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The Ocean Floor - Science
Grade Level(s): 6-8
By: Janis Nevison, Teaches Grades 4-8

Students make a model of the ocean floor with this hands-on science activity.


  • shoebox with a lid - 1 per group of 2-3
  • paper maché materials (flour, water, glue mixed in a bowl)
  • strips of newspaper or newsprint
  • piece of dowel about 25 cm long
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • graphing paper


This activity was done after finding the definitions for continental slope, trench, basin, continental shelf, and range. These definitions are the required background knowledge.

  1. Students are instructed to draw a quick plan of an ocean floor as seen from the side; including the edge of a continent, a continental shelf, a continental slope, a basin, a trench, and a range. They require their definitions to do this.
  2. When the plan is checked and they can properly identify each part, the groups set out to create the ocean floor in their shoebox with paper maché.
  3. When the paper maché is dry (or close), the groups cut or punch about 8 holes spaced evenly apart down the centre of the shoebox lid. The lid is then put on the box, hiding the ocean floor.
  4. The students take their graph paper and create a graph with the numbers one to eight along the bottom (number of holes) and about 1-25 (measurement in cm) up the other side.
  5. Once the graph is set up properly, the students put the dowel in hole #1 until it hits "bottom". They record the measurement on the graph with a simple dot. This continues for holes #2-8.
  6. When all of the holes have been measured, the students should join their dots using a ruler in order. When this is done, they should turn their graph upside down and label the parts of the ocean floor appropriately. They should see a representation of the floor they created in the shoebox.

My students found this very interesting and loved to see what that they had copied their ocean floor onto a graph, and of course, paper maché is always messy fun!


I found parts of this lesson somewhere and just built on it- here's how I did it. Adaptation is always necessary!

Having a multi-level 5-8 classroom I always find it challenging to find activities that can be done all together, yet not too easy and build on what we are doing. I used this lesson at the end of our Water Systems unit (Ontario curriculum - gr.8) and it was a wonderful success!

Another class that didn't have time to make the boxes borrowed ours and were fascinated at the results - of course we didn't let them look in the boxes first!

Copyright © 1999 by Janis Nevison. All Rights Reserved.


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