Modeling the Formation of Ocean Currents

Modeling the Formation of Ocean Currents

In BAESI’s new “Modeling the Formation of Ocean Currents” lesson, students do experiments with models of ocean saltwater, cold seawater, and warm water to help them understand how cold water and salty water are denser than warm and less salty water. This prepares them to understand the important process of the “great conveyor belt” of water and energy through Earth’s interconnected global ocean. The lesson is designed for grade 5-12 students, with a variety of Enrich / Extend activities listed at the end of the lesson to help you meet the needs of all learners. For instance, it is applicable to high school chemistry and physics classes, as well as earth science classes.

Guiding Questions

  • How and why does ocean water move?
  • Why is that process important for life on Earth?
  • How might the process be changing due to human activities?
  • How can we help restore balance to thermohaline circulation patterns on Earth?


  • Students will measure salt accurately to create saline solutions to model seawater of different salinity levels.
  • Students will experiment with different saline solutions and freshwater and demonstrate understanding that increasing salinity increases water density.
  • Students will create models of warm and cold seawater and slowly mix them together, then demonstrate understanding of how decreasing
    water temperature increases its density.
  • Students will form hypotheses to predict the results of their experiments, record their observations, and compare the results with their predictions in writing.

The lesson is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) & Common Core State Standards, as well as California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts. We hope you and your students enjoy the simulation and other activities and we’d love to hear your feedback!


Adapted from “Great Ocean Conveyor Belt.”

Examining Mass Extinctions on Earth

In this activity, students read several articles on specific ages of the Earth and the mass extinction events which concluded them. The articles discuss the time period, types of life present, and the causes and consequences of the mass extinction event. Students then identify important information and answer questions.

Clicking the links will download a file.

Examining Mass Extinctions on Earth (.DOC)
Periods, Life, Tectonics, and Paleoclimates (.DOC)
Mass Extinctions (.DOC)

California CGS Map Presentation Guideline

This guide helps pre-college teachers use the geological map of California in their classroom. The beautiful maps found here can give valuable information when correctly interpreted. Explore the features of the maps and ask questions to stimulate exploration and curiosity.

Clicking the link below will download a Word (.doc) file.

California CGS Map Presentation Guideline

Exploring Plate Tectonics with Google Earth

Use the powerful program Google Earth to explore local geology! View recent earthquakes, volcanoes around the world, plate boundaries, and more. Includes handout, instructions, worksheet, and links to updated Google Earth files.

BAESI Google Earth Plate Tectonics Clicking the link will download a Word (.DOC) file.

The original file for this exercise is too large to host on this site. However, you can download up-to-date maps from the USGS on their Google Earth/KML Files page.