These selected lessons were developed by scientists and educators to demonstrate key concepts related to seamounts. For more lessons, search the full lesson archive.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards  (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts . Note: The links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, may change or become obsolete.

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5-8 9-12

Grades 5-8

Student Investigation: Formation of Seamounts and Island Chains

Focus: Volcanoes may either never be active enough to break the surface of the ocean or be sufficiently active to break the surface and form an island. The island may also be so heavy that it eventually sinks and forms a seamount. Thousands of these seamounts have been discovered and studied worldwide to help provide evidence of past and current tectonic processes. In this investigation, students analyze Hawaiian and Alaskan seamount/island chain maps and data tables, plus a demonstration to develop an explanation to the phenomenon: How do seamounts and island chains form in the middle of the ocean?

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Mapping Deep Sea Features (pdf, 271 KB)

Focus: Bathymetric mapping of deep-sea habitats (Earth Science)

Students will create a two-dimensional contour map from actual bathymetric survey data. Students will create a three-dimensional model of the landform on the underwater contour map they created.

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Easy as Pi (pdf, 293 KB)

Focus: Structural complexity in benthic habitats (Life Science/Mathematics)

Students will be able to describe the importance of structural features that increase surface area in benthic habitats. Students will be able to quantify the relative impact of various structural modifications on surface area in model habitats. Students will be able to give examples of organisms that increase the structural complexity of their communities.

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Leaving Home (pdf, 263 KB)

Focus: Dispersal of benthic invertebrate larvae (Life Science)

Students will be able to explain the meaning of "larval dispersal" and "larval retention." Students will be able to explain the importance of larval dispersal and larval retention to populations of organisms in the marine environment. Given data on recruitment of organisms to artificial substrates, students will be able to draw inferences about larval dispersal in these species.

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Big Fleas have Little Fleas (pdf, 336 KB)

Focus:Physical structure in benthic habitats (Life Science)

Students will recognize that natural structures and systems often display recurrent complexity over many scales of measurement. Students will be able to infer the importance of structural complexity to species diversity and abundance in benthic habitats. Students will be able to discuss ways that octocorals may modify seamount habitats to make these habitats more suitable for other species. Students create a Sierpinski Triangle.

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Grades 9-12

Student Investigation: Seamounts and Biological Productivity

Focus: Students analyze data and use models to make sense of the role seamounts have in increasing productivity in overlying and surrounding ocean waters.

Seamounts represent some of Earth’s tallest peaks, unexplored territories, and critical habitats supporting important fisheries across the globe. Students will apply the phenomenon of upwelling and currents to determine why many seamounts sustain diverse ecological communities and support surprising levels of biological productivity in nearby waters. Students analyze data and various models to evaluate how well they represent patterns of ocean currents around seamounts and determine the effects these current flows have on productivity.

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Round and Round (pdf, 290 KB)

Focus: Circulation cells in the vicinity of seamounts (Earth Science)

Students will be able to interpret data from a three-dimensional array of current monitors to infer an overall pattern of water circulation. Students will be able to hypothesize what effect an observed water circulation pattern might have on seamount fauna that reproduce by means of floating larvae. Students will be able to describe the importance of measurements to verify theoretical predictions. Students create current models.

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Watching in 3-D

Focus: Multibeam sonar/Bathymetric Mapping (Earth Science, Technology)

Students explore specific sea floor discoveries (case studies) using step-by-step tool guides for the Ocean Exploration Digital Atlas (a searchable, interactive expedition data map) and authentic interactive mapping data visualization software.

Case studies included in this package:

  1. Exploring an Underwater Volcano (pdf, 2.0 MB)
  2. Exploring Cold Seeps (pdf, 2.2 MB)
  3. Exploring a Northeast U.S. Seamount (pdf, 1.9 MB)
  4. Exploring a Hotspot Volcano (pdf, 1.8 MB)


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Observando en 3D (PDF, 415 KB)

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting seamounts on our website.

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