use the North Atlantic big question "How can we contribute to healthy habitats?" as the driving question for a whole-class inquiry adventure. Place this on your wall to build a Driving Question board. Allow students to add sticky notes to the board with their own ideas and questions. Cluster the notes into themes that can be used to drive your unit.

In order to participate in the adventure, students are asked to create a free login. The teacher tools are still not developed, but the website describes plans to use Google Classroom resources in the future. Currently, when students begin an adventure, they can sign in to their Google account and automatically save the activities to an Ocean School folder in their Google Drive. At the end of each Google document, students are asked to share their completed work with their teacher. Kids can also follow pairing directions to link their personal electronic devices and continue working on tasks beyond the classroom.

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Ocean School's mission is to develop ocean citizens who understand how humans impact the ocean and in turn how the ocean impacts humans. The site uses compelling real stories paired with opportunities for students to make a difference. Currently, there's one digital "adventure" that students can take, with plans for two more. Adventures are led by university students and a scientist, Dr. Boris Worm.

Students create their own flag to represent them on their adventures. Then students watch a video to learn about the North Atlantic habitat. Kids are next asked to "Take Action" and build a plan to take action in their own local habitats.

Through Ocean School, kids are encouraged to take action in their own environment. Isabelle, a college student, shares how she participated in a shoreline cleanup at one of her favorite study spots. She asks students to make a plan and share their results. Woven throughout the resources is an empowering sense of optimism about our ability to solve our ecological challenges. This reinforces the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content standard that while humanity faces major global challenges, they can be addressed through technology and engineering.

Ocean School provides an introductory video that describes how students can pick an area of interest to explore in an inquiry-based experience. However, currently, students are provided with just one possible overarching big question: "How can we contribute to healthy habitats?" Ocean School has potential, but more work needs to be done -- and activities added -- before it reaches the level of interactive resources provided by other sites like Nova Labs or citizen science tools such as Project Noah.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

College students act as hosts throughout the experience. They represent positive role models for kids with their enthusiasm for science and conservation.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Content in videos presents a realistic perspective on the work of ocean scientists. Additional activities are needed that provide scaffolding of ecological concepts.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A short video tutorial acclimates students to the site before starting the adventure. The site works with Google Drive to allow students to submit assignments to their teacher.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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