The Nature of Science – Lesson 1

This series of science lessons are for students both in school and at home. They will focus on the marine sciences, but the lessons could be used for any general science course.

We will be posting one a week – usually on Mondays – with a theme for each month. For September we are focusing on the Nature of Science and the scientific process.

Citizen scientists monitoring water quality on Bayou Texar.
Photo: Marine Science Academy Washington High School

For the marine sciences – the development of the subject came from two different areas of interest. One was the merchant marines, the development of commercial shipping across the oceans and the navies needed to protect them. The other was the in the development of science as a discipline in itself. In the history of these came what we call marine science, and much of what we call science today. For this lesson we will focus on the early contributions of the merchant marine industry. The student should better understand how the scientific process can begin, and often does, with non-science interests.

Humans have been paddling across rivers and lakes for centuries. They did this to find better hunting grounds or other villages to trade with. As time moved on, they began to design and build watercraft that could cross larger bodies of water. Why would they want to do that? Well, as they say, “to get to the other side” 😊 Of course, the other side provided more commerce. There were clients who could be involved in the purchase of their goods and they could also discover new resources that might be sold in markets in their home villages or countries.

The Spanish sailing vessel Panfilo de Narvaez.
Photo: University of West Florida

Traveling across wider and wider bodies of water brought a lot of interesting problems that had to be solved. Where am I? How do I find which way to head the vessel? But they also observed/discovered a lot of other things while making these trips. Observation is the first step in the process of science. These observations will lead to questions, that will lead to experiments, that will lead to results, and science is moving forward – but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

One observation made by these ancient mariners were the ocean currents. It was pretty obvious to the non-motorized vessels they used that there were “rivers” moving within the ocean. The captains and navigators would log such currents, where they were in the ocean, which direction they were heading, what speed they moved, and identified them by the change in water temperatures. They also named them. It was quickly discovered that when sailing to the new world from Europe one would sail south. When returning they would sail north – in each case they would catch the moving currents, saving time and money also avoiding pirates. They also discovered trying to sail against these currents was a big mistake.


For this week’s activity we are going to chart the major ocean currents. From this you should be able to observe their locations, directions, and patterns. From this we can begin to think of what may be causing the water to move in some parts of the ocean and not in others. You will also begin to understand why they circulate in the pattern they do – SCIENCE BEGINS.

1) Find a map of the world that is not marked – just shows the oceans and continents. Your teacher may provide, or you may find one online.

2) Obtain a red and blue colored pencil.

3) Below is a list of the major ocean currents as they were named by the ancient mariners. Indicate on your map where these are located by drawing an arrow showing the direction the current is flowing. If it is a cold-water current draw it in blue. If it is a warm water current draw it in red. Label the current with its name. This way you will learn the names and locations of the major ocean currents while learning about science.

4) Do you see a pattern to the circulation to these currents? If so, what is it?

5) Do you see a pattern with the temperature of these currents? If so, what is it?

These observations are the beginning of the scientific process and will lead to more steps. But that will be in the next lesson. Have fun and enjoy doing this. Maps are pretty cool.


Agulhas Current

Alaska Current

Antilles Current

Atlantic Countercurrent

Brazil Current

Gulf Stream

East Australian Current (EOC)

Loop Current

Kuroshio Current

Mozambique Current

North Atlantic Current

North Atlantic Equatorial Current

North Pacific Current

North Pacific Equatorial Current

Norwegian Current

South Atlantic Equatorial Current

South Pacific Equatorial Current


Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Benguela Current

California Current

Canary Current

East Greenland Current

Labrador Current

North Atlantic Current

Oyashio Current

Peru Current (also known as the Humbolt Current)

West Australian Current


Posted: August 31, 2020

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources
Tags: Nature Of Science, Science Observations, Student Science Lessons

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