Lesson Series
Climate Change and Our Oceans

Climate Change and Our Oceans

Unit Overview

Through readings, activities and discussions, students learn about climate change and the oceans. A whale watching trip opens Luna’s eyes to the effects of climate change on gray whales. That weekend, she and her friends visit the local aquarium to tour a special exhibit on climate change. They learn about the threats to marine life due to rising ocean temperatures and acidification as well as their impacts on human beings. Wanting to do something to help save the ocean, they join a beach clean-up and pledge to do their part in keeping our oceans healthy and thriving.  


  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5

Lesson Type

In-class or online lesson

Environmental Topics

Green Guardianship, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Ecosystems, Pollution, Resource Conservation, Sustainable Human Development, Waste Management

Environmental Literacy Core Principles

For a summary of the environmental literacy principles and concepts embedded in this lesson series, please visit Green Guardians Environmental Literacy Core Principles.


ELA: RL.3.1 RL.3.4 RL.3.7 RI.3.1 I.3.2 RI.3.3 RI.3.4 RI.3.5 RI.3.7 RI.3.8 W.3.1 W.3.3 W.3.4 SL.3.1 SL.3.2 SL.3.3 RL.4.1 RL.4.2 RL.4.3 RL.4.4 RL.4.7 RI.4.1 RI.4.2 RI.4.4 RI.4.5 RI.4.8 RI.4.9 W.4.1 W.4.3 W.4.4 SL.4.1 SL.4.2 SL.4.3 RL.5.1 RL.5.2 RL.5.4 RL.5.7 RI.5.1 RI.5.2 RI.5.4 RI.5.5 RI.5.9 W.5.1 W.5.3 W.5.4 SL.5.1 SL.5.2 SL.5.3
History Social-Science: HSS-3.4.2 HSS-4.1 HSS-4.1.3
Science: 3-LS3-2 3-LS4-4 4-LS1-1


Teacher Guide

This project may easily be extended into optional family discussions and activities around climate change and its effects on the ocean. To facilitate this engagement, a family guide (in English and Spanish) has been created which teachers may choose to forward to interested parents and guardians. 

Family Guide (English)


Four lessons of 40-60 minutes each.

Lesson 1: Whale Watching

Through a story and related activities, students follow Luna on her whale watching trip. As a gray whale appears to everyone’s delight, Beth, the marine biologist, explains how and why this specimen is malnourished due to changes in its ecosystem because of climate change and that gray whales and other marine species are suffering.

Lesson 2: At the Aquarium

The story continues as Luna shares her whale watching experience with her friends. They wonder what other effects global warming is having on marine life and decide to visit a special exhibit, “Climate Change and Our Oceans”, at the local aquarium. They learn about how warming ocean temperatures as well as ocean acidification are affecting marine animals, causing massive biodiversity loss.

Lesson Materials

Lesson 3: The Ocean and You  

In the third lesson, the children turn their attention to the impacts of climate change on the coastal communities. Luna and her friends learn about how the vulnerable areas in California will be affected by sea level rise in 2030, 2050 and 2100 if little or no action is taken to slow or stop the pace of global warming.  

Lesson Materials

Lesson 4: A Beach Clean-up

In this lesson, Luna and her friends decide to volunteer at a beach clean-up. They collect and record different types of trash on the beach and learn about the effects of plastic pollution on the ocean and coastal and marine animals. Determined to keep the ocean healthy, Luna pledges not only to minimize her carbon footprint but also to reduce the amount of plastics she uses. 

Lesson Materials

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