1. 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 https://serc.carleton.edu/teachearth/activity_review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 12, 2008

To Fish or Not to Fish?

The lab activity described here was created by Erin Bardar of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

This lab activity introduces students to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In Part A, students read about what MPAs are, what purposes they serve, and how they are classified. In Part B, they watch the film Ocean Oasis, about one of the world's top conservation priorities, the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortés). This tiny strip of sea has historically been one of the richest and most productive marine ecosystems in the world, but today faces many of the same threats that are destroying ocean health worldwide. The film takes students on a journey to the Sea of Cortés and Baja California peninsula with stunning images and compelling messages for the preservation of both ocean and desert.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:
  • define the term Marine Protected Area;
  • explain why MPAs are important for ecosystem and fisheries management;
  • understand how MPAs are classified;
  • identify a marine managed area near their home town; and
  • identify factors contributing to the deterioration of the Gulf of California marine ecosystem.
Open the Student Lab »

Context for Use

Having already learned some about the basics of ecosystem-based management (EBM) in Lab 3: Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management, students are prepared to learn more about specific implementations. In this lab, they will learn about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and explore the Gulf of California through the film Ocean Oasis.

This lab takes one to two 50-60 minute class periods. Part A is largely a reading activity, and can be assigned as homework. Part B requires a DVD player/TV or projection screen setup. The movie Ocean Oasis is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t9bLOE9j2U. The film's running time is 45 minutes, so the movie screening will take almost an entire class period.

Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

In Part A of this lab, students learn about the basics of Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by reading The State of the Nation's Marine Managed Areas (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Oct10 07). Students also browse through an alphabetical list of U.S. MPAs to identify those closest to where they live, and learn about U.S. Marine Protected Area classifications (Acrobat (PDF) 442kB Jul16 19).

Part B introduces students to the Gulf of California, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. The activity is centered around the film Ocean Oasis, which is available for purchase on DVD from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com for $14.99-$21.99 plus shipping and handling.

After watching the film, students can search through the Ocean Oasis Field Guide to learn more about the locations, flora, and fauna featured in the film.

Printable Materials

  • Activity Sheet (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 27kB Oct5 07) and Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Aug7 18))

Teaching Notes and Tips

During the film, have students take notes so they will be able to answer follow-up questions.


You can assess student understanding of topics addressed in this Investigation by grading their responses to the Stop and Think questions.

State and National Science Teaching Standards

California Science Teaching Standards met by this activity

Developer will correlate activity to standards in these documents:
Earth science content standards - Grades 9 to 12
Biology content standards (see Ecology) - Grades 9 to 12
Investigation and Experimentation Standards - Grades 9 to 12

Developer will correlate activity to standards in this document:

PDF of Science and technology standards Earth science standards begin on page 112

Developer will correlate activity to standards in this document:

Learning standards for science

Developer will correlate activity to standards in this document:

North Carolina Standard Course of Study

Developer will correlate activity to standards in this document:

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)

Developer will correlate activity to standards listed at this site:

National Science Education Standards (SRI)

Additional Resources

Background Information

  • For more information about the challenges and successes of Marine Protected Areas, read this World Wildlife Fund (WWF) booklet (Acrobat (PDF) 4.1MB Oct5 07).
  • PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, has prepared a booklet called The Science of Marine Reserves, which summarizes scientific information about marine reserves, including case studies from the United States.

Content Extension

  • The Ocean Oasis Teacher's Guide provides a series of activities, targeted for grades 4-8, but adaptable for higher grade levels. All activities, many of which are interdisciplinary, are designed to stand alone, and have been correlated with the National Science Education Standards. Activities may be used to prepare students for viewing the film or as a post-film experience.