Create your own ocean in a jar to explore sea life, deep sea creatures and ocean zones.
We've been enjoying some fun books about the ocean and marine animals this summer. My kids have always been big fans of sea life.
There are so many wonderful creatures that live in the oceans and did you know that so much of the underwater world is still undiscovered?!
We decided to make our own model of the ocean in order to explore the different ocean layers and the animals that live in these areas. I've included a detailed tutorial on how we put ours together along with affiliate links to some of the products we used to create our own ocean world.
Ocean Zones, Sea Life & Deep Sea Creatures
This is such a fun and hands-on project for kids -- they'll love helping to put it all together!
We first read the book Wish for a Fish: All About Sea Creatures (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) to learn more about the various zones of the ocean. The book also introduces a variety of animals that live in each zone.
A great book we'd recommend that discuss ocean zones is the Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia which includes real photos of ocean animals and marine life. Sea & Sky also has a wonderful graphic of the various ocean zones along with their scientific names (middle school and high school kids will find this interesting)
When you create your ocean container, it won't be able to hold ALL of the animals you'd like to put in it.
One of the lessons kids will quickly gleen from this activity is that most of the marine life live primarily in two ocean zones (in fact, our sunny zone got crowded very quickly).
This is a wonderful discussion and learning experience but the kids will also need to choose which animals they would like to include in their underwater world.
Project Materials for your Ocean Zones Jar:
• (1) large plastic container with a wide neck
• (5) differet colors of Blue Cardstock Paper (from light to dark) for each ocean zone
• (1) Toob of Sea Animals -- one type would be the Safari Ltd Ocean Toob
• blue string or thread
Here's an example of the sea life in the Safari Ltd Ocean Toob that we used for our project. The animals from one toob could be used for up to three ocean containers since they are fairly large and you will only use a few.
They also make a Safari Ltd. Deep Sea Creatures toob (new for 2015!) that's awesome to have for the lower ocean zones. This wasn't available when we first made our under-the-sea world but we did include them in our next Layers of the Ocean science craft!
Building your Ocean Zones
First, overlay the different colors of blue paper from lightest to darkest so that they can cover half of your container from top to bottom. Each of these colors/layers will represent one of the ocean zones.
The 5 different ocean zones include:
- Sunny Zone
- Twilight Zone
- Dark Zone
Related Activity: Draw a Life-size Whale
The next step is to have the kids use the Stickers of Ocean Animals to decorate the paper -- place the marine animals in their correct zones. We used the book to help remind us which animals might live in different areas.
For example, we decided to use our seaweed-looking stickers as Tube Worms, deep sea creatures that are found in the trench zone. Most of the stickers will be placed in the sunny zone.
Once decorated, you can attach the papers to the OUTSIDE of your container using tape. Trim the ends as needed.
Sea Life in the Ocean Zones
Next we'll put in the plastic marine animals from our Safari Ltd Ocean Toob .
Choose a few of the animals and tie a string/thread around each one. We used the dolphin, whale, eel and octopus for ours.
Then cut the thread at the appropriate length so when it's taped to the top of the container, each animal will hang in the correct zone.
You can see that our dolphin stays in the sunny zone, the whale resides in the twilight and dark zones and the eel is the lowest in the dark zone.
Our Abyss has some stickers of sea tubes but there's not much that hangs out waaaayyy down there ;)
The last step is the most fun -- fill the container with water!
This not only makes the inside of the container look like a 'real' ocean but it also acts as a magnifier for the animals, stickers and labeling. The water also helps the animals to 'swim' around in their new home :)
There are more creative ways to explore the zones of the ocean too:
We LOVE the Melissa & Doug Under The Sea - 100 Piece Floor Puzzle -- the pieces are large & sturdy; it's been used over and over as we put it together and then search for all the animals that live in variours layers of the ocean. You can also use it with the ocean toobs as a matching game!
And one book series that's always a go-to resource when studying habitats are the DK books as they have amazing photography! DK Eyewitness Books: Ocean will take you under the sea to every layer of the ocean so you can get a close-up look at who lives there.
Looking for more STEM ideas?
The STEM Toys & Game Store showcases all the latest & greatest in learning toys for kids so be sure to check out the selection!