Sanctuaries At Home: Learn about the Ocean, Atmosphere, and Great Lakes While at Home

By Hannah MacDonald

March 2020

Parents, educators, and students are only a click away from diving into national marine sanctuaries. If you are a teacher, parent, or student looking to learn about ocean science, conservation, and stewardship from the comfort of your home, we have the online resources for you.

two snorkelers over a shipwreck
Snorkelers in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary explore the wooden schooner Portland, which sank more than a century ago after running aground. Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

Explore the Depths of Our National Marine Sanctuaries

For students of all ages

While livestreamed explorations of the National Marine Sanctuary System won’t start until later this summer, you can explore national marine sanctuaries with photo and video highlights, as well as lessons from the 2019 expeditions, including footage from the epic whale fall. You can even rewatch a few of our live-recorded programs from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Learn more about how NOAA has partnered with Ocean Exploration Trust, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration to bring the mysteries of the deep to you!

large number of octopuses inspect whale carcass on the seafloor
Researchers discover the remains of a whale fall in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary during the 2019 expedition. These octopuses have searched the seafloor looking for something as exciting as this! Photo: OET/NOAA

Visit Sanctuaries Through Stunning Images and Videos

For students of all ages

Ready to get excited about marine life? Dive into the abundance of photos in our Flickr account to view and download high resolution, public domain photos. Print out some of your favorite photos to create a collage of your ideal underwater ecosystem. You can even take yourself on a virtual dive tour of national marine sanctuaries through our gallery of 360° photos and our new 360° dive video. Need more general ocean and atmosphere photos? Check out the NOAA Photo Library.

Click and drag the image for a 360-degree view of Fale Bommie in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Virtual dives in national marine sanctuaries are available on our website. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey/The Ocean Agency

Spend countless hours binge watching videos on our YouTube channel. From our #EarthisBlue videos of the week that teach you about the coolest critters in our sanctuaries to our Stories from the Blue series that share the stories of the people who call these special marine places home, you’ll find inspiration and entertainment while furthering your understanding of these special ocean areas.

Get Creative with Games and Activities

For elementary students

Let the fun continue with virtual marine themed games and activities! Grab your favorite coloring tool and print out your favorite pages from the coloring book from National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Check out the Ocean Guardian Activity Book for word searches, puzzles and even learn how to draw a Hawaiian monk seal.

Become a Deep-Sea Coral Biologist

For high school students

Deep-sea coral communities, like the ones found in the national marine sanctuaries of the West Coast, are home to many diverse species. Using ROV footage—an ROV is an underwater robot and stands for remotely operated vehicle—this curriculum takes students to the deep-sea to identify soft and hard corals, invertebrates, and fish found in these communities. Investigate the unique biology of deep-sea corals and learn the threats these animals face and what we can do to help protect them.

deep sea coral and brittle stars
In deep waters, specially-adapted species of coral thrive and provide habitat for other organisms, like shrimp, crabs, and fish. Photo Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Hohonu Moana 2016

Hear from the Experts for Professional Development

For educators or high school students

The National Marine Sanctuaries Webinar Series provides educators with educational and scientific expertise, resources, and training to support ocean and climate literacy in the classroom. The webinar series is set to continue throughout the coming months, but don't forget to check out the archives to explore a wide variety of ocean science, resource protection, and conservation webinars we have hosted in the recent past. Many archives also include a list of related educational resources, like this one about soundscape monitoring.

two birds standing on two green sea turtles
A pair of masked boobies rest on top of two green sea turtles in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA

Research Future Marine Careers

For students of all ages

Have you ever thought of being a marine biologist, oceanographer, data analyst, or following any other NOAA-related career path? Whether you are interested in oceanography, weather, communication, biology, or anything in between, check out the various careers with NOAA. Learn from NOAA professionals about their field and how they got there. If you find something you’re interested in, dive into the information on college, university, and other training that help you become an expert in that marine related area.

Become a Scientist with NOAA Data

For middle school students

The NOAA Data in the Classroom project has developed curriculum for grades 5-8. This curriculum is designed to help teachers and students use real scientific data from NOAA to explore dynamic Earth processes and understand the impact of environmental events on a regional or global scale. Data in the Classroom enables students to use real-time NOAA ocean data to explore today’s most pressing environmental issues like El Niño, ocean acidification, sea level, and coral bleaching. These scaffolded lessons help students develop problem-solving skills.

If you're interested in setting up an investigation yourself, try comparing historical NOAA data to the real-time data resources. Before checking the weather, see if you can create a forecast using weather and atmospheric data. You can also dive deep into other NOAA data resources for educators.

Build a Remotely Operated Vehicle

For middle school and high school students

Explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through hands-on activities where students build a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from materials you can find around the house. Prepare to design the ROV by learning more about buoyancy, laws of motion, and properties of air, as well as how ROV’s support underwater exploration in the ROV curriculum. Test your ROV in your bathtub to see if it works!

students testing an rov
Students from the Quileute Tribal School pilot ROVs that they built themselves with help from Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and University of Washington School of Oceanography staff. Photo: NOAA

Shipwrecks and Maritime Heritage

For students of all ages

Maybe coral reef ecosystems and ocean data aren’t your thing? Would shipwrecks and maritime heritage captivate you? Monitor National Marine Sanctuary offers a variety of free activities, lesson plans, and guides, including social studies activities, as well as science, technology, engineering, art, and math. With this you can apply your favorite subject to shipwrecks.

Become an Expert on Ocean Acidification

For students upper elementary and up

Dungeness crab is a valuable species throughout the national marine sanctuaries of the West Coast from Washington to California. This communication toolkit is designed to teach others about the impact of ocean acidification on Dungeness crab. The toolkit includes a fact sheet, infographic, PowerPoint slideshow with script, reference list, resource list, public domain video, and public domain images.

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries aims to provide teachers with resources and training to support ocean and climate literacy in America's classrooms. You will find additional curriculum, lesson plans, and activities that will excite your students about science and technology in our For Teachers section.

Hannah MacDonald is the education specialist for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.