Scaffolded exercises in the design of an ocean observing study for introductory undergraduates

Tuesday 1:30pm-2:40pm CC Building Circadian
Share-a-thon Part of Tuesday


Sasha Seroy, University of Washington-Seattle Campus


I will share the worksheets associated with the activity series to show how they build on each other throughout the course.


This is a series of in-class worksheet activities which prompt students to design multiple ocean observing studies, each time using different tools, over the course of a quarter. Students are given the same locally-relevant scientific question (How do seasonal cycles affect phytoplankton distributions along the Washington Coast?) and are asked to design a study to address the question at three different points in the course. Each time the students revisit the question, they have to design a new study with different tools (e.g. ships, AUVs, satellites) and reconsider the relevant time/space scales, data needed, study limitations, sketch their sampling plan on a map and explain their rationale.


The target audience is an introductory oceanography course. I have used it in a large in-person lecture course (50 minutes, 3 meetings per week) focused on introducing to the tools used in oceanography and their scientific context. The activities were implemented during lecture time as group work (3-5 students per group) with a worksheet. Students were given 20-30 minutes to design their study, and then group reporters shared ideas with the class. The activities were implemented in the second, fifth, and ninth week of the ten-week quarter. When modified studies were presented, we also had a class discussion to compare/contrast prior studies to the newly developed ones.

Why It Works

This series of activities encourages critical thinking and problem solving by having students regularly think through how they would design a study to address the same scientific question with different tools. It enables students to build on and apply their knowledge as they learn about new ways we study the ocean. Students become familiar with the question so having to design similar studies with different tools lets them think through the design as a scientist would and consider the relevant time and space scales, the necessary data and sampling resolution, and how the benefits and limitations of different instruments influences the design and potential outcomes of the study.

Worksheet1_Ships.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 519kB Jul5 23)

Worksheet2_AUVs.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 519kB Jul5 23)

Worksheet3_Satellites+.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 519kB Jul5 23)