Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Temperature/Salinity/Density activity

Temperature/Salinity/Density activity

Petra Dekens
San Francisco State University
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 7, 2008


This is an in-class activity designed to improve the students' understanding of the relationships between temperature and density, salinity and density, and density differences in driving vertical water movement.

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Undergraduate general education course called Introduction to Oceanography
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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Relationship between temperature and density
Relationship between salinity and density
Reading graphs

How the activity is situated in the course

This is an in class activity that takes approximately 10 minutes.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

When temperature decreases, density increases
When salinity increases, density increases
Density differences drive vertical movement of water
How to read a TS plot

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The key to this activity is that they are able to read and interpret the graph.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This is an in-class activity. I used it relatively early in the semester, after covering the basic water properties portion of the class. I use the relationship between temperature/salinity/density to begin discussing vertical movement of water. The first purpose of this activity is to reinforce the concepts that have just been explained about the relationship between temperature and density and salinity and density. The second purpose is to bring these ideas back to what they have learned about density differences. Finally, the activity is also designed to help them learn how to read graphs.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Although I did not grade this in class activity, I did get a general sense of their level of understanding by reading through them all. In addition, I also added essentially the same set of questions on their midterms.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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