Oceanography Virtual Field Trips

Jennifer Nelson, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
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Students explore online data, maps, webcams, and articles from specific US locations to understand and visualize the oceanographic phenomena of that location. Through the worksheet, students will learn to explore online resources to gather data on a particular topic, and practice making observations of scientific phenomena. Through the writing assignment, students learn to synthesize observations into scientific explorations, draw together ideas and relate to course concepts, and reflect on their learning process.

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Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
Scientific observations, relating observations to textbook concepts, analysis of data, maps, and imagery.

Higher order thinking skills goals
Synthesis of ideas, connecting concepts, making inferences, applying observations to concepts.

Other skills goals
Synthesizing ideas into a written document. Formatting documents in a manner different from traditional written reports, finding and integrating quality primary sources, reflection.

Context for Use

Type and level of course
Undergraduate, 100-level Introduction to Oceanography for non-majors.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Understanding of assigned textbook readings on related topics. Ability to navigate internet sources to make observations. Understanding of basic word-processing tools.

How the activity is situated in the course
Stand alone exercises near end of major units; students complete three virtual field trips over the course of a semester.

Description and Teaching Materials

The following documents are two of the three Virtual Field Trips used in this course.
Virtual Field Trip: Hawaiian Islands (Acrobat (PDF) 239kB May2 17)
Virtual Field Trip: Monterey Bay (Acrobat (PDF) 103kB May2 17)
Rubric Example for Hawaiian Islands Virtual Field Trip (Acrobat (PDF) 99kB May2 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

These are best integrated at the end of a unit that covers the concepts in the virtual field trip. For example, I use the Hawaii Virtual Field Trip at the end of a unit on geologic characteristics of ocean basins.


Worksheet answers are simply assessed on completion of all questions, and evidence of using terminology from learning to answer the questions. Essays are assessed using a detailed rubric that evaluates format, content, resources, and reflection. An example rubric is attached above.

References and Resources