Ideas for Joyful Learning During School Closures: Catch a Wave, From the Couch

While the majority of beaches in the state are closed to encourage social distancing, there are still ways to appreciate the big blue sea from afar.

At-Home Learning: PBS SoCal and KCET, in partnership with LAUSD and in collaboration with California PBS stations, are offering broadcast programming with digital resources that adhere to California’s state curriculum. Download this week’s schedule.

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Oceans are awe-inspiring, mysterious places. California’s coastline is vast — spanning 840 miles — and, the ocean is an integral part of the state’s history, culture, and economy. There is so much to learn about the ocean: the wildlife that lives within it, the science behind tides, and the importance of protecting the ocean from the impacts of climate change. While the majority of beaches in the state are closed to encourage social distancing, there are still ways to appreciate the big blue sea from afar. The education team at PBS SoCal and KCET compiled some activities so that you and your family can dive into learning about the ocean!

Birds fly over an empty Santa Monica beach, with the Santa Monica Pier in the background, as parks and beaches are off-limits to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

By the way, this week is teacher appreciation week! Teachers everywhere are going above and beyond to make sure students have the resources and support they need to continue their education at home. Encourage your kids to thank their teachers this week — either in a digital thank-you note or to say thank you next time they “step into” their virtual classroom.

Ideas for Early Learners (Pre-K–3rd grade)


Converts an upcycled water bottle into a bottle fish. |

Practice upcycling by creating colorful Bubble Bottle Fish using materials that are commonly discarded into the ocean like water bottles and bubble wrap. Talk about what happens when plastic gets discarded into the ocean.

  • How does that impact the ocean creatures and plant life?
  • How does it impact the beaches?

Make an Upcycled Jellyfish with a plastic grocery bag, plastic water bottle and blue food coloring. See your jellyfish’s tentacles swaying in the deep blue sea! Talk about why using a plastic bag for this activity is a great replica of a jellyfish.

  • How are they similar to each other?
  • Might a sea turtle become easily fooled into thinking a plastic bag floating in the ocean was a delicious jellyfish?
  • Why is it so important for us to recycle our plastic bags?

Many ocean creatures, such as lantern fish and mauve stingers, have the ability to make their own light, which makes it look like they are glowing. This self-created light helps them see in the dark and camouflage against predators. Make bioluminescent water out of just a jar of water and a highlighter! After you turn off the lights and look at your glowing water, talk about why the ability to glow is useful for fish.


Did you know that coral reefs are actually alive and covered with living organisms called coral? And did you know that it is incredibly sensitive to ocean and weather conditions? Learn about Coral Bleaching with this interactive tool from NASA Climate Kids. See what happens to coral reefs during a storm and when you adjust the temperature of the ocean and its water pollution levels.

Protect Loggerhead turtles by helping them get back to their nests in this fun game from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration that allows you to see how people and animals affect each other.


Check out this reading list by PBS KIDS for Parents of 15 picture books to ignite your child’s curiosity about life under the sea.

We highly recommend reading “The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen.” With some help from his friends, the Pout-Pout fish realizes that being glum and spreading the “dreary-wearies” doesn’t have to be his destiny. This cute and colorful board book is perfect for early readers and a great way to talk about emotions.


Take a virtual deep dive underwater and explore one of the richest marine environments in the world through the Channel Islands Live Ocean Webcam. Watch the beautiful green and amber kelp sway in the ocean and if you stay awhile you may even see a fish or two!

Watch’s live Channel Islands webcam. Can you spot a fish or two between the kelp?

Explore your favorite wildlife exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific right from home. Live webcam footage allows you to see what the penguins, sharks, and other sea life are up to in their homes.

Explore the world’s undersea habitats and learn about the diversity of ocean life when you watch “Splash and Bubbles” anytime on PBS KIDS online.

Ideas for Older Children (4th Grade-12th Grade)


Did you know that there’s an underwater forest off the coast of California? A kelp forest, that is! Kelp forests are home to thousands of species but they are important ecosystems that are now in danger. Create your own digital kelp forest and learn how to protect it in this game from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Five ocean zones in a jar. |

The entire ocean doesn’t look the same. It is divided into layers receiving different amounts of light and each layer hosts its own wildlife that thrives in those conditions. Replicate the Ocean Zones in a Jar, using materials that can be found around the house! Brush up on the different ocean zones using this article.


In addition to the awesome webcams at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts its own webcams. One of our favorites? The Sea Otter Cam — tune in at 1:30 PDT every weekday to watch a feeding. You can even discover which of the otters in the exhibit is most like you by taking this Otter Personality Quiz.

  • Why are we such otter fans? Well, the #1 reason is that they’re adorable. But, otters are also a keystone species, meaning that an entire ecosystem (the aforementioned kelp forests) can topple if they aren’t protected. Find out more about the incredible story of sea otter conservation in this episode from the PBS Digital Studios series “It’s Okay to Be Smart!”

Learn about sea otter conservation in this episode from the PBS Digital Studios series “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

Have you ever seen a Piglet Squid? We haven’t either! Explore the deep ocean on a Nautilus Live expedition! Virtually explore the ocean floor with researchers and educators by browsing Nautilus’ archives of expeditions around the world.

  • Your kids can also explore all the careers that make Nautilus’ research ships run smoothly!


Learn about cool ocean creatures in this “It’s Okay to Be Smart” video playlist all about the big blue ocean!

For the budding physicists out there, check out this Crash Course video on astronomy that explains how ocean tides work.

California coastal ecosystems are under threat. In this episode of the KCET Original series “Tending Nature,” your kids will learn about ocean toxification and how the Tolowa Dee-ni’ are working with the state to redefine how humans manage marine protected areas.

Learn about California coastal ecosystems in “Tending Nature.

Dive into the PBS series “Big Pacific” to discover the wonders that lie beneath California’s western neighbor. You can watch the series on Passport or stream on PBS LearningMedia.

More Resources

The “Above the Noise” team tackled misinformation in this week’s episode in their COVID-19 series. A great watch for your teens who are getting their news on social media. Looking for other media literacy resources? Check out our article about consuming news in uncertain times for more resources.

If these weekly guides are sparking your child’s interest in wildlife, check out this article full of tips on how kids can become community scientists!

We want to hear from you!

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