Category Archives: Ocean Floor Mapping

Ocean Floor Mapping

I have so many ideas I’ve tried and cannot wait to show you. This June, in the second to last week of school I was desperate for a super fun activity to keep my kiddos engaged through the end of the school year. I made 2 new activities. The first is my ocean floor mapping project. This one requires a bit of prep. Here are some pictures to walk you through making your ocean floors and preparing materials.


First, you need several trays, however many groups you want to have. I did 6. They are about 14″ x 9″ x3″. You also need flour, water, crumpled up coupon paper (that’s what I used, anyway) and strips of newspaper for the paper mache. Mix flour and water in a 50/50 ratio.


Crumple up some coupons (or whatever you’re using) to create some contrast on your ocean floor. Make each floor different. I ripped up my coupons into different sized pieces of paper before crumpling them so some ‘hills’ would be different sizes.


Dip your strips of newspaper into the flour/water mixture, and gently glide your fingers along the strips, removing as much excess flour and water as possible. You want the paper ‘wet’ with flour and water. It’s enough, trust me. Layer, layer, layer.



I knew I was going to cover my oceans so the students couldn’t see the floor, but I needed a way for them to measure the depth. So I created these. Skewers. Just regular skewers. I used markers and make colored lines so the students could record how many ‘lines’ it took to get to the ocean floor. I just estimated how far apart to make them. It didn’t take many lines because my ocean floors weren’t that deep. This turned out to work SO well. My students loved using these things. I think what they loved most was NOT using a ruler.

How to map: Cover ocean floor with aluminum foil (easy to pierce with skewer, difficult to see through). Then cover with graph paper. Have other graph oriented in the same direction next to ocean. Stick skewer into ocean. Look at what color line the ‘ocean’ goes up to. Record number on other graph paper. Move over 4 (or any number) of boxes on graph paper. Repeat sticking/recording. Continue on, and on, and on, until ‘other’ graph paper has a bunch of numbers written on it. It will look like this…


You’ll have a graph paper (or 2 taped together) with a bunch of numbers on it. The lower the number the shallower the ocean. Next you need to draw topographic lines. Start with the lowest number on your paper. In this pic, the lowest number was 1, you can see them circled in red. The next lowest number is 2. You’ll notice the topographic line around the 2s (in orange) includes all of the 1s that are touching the 2s in anyway, in this case, in the middle of them. Next is the 3s in yellow. The 3s contain all of the 2s and 1s touching them. After you have your lines drawn, assign them colors. This group chose rainbow because the pattern is recognizable. It worked well. Here are some more…


It took my classes a whole class period to record the numbers and draw the topographic lines. The second day began by assigning colors and coloring. After that we gathered the 6 maps and 6 oceans and uncovered them to see how each group did. That was a real crown pleaser. Here is a pic of a really well done map with its ocean floor (although it’s hard to ‘see’ the ocean floor).

Here is another. This one you can see a bit better.


I LOVED this activity. The kids were engaged for 2 full class periods in the final weeks of school, completed a meaningful activity, had a hands-on opportunity, worked together, and LEARNED something. They even THANKED ME! WOW! I cannot wait to do this again next year!

You can visit my TPT store for a free handout to accompany the activity.

Ocean Floor Mapping Handout: FREE DOWNLOAD