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SC Core Curriculum

The Saltwater Classroom curriculum is designed in part to apply to the Ocean Literacy Framework. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other marine scientists, the Ocean Literacy Framework is designed to instill an understanding of the oceans as well as an individual’s impact on it. The Ocean Literacy Framework and corresponding set of principles are correlated to the National Science Education Standards (NSES) Science Content Standards.

Through Saltwater Classroom's curriculum, students will gain an understanding of the ocean as a global system, a specific grasp on coastal ecosystems, including their local ecosystem, an introduction to many different species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds, as well as an understanding of the many issues facing oceans today and how their individual actions can help the oceans. 

The SC Core curriculum serves as the foundational base for both in-person and virtual programs and seeks to provide students in grades 3-5 a thorough understanding of the ocean and marine life, as well as our human connection to the ocean. Whether through our online portal or in-person, participants will engage in hands-on lessons and activities rooted in an interdisciplinary approach with the goal or sparking a passion for the ocean and inspiring an ethic of ocean stewardship. Learn more about our SC Core Learning Themes and Objectives below.

Theme #1: Let's Get to Know Planet “Earth”

Saltwater Classroom workshops begin with a broad introduction to our planet’s oceans. Students learn about the role of our oceans globally, the four major oceans, as well as some history about how our oceans were formed and first explored. The overall goal of the first theme is beginning to place students in the global context necessary when learning about our oceans. 


  • Understand the physical significance of our planet's oceans

  • Compare characteristics of Earth's oceans

  • Possess an idea of how early ocean exploration was achieved 

  • Idea of how the Earth and our oceans were formed

  • Understand connection between the ocean and our global system

Theme #2: The Coast and Coastal Oceans

The focus shifts to the coast and coastal oceans for theme two. Students begin by learning about what exactly the coast is and what makes it special. Students then learn about different coastal environments around the world and the unique set of challenges that these environments, and the animals that call them home, face. Marine ecology is a major focus of this theme with students completing intertidal sampling experiments in the field.


  • Identify various examples of coastal habitats around the world

  • Understand the unique set of challenges facing coastal habitats

  • Grasp the significance of our human connection to the coast

  • Thoroughly understand what constitutes the intertidal zone

  • Recognize the challenges organisms in intertidal zone face and adaptations evolved to overcome these challenges 

Theme #3: Water World

The third theme centers around topics related to water and science. Students spend some time designing their own experiment to sample and study seawater. Students also learn of the implications of waves and how to measure them. Students take a closer look at water and see the world of plankton and learn about their importance through a creative design challenge.


  • Introduction to the characteristics of seawater and methods used by scientists to sample it

  • Realize the importance and implications of wave activity

  • Learn the methodology behind measuring waves

  • Understand a background on plankton in the ocean

  • Comprehend the importance of plankton as primary producers in the food web as well as their role in global gas exchange


Theme #4: Marine Life

After learning about the oceans generally, the coast, and the water itself, Saltwater Classroom shifts its focus towards marine life. Students begin by understanding the great diversity of marine life in the ocean and how it is classified. Students are also introduced to different marine habitats. Students learn about fish biology and anatomy and become an expert on a fish species. Marine mammals are a focus of theme four too!


  • Understand the vast diversity of marine life

  • Grasp an introduction to taxonomic and marine classification

  • Understand distinctions between marine habitats

  • Preliminary introduction to fish biology and anatomy

  • Become an expert on fish and marine mammal species

  • Learn the strengths of observational scientific sketching


Theme #5: Today’s Oceans

At this point, students have a substantial background in many areas concerning our oceans. With this newfound understanding, we transition to discussing the state of the oceans today and the issues facing it. We begin by brainstorming all the ways humans are connected to the ocean and the issues that arise from this connection. We delve deeper into a few issues in particular, including plastic pollution and conclude by discussing ways that we can all make a difference and be better stewards of the ocean. 


  • Understand the connections of humans with the ocean

  • Explore issues facing the ocean due to human activity

  • Brainstorm existing solutions to problems facing the oceans

  • See firsthand the issue of marine debris and plastic pollution

  • Think creatively about new solutions to problems such as marine debris

  • Understand actionable steps that we can all take to make a difference for our ocean

SC Core Learning Themes

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