Ocean/Beach Discovery Sensory Bin

While I’ve always been a fan of sensory bins, I haven’t used them too often in my classes with the tots.  That is starting to change as I’m seeing how popular they are with the littles… and their parents!  This ocean sensory bin is so fun and my own children have enjoyed it many times and now, so have the tots in my class.  Super easy to set up and encourages so much learning through play.

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

  • Large bin (We’ve also used our water table)
  • Mixed blue beads (I grabbed a bag from the dollar store)
  • Bag of decorative river rocks (or collect some in your neighborhood)
  • Sea shells
  • Plastic sea animals (I really like these Terra by Battat Sea Animals from Target)
  • Water

Set up the river rocks on one side of the bin for the “shore” and the blue beads on the other side of the bin to represent the ocean.

Place some shells along the beach

Place some of the sea animals on the shore (such as the sea lion, turtle, crab).

Place some of the sea animals in the ocean (such as the octopus, sea star, sharks, eels, etc..)

Add water and your bin is ready for play!

 

Hand the bin over to your little superheroes and let them play!

My little guys had a blast!

The Science Behind the Activity:

This sensory bin allows children to have a sensory experience with different textures of rocks, shells, beads, toy animals as well as encourages them to get wet.  While playing with your child, ask them which ones like the water and which ones prefer the shore.  Do any of the animals like to eat other animals  For older children, you can bring up the topic of predator and prey and habitats.

Extension:

Follow up this activity with a book about sea animals, oceans, beaches.  Visit an aquarium or tidepools.  Or collect sea shells and rocks and sand from a trip to the beach and make a sensory bin when you come home to “re-live” your fun memories at the beach.

Or try some more of my Ocean learning activities:

 

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Why Does an Octopus Have Ink?

Whenever I visit the Aquarium, I always fall in love with the jellyfish and the octopi.  Watching an octopus move is just so mesmerizing!  They are also known to be very intelligent creatures.  And like most squid, they have an ink sac (which is so very cool if you have ever dissected a squid).   In this quick, simple, activity, your superheroes are going to observe and explore why squid have an ink sac.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • water
  • 1 clear glass
  • 1 small cup
  • black food color/watercolor/paint
  • dropper (I always save the ones I get from the pharmacist!)
  • small plastic octopus toy
  • small plastic shark (optional)

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In the small cup, mix some water with black paint/food coloring or water color.  I had none of those so I mixed red and blue food coloring to make a dark purple.  This will be the “ink”

Fill a clear glass halfway with water.  Add the plastic octopus to the water.

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Discuss how the octopus looks in the water.

Using the toy shark, I showed my son that a predator was approaching the octopus.  What was the shark going to do?  What could the octopus do to protect itself?

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Using the dropper, add “ink” to the glass with the octopus.  This models that the octopus will release dark ink as a defense mechanism.  What happens to the water as the ink is added?  Can you see the octopus?

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After some discussion, my son decided to play with the shark and the octopus and ink.  It kept him busy for awhile as he engaged in pretend play and the narrative he added was so cute to listen to.

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Extension: Try this in a large shallow dish by adding the shark and the octopus.  Add the ink just on top of the octopus.  What happens to the ink?  Can squirting ink alone help the octopus protect itself?  What other defense mechanisms might they need to help protect them from predators?

The Science behind the Activity:

This little activity is a simple model of how an octopus, like most squid (but not all squid) use an ink sac as a form of a secondary defense mechanism.  By squirting the ink, the predator gets confused AND the ink often has a smell associated with it that also deters predators.  With the smell and the spray shocking the predator, it allows the octopus to use its quick tentacles to escape before the ink dissipates.

To see where I got my idea from, click on the following link:

http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2013/02/mfw-kindergarten-oo-octopus.html

Simplified Ocean Zones in a Bottle (3 Zones)

If you’ve ever tried the liquid layers in a jar, here is a great twist for showing your superheroes the layers in the ocean.  This is the simplified version of Ocean Zones in a Jar but has only the top 3 ocean zones (layers) where much of the well-known marine life exists.  It is also easier for the youngest superheroes to do.

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

  • Light Karo syrup (corn syrup) – tinted black or dark purple OR Dark Karo Syrup (no tinting needed)
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Vegetable oil – tinted blue-green (if possible)
  • Dropper
  • Funnel
  • food color (or liquid watercolors)
  • empty water bottle

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First add about 2-3 inches of corn syrup to the bottle.  Add some black/dark purple color to it and mix well.  (For my Tiny Tot class, I tried the dark Karo syrup and it worked great since we didn’t have to tint it black) This represents the deep ocean zone known as the Midnight Zone

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Carefully add the blue water on top (don’t tint it too dark) until you have about the same thickness as the corn syrup.  You should see the 2 distinct layers.  This represents the Twilight Zone of the Ocean.

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The top layer is the oil.  Food color and watercolor will not dissolve in oil since they are water based and oil and water don’t mix.

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

For this layer, you have 2 options: leave it yellow OR if you have candy food color (oil-based food color) then you can use that to tint the oil.

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Either way, you will definitely get a distinct layer on top of the water.  I used the candy color to get a greenish-bluish color.

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

This layer represents the Sunlight Zone, the part of the ocean where most marine life exist.

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All done!  You can also add labels to the outside of the jar to show your superheroes the layers.

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Visually you can see how the layers (ocean zones) get darker as you go deeper.   You can discuss with your little ones what effect this might have on the marine life that lives in each layer.

Extension: This activity goes really well with my Exploring Life in the Ocean Zones activity.

Extension for older kids: For older kids with a bit more hand control (and less likely to shake the bottle!) try the full version of Ocean Zones in a Jar  with all 5 layers of the Ocean.

The Science behind the Activity:

There’s all sorts of awesome science in this activity!  This is a great visual representation of how the layers of the ocean have varying amounts of light reaching them.  This can open up an entire discussion of why there are so many more organisms in the Sunlight Zone and the Twilight Zone versus the Midnight Zone.  You can even research what types of organisms exist in each layer.

In reality, there are 2 more zones below the Midnight Zone: the Abyss and the Trench.  For obvious reasons, there aren’t many known organisms that live there.  And the ones that do are unfamiliar to young children.  But for older children, it would be great to show them how deep the ocean really goes.

The other awesome science in this activity has to do with the different densities of various liquids.  Liquids that are more dense (more mass per volume) will sink and liquids will lower densities will float on top of denser ones.  If you have ever tried to mix oil and water, well, you know why that won’t work because oil is less dense than water.  This is why you have to shake your favorite salad dressings before pouring.

Here’s where I got my original idea from and then I shortened it to make it easier for toddlers and preschoolers: http://www.icanteachmychild.com/make-ocean-zones-jar/

 

 

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)

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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.

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

Extension:

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!)

Ocean Zones in a Jar

If you’ve ever tried the liquid layers in a jar, here is a great twist for showing your superheroes the layers in the ocean.  This activity definitely requires some help from an adult to do but my preschoolers really enjoyed watching the layers stack on top of each other.  Older kids will love doing it on their own. ( I also have Simplified Ocean Zones in a Bottle for the youngest superheroes as the layers in this one can get tricky at the end.)

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

  • Light Karo syrup (corn syrup) – tinted black or dark purple OR Dark Karo Syrup (no tinting needed)
  • Blue dish soap
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Vegetable oil – tinted blue-green (if possible)
  • Rubbing alcohol (91% works best)
  • Dropper
  • Funnel
  • food color (or liquid watercolors)
  • glass jar (I used a pint sized glass jar)

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First add about 1-1.5 inches of corn syrup to the jar.  Add some black/dark purple color to it and mix well.  (For my Tiny Tot class, I tried the dark Karo syrup and it worked great since we didn’t have to tint it black) This represents the deepest ocean zone, the Trench.

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Carefully add the blue dish soap on top of the corn syrup layer.  The layers should not mix.  This second layer represents the Abyss.

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Next carefully add the blue water.  Don’t tint it too dark.  The water layer should sit right on top of the dish soap creating 3 distinct layers. The water layer represents the Midnight Zone of the Ocean.

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The next layer will be the oil.  Food color and watercolor will not dissolve in oil since they are water based and oil and water don’t mix.

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

For this layer, you have 2 options: leave it yellow OR if you have candy food color (oil-based food color) then you can use that to tint the oil.

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Either way, you will definitely get a distinct layer on top of the water.  I used the candy color to get a greenish-bluish color.

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

This layer represents the Twilight Zone.

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The last layer is a bit tricky.  The rubbing alcohol to use should be 91%.  The 50% definitely didn’t work and the 70% was not too successful either.  We poured some rubbing alcohol into a cup first.

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Use a dropper to slowly add the rubbing alcohol  by touching the edge of the jar so that it drips down the side.  Be careful not to let it break through the oil layer or else it will mix with the water.  It will be slow-going but will slowly reveal a clear layer on top of the oil layer.  This layer represents the Sunlight Zone, the part of the ocean where most marine life exist.

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All done!  You can also add labels to the outside of the jar to show your superheroes the layers.

Visually you can see how the layers (ocean zones) get darker as you go deeper.  From the picture it is hard to tell that the layers are getting darker at the top (the oil looks darker than it actually is). You can discuss with your little ones what effect this might have on the marine life that lives in each layer.

The Science behind the Activity:

There’s all sorts of awesome science in this activity!  This is a great visual representation of how the layers of the ocean have varying amounts of light reaching them.  This can open up an entire discussion of why there are so many more organisms in the Sunlight Zone and the Twilight Zone versus the Abyss and the Trench.  You can even research what types of organisms exist in each layer.

The other awesome science in this activity has to do with the different densities of various liquids.  Liquids that are more dense (more mass per volume) will sink and liquids will lower densities will float on top of denser ones.  If you have ever tried to mix oil and water, well, you know why that won’t work because oil is less dense than water.  This is why you have to shake your favorite salad dressings before pouring.

Here’s where I got my idea from: http://www.icanteachmychild.com/make-ocean-zones-jar/

Extension: This activity goes really well with my Exploring Life in the Ocean Zones activity.

Ocean in a Bottle

For my ocean themed class, I thought it would be fun to make an ocean discovery bottle.  If your kids love to collect shells and rocks and the beach (like mine do), this is a perfect extension activity for when you get home.  This is an easy activity for the kiddos to do and there are so many fun ways to play and learn with them.  And there are so many variations you can add to yours.

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

  • Empty water bottle with a cap
  • Funnel
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Sand (we used play sand since that’s what I had at home)
  • Sea shells that are small enough to fit inside a water bottle (I picked up a pack at Michael’s but you could use some that you’ve collected at the beach yourself)
  • Little fish/sea creature figurines (I couldn’t find any that were small enough to fit through the mouth of our bottle)
  • Foam ocean stickers/shapes (we peeled the backing off the stickers since I couldn’t find just the foam shapes)IMG_1675

First we added about 2 inches of sand to an empty water bottle.  We used a funnel to make it easier.

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Then they added the sea shells.

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Next we added the foam shapes after peeling the paper backings off them.  We didn’t want to “pollute” our ocean:)

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Using a funnel, the boys added the blue ocean water to the bottle.  Screw the cap on.  (You can also use a hot glue gun to attach the cap so it can’t be opened)

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And THEN the fun began.  Almost immediately, my middle son started shaking his bottle.

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My oldest son decided to roll his bottle and make waves.  They tried to find their sea animals and sea shells.

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That’s it!  So easy!  And lots of shaking going on over here!

The Science behind the Activity:

Discovery bottles are great for toddlers and preschoolers as it gives them a chance to explore cause and effect.  “If I shake this bottle, what will happen?”  For preschoolers and a bit older, you can discuss the motion of water and waves.  A variation to this is to make it with oil and water instead of sand and water and you can discuss concepts such as density and why water and oil don’t mix.  Endless options!  What variations have you tried?