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Underwater Mountains & Trenches

When you look out on the ocean, what do you see? Underneath those cool blue waves are mountains and canyons, just like on the Earth’s dry surface!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Where is the Earth’s deepest trench? The Grand Canyon? Or the Copper Canyon? Or is it under the sea? Invite students to investigate the Marianas Trench near Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean. An amazing number of geographic features lie under the oceans’ surface. Invite students to learn more about some of these underwater features. Organize resources for students to view during this investigation.
    2. When research is complete, allow students to present their learning with classmates. Ask them to brainstorm ways to document the underwater features they have learned about.
    3. A color-key map is one way to show what they have learned about the ocean’s geography. On paper, students outline the Earth’s continents, major ocean mountains, and primary trenches with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. Encourage classmates to check each other’s accuracy.
    4. Students fill in the continents with Crayola Washable Markers. Mark locations of major ocean mountains in one color. Draw trenches in a different color. Add a color key to the map.
    5. On the back of student maps, squeeze a thick line of Crayola School Glue along the mountain ridges. Air-dry. Press on the paper from the front. Apply another layer of glue if the ridges do not stand out.
    6. With Crayola Scissors, students cut away the inside of the trench outlines. Glue a contrasting color of paper to the back of the map. Air-dry the glue.
    7. Label map’s primary features. Compare findings with other students’ maps. What different geographic features were identified?
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.

    SCI: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Explore ways that the earth's physical features have changed over time in local region and beyond and how these changes may be connected to one another.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Volcanoes (Wonders of Our World) by Neil Morris; Maps and Globes (Reading Rainbow Book) by Jack Knowlton; NG Kids World Atlas (National Geographic Kids) by National Geographic; Ocean (American Museum of Natural History) by Robert Dinwiddie.

    Invite students to explore the technology that makes underwater information available to scientists. Chart how this technology developed over time.

    Challenge students to investigate the way scientists believe land and water first divided the Earth's surface. Look carefully at the timing of such things as the age of the rock of ocean mountains and some rock found on the Earth's surface.

    Student group map the ocean floor. Use Crayola Colored Pencils to sketch the map of the world and include all major geographical features known in the depths of the oceans.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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