Prep for Teachers
Prior to teaching the lesson, bookmark all of the Web sites
used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. You may also
create a Web site with links to each Web resource, or use an online
bookmarking utility like Portaportal (http://www.portaportal.com) or Backflip (http://www.backflip.com) to increase time on task
at the computers. Load the Shockwave and Flash plug-ins, available
at http://www.macromedia.com, onto all computers in
your classroom or computer lab. Cue the videotape to the appropriate
starting point. Prepare copies of the student organizers.
View the video clip in its entirety to become familiar with all
starts and stops. Practice the pauses and fast forwards to insure
smooth transitions during viewing.
Prepare the student organizers and handouts for each part of the
lesson by copying them for each student. Make sure students also
have generic notetaking materials as needed.
Be sure that video cameras are fully charged and have rewound,
writeable DV tapes loaded. If the camera is to remain stationery it
is advisable to use a power adaptor when filming and/or have extra
batteries on hand. Be sure to have the necessary video editing
software loaded on computers and camera-to-computer cables available
for downloading video clips.
When using media, provide students with a Focus for Media
Interaction, a specific task to complete and/or information to
identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or
other multimedia elements.
Setting the Stage
Students will view segments of the NATURE episode #2003,
"Dive to the Abyss," which chronicles three deep sea dives using
ocean submersibles. The specific focus of this lesson will be the
exploration of underwater volcanoes in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
However, students will be given the chance to see the different kinds
of submersibles used in deep ocean exploration in other areas of the
world, in the waters around the Cayman Islands and off the coast of
Monterey, California. The viewing of these segments and the
discussions should take one classroom period.
In preparation for viewing the video, ask students to
hypothesize about the conditions that might be encountered on the
ocean floor at great depths. What would the ocean floor look like?
What conditions might be encountered? What might be the best way to
explore the deep ocean? Answers will vary depending on prior
knowledge. Record student responses for later review.
CUE video to immediately after "Viewers like you."
Distribute the "Dive to the Abyss Video Organizer" to each student.
Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to take notes
about the three kinds of vehicles and their areas of exploration.
PLAY the tape.
PAUSE after Alastair Fothergill says, "Victor is highly
experienced. He's dived on the wreck of the Titanic, the
Bismark, and many, many times to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. So I
feel very, very safe in his hands" and the Mir is seen
beginning its descent. Ask students to compare and complete their
organizers while you FAST FORWARD to the next time the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge map appears. Note to teacher: The portion of the
video you will be fast forwarding through includes the following
scenes: Giant sponges in the Cayman Islands, the luminescent
creature, a Giant Medusa off the Monterey coast, and the Haystack
zone in the Cayman Islands.
Check for student comprehension and understanding about the three
dives, where they are occurring, what is being explored, and the
submersible vehicles being used in each. Use the following questions
with your students.
1) In Monterey, California: What vehicle is being used in this
exploration? (The Tiberon is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an
What tools does it have? (Equipped with six electric thrusters,
can go 4000 meters deep, has lights and 6 cameras for monitoring
navigation, science equipment for sampling including a suction
How deep can it dive? (4000 feet; it's built to study the
mysteries of the deep sea.)
Where is the exploration taking place? (Off the coast of Monterey,
California. Off shore is an underwater canyon, well over a mile
What is the focus of the exploration? (Studying life in the abyss.)
2) In the Cayman Islands, Caribbean: What is the focus of the
exploration? (looking for deep water sharks.)
Why was this site chosen? (The Caymans are tips of mountains and
there are underwater cliffs.)
Where is the exploration taking place and what kind of vehicle is
being used? (Exploration will take researchers down the wall of
one of the cliffs in a mini-submarine.)
3) Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 1200 miles off the coast of Portugal: What is
the focus of the exploration? (Looking at undersea volcanic
What kind of vehicle is being used? (The Keldysh is the research
vessel from which the Mir submersibles are launched. "Mir" is
Russian for "peace." It is one of the few submersibles capable of
diving more than a mile. Two submersibles enable dual filming.)
CUE the video to the next map of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It
will be shown after Kate Humble in the Cayman Islands says, "There's
a shipwreck somewhere around here, which, according to Gary, has
become the most amazing artificial reef. We're going to go and try
and find it and see what life there is on there." The submarine is
seen in dark, almost black waters and then the Mid-Atlantic Ridge map
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION,
asking students to focus now on the Mir dive in the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge. What does Alastair tell us about the Mir
that helps explain why scientists use submersibles? RESUME
PAUSE as Alastair says, "What you never, never do in a
submersible is hit the ground hard," and the "Ping, Ping" of the
sonar is heard as the Mir slides into darkness.
Check for student comprehension. How far down can the Mir go?
(6000 meters, 4 miles down)
Why can the Mir go down farther than a nuclear submarine?
(Because of its small size, and it is constructed out of very
strong steel, even the windows are 18 inches thick)
Why are submersibles used for deep sea exploration? (They
facilitate manned exploration despite the cold and tremendous
FAST FORWARD past underwater creatures in Monterey Bay and
shipwrecks in the Cayman Islands to the next Mid-Atlantic Ridge map.
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION,
asking students to listen carefully as Alastair describes the
Mir's descent to the sea bed. What "landmarks" do the
occupants of the Mir see? Note: This portion of the video
requires careful listening due to the background sounds from the
submersible. RESUME PLAY.
PAUSE after Alastair says, "What we're looking for is evidence
of volcanic activity happening right now. Victor is searching for
black smokers, extraordinary chimneys where red hot water comes
pouring out of the sea floor. I know it should be very spectacular
if only we could find one," and the Mir is seen with the propeller
Check for student understanding. What "landmarks" do the occupants
of the Mir see? (Answers may include: The Mid-Atlantic
Ridge is actually the top of submarine mountain chain, 30 miles wide
and high as the Rockies. In the center is a canyon into which the
Mir is headed. At the top of the ridge there is no light from the
surface. As they descend they see volcanic scenery. It is apparent
that new sea bed is forming as two crustal plates are moving apart.
Continental drift is actually occurring. Piles of lava make
Deep ocean creatures are seen as well. Rattail or Grenadier fish
feed on rotting flesh that drops down from the surface. Rabbit fish
or Caymira, and a Dumbo Octopus, about the size of a football, are
Spires coming up from the sea bed show evidence of colorful
mineral deposits but they are "dead" chimneys, not active vents.)
FAST FORWARD past sharks in the Cayman Islands, more
luminescent creatures in Monterey, and sharks in the Cayman Islands
again in infra red light, to the carcass of fish in infrared light
(after Kate Humble says, "and we'll fool them.") Provide your
students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students
to be prepared to describe the field of black smokers in their own
words. RESUME PLAY.
PAUSE as Alastair says, "From the point of view of life,
there's actually very little life on these small smokers. But what I
do know is that on the bigger ones we really have a high chance of
finding spectacular quantities of life," and the Mir is
obscured by the black smoke.
Check for student understanding. Ask students to describe the field
of black smokers. (Answers may include: Two to three hundred
hydrothermal vents, "black smokers" appear on the on the "hillside"
in an area about the size of football field. These are relatively
new, small chimneys that may not have been here 2 or 3 years ago.
Water escaping from hydrothermal vents is 350 degrees centigrade.
The hot water dissolves out minerals in the rocks, mainly iron and
sulfite, creating the "black smoke." As the red hot water comes out
of the sea bed, it cools very suddenly as it meets the freezing cold
water. All of the minerals precipitate out, dropped out of
suspension. Gradually the chimney builds from these minerals, as
much a 6 meters a year.)
FAST FORWARD past fish and jelly fish in Monterey, sharks in
the Cayman Islands under infrared light, and the small yellow
creatures on the ocean floor to the next time the Mir is seen
(and Mike says, "Let's check in on Alastair who is now a mile and a
half down." ) Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your
students to describe what is discovered on the large chimneys, and
how do they exist in such a hostile environment? RESUME PLAY.
STOP after Alastair says, "It seems may be looking at the very
birth of life on earth right down here at the very depth of the
abyss," and the music begins as the Mir moves off.
Check for student understanding. What is discovered on the large
chimneys? (Large black smoker chimneys are covered with thousands of
shrimp. These were only discovered in 1985.)
How do they survive? (They survive on the bacteria that survive
on the sulfites. The shrimp live off the sulfurous bacteria found
closest to the hot water coming out of the vents. Up until people
saw life on the hot vents they thought life needed sunlight to
Review student predictions about the conditions that might be found
on the ocean floor at great depths. How accurate were they? What
did they learn? What would they like to know more about? (Student
answers will vary.)
Students will utilize Internet resources listed above to learn more
about deep sea vents, specifically the geological explanation for
their existence. These sites offer unique opportunities for virtual,
"hands-on" study utilizing Flash animations and interactive Shockwave
simulations to enhance understanding.
Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION using the
following guiding questions to focus their research. (These
questions are listed in the Dive to the Abyss - Internet Research
List and explain each stage in the development of deep sea vents.
Create an illustration of each stage. (A good model for
illustrations can be found at each of the Internet resource
What is the difference between white and black smokers? (White
smokers are "younger" hydrothermal vents. They are cooler and their
smoke is white since it doesn't contain metals.) Where do each
occur? (Both occur at along the mid-ocean ridges. White smokers
are usually found on the outskirts of a vent field.)
What role do temperature and pressure have in the creation of deep
sea vents? (The heat of the magna superheats the ocean water that
seeps into the magna chamber. The deeper you go, the greater the
pressure and the higher the boiling point rises.)
How are the dynamic forces of shifting plates related to deep sea
vents? (The shifting plates create magna chambers and cracks in
the sea floor through which water seeps.)
Using digital video, students will demonstrate their
understanding of the nature of deep sea vents and the geological and
environmental discoveries that scientists have uncovered. They may
incorporate clay animation, models, simulated interviews, selected
video clips and other copyright-friendly resources. Be sure to
encourage students to obtain permission to use Internet resources and
provide proper citations.
The culminating activity may take other forms. This lesson offers
the opportunity for differentiated instruction, enabling students
with varied levels of understanding to enhance their learning through
alternative activities. This will enable students to work in small
groups, with a variety of materials and options. Students may
produce models of sea vent chimneys, design their own submersible
equipped to study deep sea vents, do a multimedia presentation of
pictures of hydrothermal vents found in the oceans of the world or a
map of the locations of hydrothermal vents. They may stage a debate
about the benefits and environmental risks involved in exploring the
deep ocean. By providing other differentiated options you can engage
students in the learning process with activities that both motivate
and challenge students to remain on task.
The following steps provide a framework for a digital video project.
Identify students who will be creating a video project and
organize them into production teams (4-5 students or less). Provide
them with specific guidelines and handouts (see resources above in
the "Student Materials" section that will help them plan their
production. The guidelines should include the purpose of the video
(to inform others about some aspect of hydrothermal vents), and a
suggested length (may range from 60-90 seconds up to a few minutes
depending on the time available to develop the project). Students
should be encouraged to be clear and concise and tell their story in
a short amount of time.
Working as a team, students will develop a storyboard for
their video. Storyboards help organize projects, identify the shots
or frames that will be recorded and the information needed to support
them. Students should not use the equipment until the storyboards
are complete and approved. This will keep their project
Assign roles for each team member. These roles may include:
Producer: plan each shot and determine any "remote" locations
Director: supervise the recording sessions, sets up the shots, cues the actors
Videographer : use the camera with skill and knowledge of what makes
a good shot
Narrator: narrate the video by providing background comments to explain scenes
Set designer: design the set or, alternatively, clay animation scenes
All team members will assist in locating print and Web resources to
support the content of their video, as well as assist in building
props, clay animation figures and scenery.
Teach students how to use the digital camera. Although some
students may be familiar with digital video equipment show them the
basics of the equipment they will be using. This could include
starting and pausing recording, focusing, zooming, panning, taking
still clips. The advantage of digital editing software is that
longer clips are better than shorter ones. Keep it simple. Have
students film planned scenes.
Edit video clips using video editing software (iMovie for Mac
or MovieWorks for PC) Students edit the video to include titles,
credits, still shots, transitions, and additional audio as needed.
Remember to observe copyright restrictions, obtaining permissions for
using Internet images, sound clips from CDs (should be limited to 30
seconds) and other proprietary material. Although educational fair
use generally permits use in student projects, some permissions may
still be required. Make this an authentic activity by providing real
life guidelines for video production.
After students complete their video, provide the opportunity
for them to share their work with others. They can use their video to
discuss their learning and to educate their peers.
Geography: Students research the geography of of the ocean
floor and create a map of the earth's underwater crust, the Pacific
and Atlantic ridges. Compare with a map of known areas of active
plate tectonic movement above sea level. What can be learned from
these maps about the the earth?
Language Arts: Students research the nature of deep ocean exploration
and the vehicles scientists use. With that knowledge and their
imaginations they create a ocean voyage story. What kind of creature
will they find? What discoveries will their adventurer characters
In the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, we see into the
world of Captain Nemo and his adventures in underwater discovery.
When the book was written, the submarine and many other oceanography
tools had not yet been invented. Read excerpts of the book to
students, or have them read it on their own. Have them compare and
contrast the vision of Jules Verne with today's reality of undersea
Technology (Engineering and Design): Have students design their own
underwater exploration vehicle. How would it be equipped? Would it
be manned or unmanned? What environmental accommodations would have
to be incorporated into their design? A scale drawing or model could
- Visit your local aquarium to investigate different types
of deep-sea life.
- Invite an engineer to your classroom to discuss the
effects of pressure on manufactured materials.
- Invite a local scuba enthusiast in to talk about diving
Blue Planet Challenge
You can complete this mission in one of two ways.
Either play the Flash game and take a Journey to the Deep, or play
Life Beneath the Waves, a non-Flash animated alternative.
Blue Planet Challenge - Dive to the Abyss
Flash animation dive simulation provides students with a chance to
apply their knowledge as they "explore" the deep ocean.
Nova - Into the Abyss - Deep Sea Machines
This two part history of the submersibles used in exploring the deep
ocean provides background information on machines from the
bathysphere developed in the 1930's to Deep Flight, a prototype
one-man submersible designed like a miniature spaceship.
Dive to the Abyss
The Web site companion to the video provides background information
about each of the dives and the researchers.
- Interview a pharmacist about natural products and drugs
that have their origins in the rainforest. Interview local
stakeholders, pharmaceutical firms, researchers, medical doctors for
- Learn more about rainforest activism and letter writing
campaigns. The Rainforest Action Network (www.ran.org) has
activities in which kids can participate.