Split the class into groups of 3-5 people each, so that there are at least 3 groups (if possible). Each group will be assigned or choose an ocean ecosystem that they are going to focus on during the activity, and present about to the class. Good ecosystem choices are:
- Coral reefs
- Seagrass beds
- Mangrove forests
- Arctic ice
Each group will be tasked with creating a mural for their ecosystem. The background can be cut out of construction paper or drawn with marker. Regardless, students should spend no more than 5-7 minutes building the background. The rest of the class time should be spent on the details.
For each ecosystem, the general landscape should include:
- Coral reefs: Underwater landscape with large coral structure
- Seagrass beds: Underwater landscape with seagrass drawn at a large scale and small scale (close up)
- Mangrove forests: Mangrove trees should grow out of the water with their roots in the water, with the roots large enough for detail
- Arctic ice: Above and below the ice should be visible
These setups are designed to highlight the multiple habitats within any given ecosystem, and give space for students to fill them.
For the next 30 minutes (leaving 10-15 minutes at the end for presentations), students should research and create organisms specific to the ecosystem. They can draw this on paper and cut-out and tape them onto their murals, or create them in 3-D and find a way to attach them to the paper. For each organism, they should be able to name it and explain an adaptation that allows it to live in the habitat that it does. Aim for each student to make at least three organisms, and to vary them in their size and habitat. The more the better!
When there are 10-15 minutes remaining, students should each present their ecosystem to the class, telling their facts about the organisms and adaptations. Additionally, they should note what local action can be done to help preserve the systems and their organisms.
If possible, display the murals in a public space and allow students to continue working on them if they wish.