Easy Ocean Currents Activity
Unless you’re an over the top marine biologist or oceanographer, it may not be very exciting to study about ocean currents, wind direction and their affect on the Galapagos Islands.
I knew I had to think of something a bit more engaging to introduce Alexander von Humboldt, the German naturalist and explorer after whom the Humboldt Current off the west coast of South America was named.
So I found this easy hands on activity to do to better understand how wind moving over water drags surface water along the path. It also simulates the flow of the Humboldt Current in the Pacific Ocean helping Tiny to grasp some of the concepts. There is a lot of complicated factors that can determine currents in the ocean, but I like simple always. Hopefully, he walks away with understanding some of this. From our past readings like Carry on Mr. Bowditch he did understand some about prevailing winds or trade winds.
In this activity I wanted him to understand that the movement of surface water away from the coast, bringing cold water from the subsurface which is nutrient rich supports an abundance of life on the Galapagos Islands.
Hands On Activity to Understand Humboldt Ocean Current
Look at these things I used for this first experiment
- a rectangle cake pan. I had a disposable one, you could easily use a glass one you already have.
- a map of the eastern Pacific. Our Junior Atlas was nice and big and easy to see the coast of North and South America.
- a permanent marker if you are using a disposable pan or a non-permanent marker if you use your kitchen glass pan.
- modeling clay
- food coloring though its easier to see the current (food coloring) if you keep the water clear. I have no little bitty ones anymore so I allowed Tiny to color his water blue because he understood what to look for when we added the second color of food coloring
- bendable flexible straw/s for how many however kids you have
Draw with your marker on the right side of your pan the outline of the west coast of North and South America. I just did this freehand.
Then have them follow the pattern with the modeling clay to make a wall or ridge of land.
Make sure your ridge of land is water tight so that no water comes over it and Tiny even built a wall.
Then add some “land” to the west of South America which is the Galapagos. We kind of eyeballed where it was by looking at the “coast” and put it close to what would be the “equator” too. Eyeballing is good enough.
Then fill your pan with the “ocean”. Like I said, if you have real young kids, just keep the water clear because the food coloring to show the current makes a much more wow statement. But, having the ocean blue makes it cool too.
Be sure the water gets still before the “wind” comes……
Bend your straw and point the short end, before the bend of the straw, toward the water. Mr. Awesome had the second food coloring drop ready in place.
Then gently blow the “wind” across the surface to see how the current is affected by the wind. There it is! The response I wanted. Such an easy hands on activity to understand something a little more complicated.
The darker color shows the pattern of ocean currents that the wind produces. You can also do this activity another way but this time blow along the coast of Central America toward South America or (from North to South) because it represents the Panama Current that brings warmer water to the northern Galapagos Islands.
Easy, fun and I had all the makings for this hands on activity in my house already.
Grab the rest of the unit study and fun hands-on ideas below!
Hugs and love ya,