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Author

Be Smart

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Video, 13 minutes, 46 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, Polar Regions

Format

YouTube Video

How Ocean Currents Work (And How We Are Breaking Them)

Synopsis
  • This video provides a deep dive into ocean currents and discusses how climate change can (and likely will) cause these ocean currents to slow and eventually stop. 
  • Students will learn about the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), how differences in the temperature and salinity of ocean water drive ocean currents, and the many effects this has on the planet. 

Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This video gives students an opportunity to understand the ways in which ocean currents play a significant role in keeping the planet healthy.  
  • This is an engaging video loaded with humor, relatable examples, and visual science experiments.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This video has ads before and during the video on the YouTube platform, but the video is also available without ads on the PBS site.

Differentiation

  • Cross-curricular connections with social studies classes could be made by discussing how ocean currents may have impacted political and economic conditions and events in Europe.  
  • Teachers could stop the video after the term AMOC is introduced to ensure that students understand the meaning of this acronym before diving into its significance.
  • Because there is a lot to unpack in this video, note-taking guides could benefit students.  Guiding ideas might include: "If climate change eventually leads to a slowdown in the ocean's circulation, what are some consequences we could see?" and "Watch to find out how the temperature and saltiness of ocean water impacts ocean circulation patterns." 
  • Many informational text features are presented in the video (including line graphs and maps) that could be used in math and science classes.
  • Other resources related to this topic include How Do Oceans Circulate?, Climate Change and the Oceans, and Aquarius: Ocean Circulation.
Scientist Notes
This resource video is an accurate primer on the topic of ocean currents. It explains complicated systems, like thermohaline circulation and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in an accessible way that is easy to understand. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
      • MS-PS2-2 Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
      • HS-ESS2-5 Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.10.9-12 Evaluate how changes in the environmental and cultural characteristics of a place or region influence spatial patterns of trade and land use.
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