Exploring Life in the Ocean Zones

Want to explore which organisms live in the various “zones” of the ocean?  Here’s a fairly simply activity to put together.  Depending on how you make it, you can use it once or make a re-usable one.  I’ll explain how to make both versions.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 5 sheets of blue paper in varying shades (dark to light)
  • box of ocean creatures (We used Terra Sea Animals) OR  box of ocean life stickers (We also used these Deep Sea Foam Stickers)
  • Glue and scissors
  • Sheet protector (optional)


Cut the sheets of blue paper into thick strips and layer them on top of each other with glue so that you have 5 strips going from lightest (top) to darkest (bottom).  I glued my dark strip at the bottom first and then layered the rest on top.


The five layers represent the 5 ocean zones.  I labeled them and then slipped the sheet into a sheet protector.


I printed out a reference sheet with the 5 ocean zones and the organisms that live at each level.  We discussed why there are more animals in the Sunlight Zone than in the Trench.  Then he used the sea animals to place them at each of the different levels.  (This is where you could use the sea life stickers instead of the animals) We identified what the animal was and why they lived at the various levels.  The discussion I had with my 4 year old son was amazing!


That’s it!  It was so simple to put together!  And really, the best part was when my 6 year old came home from school, my 4 year old explained the entire thing to him!  He named the zones and explained why the zones were darker at the bottom and lighter at the top and how there was more food at the top than at the bottom of the ocean.  I was blown away!


Science behind the activity:

There are 5 major zones of the ocean:

  • Sunlight Zone (Epipelagic)
  • Twilight Zone (Mesopelagic)
  • Midnight Zone (Bathypelagic)
  • Abyss (Abyssopelagic)
  • Trench (Hadalpelagic)

Obviously the Sunlight zone receives the most sunlight and is the warmest of the ocean zones and therefore more marine life exists there.  As the ocean depth increases, less sunlight penetrates through the water and it is darker and colder with less marine life there.  BUT, there are still MANY different organisms present at the deeper zones and they thrive in the dark and the cold and they have some unique adaptations as well.  With older children, you could research this in more depth.


This activity goes really well with the Ocean Zones in a Jar activity.  You can actually see how the layers of the ocean get darker as you go deeper and it’s a great visual for kids (as well as several science concepts wrapped up into one activity!)