Students in the Discovery Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Our inquiry-based curriculum is designed to motivate and engage your students and support the Next Generation Science Standards through classroom or field experiences.


Grades PreK-2

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
Bird Feeding Strategies

Students use salad tongs, tweezers and other tools to discover the relationship between the shape of a bird's beak, its habitat and diet.

Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Core Ideas

LS1.A Structure and Function

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and Function

Crabs

How do crabs stay alive in their habitats? Students use crab picture cards, construct a hermit crab model and experiment with household utensils to see how different kinds of crabs eat and protect themselves.

Practices

Developing and Using Models

Core Ideas

LS1.A Structure and Function

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and Function

Dishpan Tide Pool

What are the differences between tides and waves? Students find out by creating a model tide pool in a plastic dishpan. They then construct clay animals and experiment with water levels and waves.

Practices

Developing and Using Models

Core Ideas

ESS3.A Natural Resources

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems and System Models

Grades K-5

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
Habitat in a Bucket

Students explore the concept of habitat by examining outdoor habitat items (e.g., leaves, branches, snails, etc.) that have been collected and brought into the classroom. Students use the exploration as an inquiry starting point. They make observations, generate questions of interest and design and conduct their own investigations.

Practices

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Core Ideas

LS2.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience; LS4.D Biodiversity and Humans

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns (K-2); Cause and Effect (3-5)

Grades 3-5

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
Beach Contamination

How easy is hazardous waste to clean up? In this simulation, students are challenged to find and remove a "baking soda contaminant" from a plastic shoebox filled with damp sand.

Practices

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Core Ideas

ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems and System Models

Beach in a Pan

How are beaches formed? Students construct a beach in a pan and investigate the effects of wind and waves on a beach.

Practices

Developing and Using Models

Core Ideas

PS4.A Wave Properties; ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns

Decode a Fish

How do different fish survive in their habitats? Students use a fish body part key to "decode" a fish and infer behavior and habitat.

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Core Ideas

LS4.C Adaptation

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and Function

Find Your Beach

Where does sand come from? Students observe characteristics of sand grains and find other students with matching sand samples. Students then use the provided latitude and longitude to find their beach on a map.

Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Core Ideas

ESS2.B Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions; PS1.A Structure of Matter

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns

Ooey Gooey

Students explore a marine food web by dissecting a gelatin-dessert-filled plastic glove “stomach” of a marine consumer. They identify what kind of consumer their marine animal is by examining the prey items they discover in the stomach and then construct a marine food web as a class.

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Core Ideas

LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns

Shark Anatomy

What makes a shark a shark? Students explore shark anatomy by taking part in a debate justifying the importance of specific shark adaptations and physical characteristics.

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Core Ideas

LS1.A Structure and Function

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and Function

Shower Curtain Watershed

What affects the health of a watershed? By constructing a shower curtain model, students explore how human actions influence a watershed.

Practices

Developing and Using Models

Core Ideas

ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems; ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

Wind and Waves

What creates ocean waves? Students use various tools to experiment with wind strength and create waves in a model ocean. They then predict and test the effect of waves on a rocky shore habitat.

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Core Ideas

PS4.A Wave Properties

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

Grades 6-8

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
Plastics in the Water Column

What happens when plastics enter the ocean? Students explore the density of different plastics. They then predict how plastics affect marine food webs and brainstorm actions to reduce plastic pollution.

Practices

Developing and Using Models

Core Ideas

ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

Grades 6-12

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
Be a Scientist

What are the components of an ecosystem? Students assume the roles of different scientists while collecting data at an outdoor field site or aquarium.

Practices

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Core Ideas

LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems

Light in the Deep Sea

Students use blue film glasses to observe camouflage strategies of deep sea organisms and explore the properties of light in water.

Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Core Ideas

LS4.C Adaptation; PS4.B Electromagnetic Radiation

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and Function

Grades 9-12

Activity
NGSSNext Generation Science Standards
The Power of pH: Changing Ocean Chemistry

What is pH and how does carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels increase the acidity of the ocean? Students find out by doing a serial dilution to create their own pH scale. Then they add carbon dioxide to fresh water and sea water and use their pH scale to analyze results.

Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Core Ideas

PS1.B Chemical Reactions; ESS3.D Global Climate Change

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect