Alaska Sea Grant

Kindergarten - Discovering Our Blue Planet

A 3-4 Week Unit for Primary Level

Essential Question:

  • What are the characteristics of the living and nonliving things you discover in the water?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Living and nonliving things in Alaska waters come in a great assortment of colors, shapes, and sizes.
  • Living things move, grow, and change.

Ocean Literacy Principle Addressed:

  • The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.

This unit is designed for kindergarten, but could be adapted to other primary grades. Students discover aquatic environments and the living and nonliving things that are found in them, through active observation outdoors and in the classroom. They practice skills of recording, comparing, questioning, and communicating. Science notebooks are used throughout the unit to help students understand and organize information.

Investigation 1

Investigation 1: Backyard Water Discovery
(4-5 days)

Students begin their discovery of aquatic environments, and start to notice that water is all around them, in their neighborhoods, backyards, oceans, rivers, ponds, and creeks. They practice the scientific skills of observing, recording observations and data, comparing, and communicating.

Activity 1A: Globe Toss (25 minutes)

Where is the water around us?
Students get their initial look at "Our Big Blue Planet" as they catch an inflatable globe and tally the times that their hands touch "mostly water" and "mostly land."

Activity 1B: What’s in the Jars?

How is water different from the land?
Students observe jars of water and land and list ways they are different.

Activity 1C: Water Detectives

Where is the water in our neighborhood?
Students take a walk around their school and neighborhood to discover the water around them and notice its characteristics.

Activity 1D: Let’s Make a Map

Can we show where the water is around us?
Students revisit the area where their Water Detectives walk to make maps and observational drawings in their science notebooks.

Activity 1E: Take a Close Look

What do we see when we look closely at water?
Students use magnifying glasses and record their observations as they look closely to discover living things in a jar of water.

Investigation 2

Investigation 2: Sea Soup
(4 class periods)

What is in the water around us?
How do you know?
In this 2-3 day investigation, children begin to learn about the tiny plants, animals, and nonliving things that are in sea, river, or pond water. They listen to a read-aloud, explore at learning centers, roleplay, and then make a recipe for Sea Soup.

Investigation 3

Investigation 3: Living and Nonliving Things in the Water
(6-9 class periods)

Students assemble simple puzzles to learn more about aquatic animals and their life cycles. They look closely at the parts of a small aquatic animal with a listening and drawing activity, and learn to describe and explain the things in aquatic environments by making mini-books, a class book, and a large class mural.

Activity 3A: Aquatic Puzzles

How do we know living and nonliving things are in the water around us?
What do they look like when they are growing?
Students learn to recognize some aquatic animals and discover how they change as they grow, by assembling 2- or 3-part puzzles.

Activity 3B: Drawing from Description

What parts of an animal make it special?
Students discover a new aquatic creature by drawing it as they listen to clues about its shape and its body parts.

Activity 3C: How Does It Look and Feel?

What words can you use to describe this aquatic living or nonliving thing?
Students make mini-books that describe the size, shape, color, and other characteristics of things in the water.

In Activity 3D: Our Book about Things in the Water

How can you describe the characteristics of this living or nonliving thing?
Students work in pairs to make "textured" pages for a class book that describes living and nonliving things.

Activity 3E: Making a Mural

How do we know living and nonliving things are in the water around us?
How can we show this to others?
How can we share our learning with others?
Students demonstrate their knowledge of living and nonliving things in the water, using a variety of art media to make a mural that shows what they’ve learned.

Investigation 4

Investigation 4: Field Trip Session
(2 class periods plus 1-2 hours field trip)

What can we find in the water?
What are the characteristics of living and nonliving things?
How can we discover what is in the water?
Students go outdoors to explore a local habitat. They see, feel, and think about the living and nonliving things in the water. Science notebooks are used to gather information about what they find. Students use their background knowledge from prior classroom experiences, the initial field trip, classroom investigations, and other observations to notice and observe the living and nonliving things of their environment. Students will have plenty of time to explore and discover before being asked to write and draw in their science notebooks.

Investigation 5

Investigation 5: Sharing What We Know
(2 class periods plus 1-2 hours for Sharing/Celebration)

How do we find out information?
How can we, as scientists, naturalists, and biologists share our information?
How do we share our ideas and thinking?
This investigation supports children for sharing their thinking. They share and communicate their experiences and understanding using their science notebooks, art, photos from the field trip, classroom work, and a mural. First, they practice in the classroom and then share their thinking and work as part of a classroom and/or whole school celebration of the Alaska Seas and Rivers Curriculum.


Jennifer Thompson, Kindergarten Teacher, Juneau
Chris Thomas, Retired K-1 Teacher, Juneau
Stephanie Hoag, Curriculum Consultant, Juneau
Marla Brownlee, Alaska Sea Grant

With special thanks to Dayna Focht of Juneau for ideas and activities.

Alaska Sea Grant University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Department of Education and Early Development NOAA