Project Ocean Peer-Led Training

Important Notice: Project Ocean will not be offered for Summer 2024 while we find a new source of funding for the course and plan for future offerings. We anticipate that the next time this course will be offered is in Summer 2025. Please feel free to read over these pages to better understand what Project Ocean is about. Please note, however, that specific details of how the course is conducted are subject to change (for example, we can already share that Project Ocean will NOT be a formal course at Pennsylvania Western University and therefore will not have graduate credits associated with this course).

Also, you are welcome to check out our other two summer courses (Project Atmosphere and/or Project Ice), which will be running in Summer 2024 (more information on the 2024 offerings will be available later this fall).

After the conclusion of the online and in-person components of the course, participants are required to submit a plan for and/or conduct peer training sessions that utilize the concepts and materials learned during their Project Ocean experience. These peer-led training sessions can be offered virtually or in-person through a variety of locations/venues (such as local school district professional development events, state or national science teachers' meetings, etc.); participants are free to decide how/where to give these training sessions.

The following is a listing of oceanography topics that may be the focus of a peer-led training session, each one involving classroom tested, hands-on activities. Each module contains a set of objectives and linkages to Project Ocean Fundamental Understandings, applicable Ocean Literacy Principles, and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Wind-Driven Ocean Circulation, Geostrophic Flow, and Oceanic Gyres

Relates ocean gyres to patterns of marine debris, explains how wind-driven ocean circulation comes about, describes the force balance within gyres, discusses western boundary currents within gyres and the role of eddies (using AMS Pressure Blocks), details circulation features in the various ocean basins, and includes an opportunity for personal reflection and consideration of how to use the content in the classroom.

Density-Driven Ocean Circulation

Identifies the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt as being composed of massive, slow moving density-driven currents; describes how ocean density relates to pressure, temperature, and salinity; discusses how deep ocean water circulation is driven by density differences; relates density to ocean water column stability; notes the role of air-sea interaction in forming conditioned surface waters; describes mechanisms for deep ocean convection and the formation of intermediate, deep, and bottom waters; highlights open ocean and shelf-slope convection; emphasizes the role of the conveyor belt in regulating climate; and includes the opportunity for personal reflection.

Ocean Tides

Defines tides as planetary ocean waves generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun and details the force balances that produce the tide-generating force; describes tidal features and the Equilibrium Theory of Tides; defines diurnal, semi-diurnal, and mixed tides; and distinguishes between spring and neap tides. The module also describes factors in local tide prediction and how local tides can be resolved into components called partial tides, along with describing tidal currents that change water levels. The module then examines various tidal features using real world data from a NOAA monitoring station. It concludes with additional opportunities for discussion and reflection.

Deep Ocean and Shallow Water Waves

Defines various types of waves that occur in the ocean; describes forces related to wave motion; defines various wind-generated wave characteristics, such as wave period and wave energy; and distinguishes between forced and free waves. The module also includes a detailed comparison of features of deep-water and shallow-water waves, including coastal interactions. This module then uses data from the National Data Buoy Center to explore wave characteristics at a station experiencing deep-water waves, and demonstrates how a passing tropical storm impacts significant wave height. Users are then encouraged to reflect on module effectiveness for their personal teaching situations.

Wind-Driven Ocean Circulation, Ekman Transport, and Coastal Upwelling

Highlights features of coastal upwelling areas and emphasizes how understanding wind-driven ocean circulation is key to understanding these areas. The module explains how energy is transferred from the atmosphere to the surface ocean, summarizes the governing laws of physics employed by physical oceanographers, and stresses that the 3-cell model for atmospheric circulation describing global wind patterns is important for understanding patterns of surface ocean currents. The module then details the forces operating on surface currents and describes the Ekman Layer, Ekman Spiral, and Ekman Mass Transport, relating the latter to coastal and equatorial upwelling. Users then create a Model Ocean Basin and Coastal Physics Spin Wheel to visualize upwelling and downwelling by looking at the combinations of coastline orientation, persistent wind direction, and Earth rotation that produce the water movements.

El Niño - La Niña

Begins by emphasizing the ecological, environmental, and social impacts of the El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and then details El Niño, the Southern Oscillation, ENSO, and La Niña. The module shows diagrams of the Pacific during normal conditions and those of El Niño and La Niña, and summarizes global impacts and current research. Users are encouraged to use online resources to enhance learning and reflect on module effectiveness.

Sea Level Change

Opens with an examination of scenarios for 21st century global sea level rise and then illustrates how melting land ice and melting sea ice impact water level. The module then explores the Geoid and mean sea level, and how Earth’s dynamic topography and climatological changes impact sea level on a global and regional basis. Sea level changes over Earth’s history are also examined with focus on the past 20,000 years. Users then investigate time series graphs of sea level obtained from tide gauges and satellite altimetry. The module provides numerous resources for further exploration.

Modules for Project Ocean course alumni