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Resources for Studying the Ocean

Here are some excellent starting references to study the ocean!  The links are to but many of these books haven’t been published in some time (oldies-but-goodies!) so you could check your local library.

Reference Books:

Early Man and the Ocean by Thor Heyerdahl.  A wonderful book about the routes, vessels, and trading of early man, it has many drawings of early vessels of the past.  Heyerdahl built the Kon-Tiki and the Ra and sailed them across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.  Heyerdahl does not make the assumption that early man was less intelligent than we are.  On the contrary, he is a proponent of the theory that people traveled around the seas in very early times in vessels engineered for the purpose.  Very interesting.  Secondary students.

[amazon_link id=”B004TC14F0″ target=”_blank” ]The Sea Around Us[/amazon_link] by Rachel Carson.  This classic book is full of study material about the seas and has lots of stories of the sea to illustrate her facts.  My copy is a special edition for young readers which has plenty of pictures in it.  The description of wave activity and power is especially intriguing.  An excellent book to read to your young child or for solo reading for your older elementary student.

Mysteries & Marvels of Ocean Life by Rick Morris.  This Usborne book is full of tidbits about the life forms in the seas.

Tide Poolsby Ronald Rood.  Written for youngsters of 8-10, this book has an easy to read format with lots of descriptions of sea creatures to help the child form mental pictures of the organisms.

Sea Creatures Do Amazing Things by Arthur Myers.  This Step-up Book is a great way to introduce the study of sea organisms.  I can picture a homeschooler making cards for each animal and reporting on the animal to the rest of the family.  This book has common organisms in it which are interesting and not frightening.7

Picture Books:

My Visit to the Aquarium (Trophy Picture Books) by Aliki.  Well illustrated, this book reviews an imaginary trip to an aquarium.  If your student has been to a real aquarium, this is an excellent way to remind your student of all the sights and wonders of the underwater world he saw during the trip.  The few sentences have concise descriptions.

At Home in the Tide Pool by Alexandra Wright.  This 12 year old author has written a picture book which tells what you might see in a tide pool.  Oceanic vistas are not common to the people in inland United States, tide pools are even less frequently seen, so this book is not about a commonly seen habitat.  Wright uses short sentences to describe a living environment concentrating on the activities of the organisms.

At Home in the Coral Reef by Dr. Katy Muzik.  This picture book is similar to At Home at the Tide Pool in that organisms are described in their environments doing life activities.  The fragility of the coral reef is emphasized.

Nature Hide and Seek: Oceans by John Norris Wood.  This is a pleasant book which carefully illustrates some of the organisms of the sea hiding in their natural habitats.  Five fold-out panoramas are included in the book.  In between the panoramas are descriptions of some of the life forms inside the habitat on the previous page.  Not all of the organisms pictured have been mentioned in the text.  The format of the book is as a game wherein the student attempts to find all the hidden organisms.

Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Arthur Dorros.  This is a story in pictures of the water in a brook traveling down hill to the sea.  At each step something is taught to the young student about water, perhaps that it responds to the pull of gravity or that it can carve out large canyons.

The Ocean Alphabet Book and The Underwater Alphabet Book.  These books by Jerry Pallotta use the alphabet to introduce certain life forms and habitats of the seas to young readers.   The books are light-hearted and do not over teach.


Krill – A Whale of a Game.  In the Antarctic live a zooplankton called krill which are crustaceans like shrimp are which are eaten by whales.  The food chain the two organisms belong to is the subject of this game.  Students learn about this oceanic food web and about several concepts usually hard to understand.  The upwelling of nutrient rich material from the ocean depths, the dependencies of higher orders of animals upon the plankton, and the loss of oceanic nutrients by human harvest are all made real by the events of this game.


Enjoy your study of the ocean and if you have other wonderful resources to share with us please leave a comment!

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Latitude and Declination

As we’ve seen, the starry sky has the appearance of a huge celestial sphere, with many correspondences to the spherical globe of the Earth.  There is very much that one can say on this subject.  During the heyday of classical astronomy, “The Doctrine of the Sphere” was the cornerstone of astronomical study.  In essence, the starry sphere has North and South Poles and also an Equator.  And the sky also has a system of positional coordinates, just like the Earth.

On the Earth, we measure position on the globe by the coordinates of latitude and longitude.  Latitude measures position from North to South.  The Equator, being in the middle between the North and South Poles, is Zero degrees latitude.  The North and South Poles themselves are at 90 degrees North and South respectively.  Parallel circles of latitude lie between the poles and the Equator.

A large percentage of the world’s population lives near the latitude of 40 degrees North.  Many northern cities of the United States and southern cities of Europe lie within 10 degrees of the 40th parallel North.  The very large population of China also lives within this range.

In the sky, celestial positions are given in coordinates of “Declination” and “Right Ascension.”  There are also parallel circles in the sky that correspond to the circles of latitude.  These celestial circles are the parallels of Declination.  We use declination to measure the positions from North to South of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars.

Now here’s the interesting part — the circles of declination correspond exactly to the circles of latitude.  That is to say, for any given circle of latitude, the respective circle of declination passes directly overhead in the sky, at the zenith.

For example, since the Equator has a latitude of zero degrees, the Celestial Equator has a declination of zero degrees, and passes overhead at the Equator.  It so happens that, in the well-known constellation Orion, the Belt of Orion lies along the Celestial Equator.  As seen from the Equator, Orion’s Belt would pass directly overhead at the zenith.  And at the Poles, the respective Celestial Poles pass through the zenith.  So from the North Pole, the North Star Polaris would be seen directly overhead.

So basically, the stars you see at the zenith depend on your latitude.  This God-given fact makes it possible to find your latitude by the stars, thereby allowing all celestial navigation.  If you are a navigator on a ship, you’re going to be very familiar with the stars and have tables handy of the declinations of all the stars.  So if you see a certain star at the zenith, you can use that to know your latitude on the Earth.  And instruments such as a sextant help you make precise measurements.  These techniques of classical astronomy have been used for millennia.

Jay Ryan is the author of Signs & Seasons, an illustrated, Biblically-centered homeschool curriculum for Classical Astronomy. He is also the creator of the Classical Astronomy Update, an email astronomy newseltter especially for Christian homeschoolers.  Visit his website at


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Preschool Science: Studying Water Creatures

We’ve been using Alpha Omega’s Horizons Preschool curriculum, and this past several days we have been learning about day 5 of creation, wherein God made the creatures of the sea and the birds.  Using water creatures as a theme, we’ve learned quite a bit of science in the process!  Here are some of the things we have been doing.


First and most obvious water creature is fish!  We learned about the different types of fish and checked out some books we had on hand with good fish pictures.

My son fell in love with this book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes, Whales and Dolphins.  He carries it around and loves to look at the pages with sharks and whales.  Catfish are a big hit also.

Fish book

This book, The Sportsman’s Guide to Game Fish, is an old 1968 edition we have in the book shelf.  A good one, but not as big a hit as the Audobon book, which he has been poring through for days and days, studying each fish and their characteristics.  Fish book

On days when the weather is warm, the kids get to go fishing.  Great chance to look at fish up close and in person, then discuss what fish need to live, how they breathe, the parts of the fish (gills, fins, mouth, eyes, tail, scales), and release them back into the pond.  That is, it would be if they were able to catch one, which is hit or miss.  But it’s a great outdoor activity regardless!

My kids got a great kick out of pretending to go on a fishing trip in the great room.  We gathered our imaginary bucket, fishing pole, bait, lunchbox, and went to the pond.  We declared the floor transition at the foyer to be the pond entrance, and then we declared the adjacent carpet transition to be the ocean.  My preschooler practiced casting alternately into the pond for trout and catfish and then into the ocean, where he reportedly caught a whale.  It took some visible effort to haul that one in!  My 2 year old kept running out into the water and pretending to swim.  We finished our fishing excursion with an indoor picnic lunch next to the pond.  Yes, we ate lunch on the floor!

We chose this study as a good time to purchase a fish tank for the boys.  More on that in a future post on Everyday Science: Fish and What they Need to Live, which could also be titled How Not to Start an Aquarium.  In any case, after buying a second round of fish, we were able to make a scientific drawing of the fish in the tank.

Fish Drawing

This page is from My First Science Notebook, which is intended for K-3 to teach the skills of science: Drawing, Recording, Measuring, and Observing.  Even though we are pre-K, it is still an excellent opportunity to introduce these skills, sort of a science lab for preschool.  I use the eBook version of My First Science Notebook, because it allows me to print the pages I need as we go.

Our fish tank drawing identifies the parts of the fish that we learned, and introduces the word “environment” to label his plants and rocks that he drew.


We discussed what crustaceans were, and got a close up look of crab legs.  He was not sure at first, but then spent half an hour interacting with the claws and pretending to make the crab walk.  Short of being in a place where we could catch some crabs, this is the best we can do!

(The crabs tasted good, too!)

crab legs


We discussed frogs as well, and described what makes them unique.  We practiced hopping around the floor and catching insects with our tongues.  We read this one of Aesop’s Fables:

The Ox and the Frog, an Aesop’s Fable

And we learned about the life cycle of a frog with this video from YouTube.


That image at the end was really fast, here it is again:

Life cycle of a frogVisual Dictionary – copyright © 2005-2009 – All rights reserved.
Life cycle of a frog

If you have a pond nearby, you could go locate frogs in the various parts of their life cycle.  Otherwise, you can act out the different stages by pretending to be sequentially eggs, tadpoles, then turn into frogs.

Moving on

In other, non-science study with Horizons, we have been practicing the beginnings of phonics, reading a clock, memorizing Scripture, learning basic addition, practicing coloring and cutting and gluing, and doing gross motor skills.  All in all its been a pretty good curriculum for us.  We skip some parts, and we do school only a few days a week, gearing up for year-round schooling.

I feel like year-round schooling will offer flexibility for us, so we can take days off mid-week when we need to head to the mountains and get some hiking in, or when we’re busy with swim lessons, summer projects, etc.  Do you have thoughts on that?  I’m curious to hear reasons for schooling year round. I already know my little preschooler does better when he is required to sit down and “do school” on a regular basis, so I know we’d be backtracking if we took a summer completely off.

If you want to read more preschool ideas, be sure to head over to The Preschool Corner linkup this week!