Secular Homeschool Marine Biology

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This past school year we have been learning all about marine biology.  My kids are going through a phase where they are fascinated by aquatic animals, so I figured a homeschool marine biology curriculum would be a great way to capitalize on their interests.

I spent much of last spring and early summer searching for a secular homeschool marine biology curriculum to purchase.  I was shocked that I couldn’t find anything!

My family is Lutheran, but we generally prefer to use secular curricula.  It is just our personal preference.  There is really a lack of homeschool secular science above the elementary school years though.

I really wanted to capitalize on my kids’ interest in narwhals and sharks, so I decided to create my own homeschool marine biology curriculum.

Secular Homeschool Marine Biology Curriculum Resources

engaging marine biology curriculum written above a child studying shells
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Table of Contents

I created this homeschool marine biology curriculum the same way I create unit studies – by combining books, videos, activities, and field trips.   

At the bottom of this post, I will share how I organized it all into one cohesive homeschool marine biology curriculum.

Secular Marine Biology Textbook

We used Marine Biology: An Introduction to Ocean Ecosystems by Amy Sauter Hill as the spine of our curriculum.  I purchased the student book, teacher’s guide, and lab manual.

Student book – This serves as the textbook.  Students read the chapters and answer the questions.  I like to teach science to both of my kids at the same time, so I read the chapters aloud.  The questions served as our discussion topics.

Teacher’s guide – Each chapter of the teacher’s guide provides the main topic, answers to the student book questions, and a related lab activity.

This book is intended for grades 9 – 12, but it felt a bit light to me.  My kids were in 5th and 8th grades this year and it was perfect. There are only 130 pages in the student book and some chapters only contain a few pages. 

That is okay though.  It is easy enough to supplement with additional materials to bulk up the lessons.

Lab manual – Each chapter is accompanied by a related lab activity. This is the same lab activity mentioned in the teacher’s guide, but the lab manual gives more detailed directions.

The student book was a really helpful spine to our curriculum, but the teacher’s guide and lab manuals were not very useful.  I read the chapters with my kids so I already knew the answers to the questions. 

The lab activities were really impractical.  I and I suspect most people, do not have easy access to sand from multiple beaches, kelp recently washed ashore, a hydrometer, or a sample of bio-luminescent dinoflagellate. 

I also don’t want to buy a pet goldfish so that we could “Observe a fish’s response to wave action in a simulated rocky-shore environment.”  No, thank you.

Supplemental Homeschool Marine Biology Book

The Marine Biology Coloring Book was the perfect book to supplement our homeschool marine biology curriculum. 

This isn’t just a regular coloring book.  It is a scientific coloring book.  Each page has a detailed and labeled picture for students to color.  The opposite page is full of information about the topic. 

We skipped around a bit, but it correlated nicely with our marine biology spine.  We used this book every single week.

There are so many wonderful books available on every marine biology topic.  Every week I would request a few books from our library that matched up with our area of study.

Marine Biology Videos

We watched a lot of nature documentaries on Netflix over the course of the year.  Being able to see videos of marine life in the wild really helped keep interest levels high throughout the entire year.

  • Blue Planet
  • Blue Planet II
  • Life in the Blue
  • Chasing Coral
  • Mission Blue
  • Frozen Planet
  • A Plastic Ocean

Homeschool Marine Biology Activities

The easiest way to find marine biology activities that can be done at home is to search on Pinterest.  Just type your topic into the search bar and see what comes up. 

Don’t be afraid to use hands-on activities and crafts with older kids.  They love this stuff too!

When in doubt, have your student draw what they learned.  Switch up the materials every once in a while to keep it interesting. 

One time we even used icing to draw the ocean floor on a pan of gluten-free brownies!

These brownies have been decorated and labeled with the parts of the ocean floor as part of our homeschool marine biology curriculum.

I have linked our favorite activities below in the marine biology curriculum outline.

Marine Biology Field Trips

The marine biology field trips available to you will depend on where you live.  We live in the Raleigh, NC area – about 2 hours from the coast. We are lucky to have a plethora of relevant field trips within an easy day trip drive.

Before you leave home be sure to check the location website for a visitor guide or scavenger hunt.  Print out this free aquarium scavenger hunt and bring it with you.

Any museum with an aquatic exhibit – the NC Science Museum in downtown Raleigh has several whale skeletons and exhibits.

Aquarium – North Carolina homeschoolers, you can visit the aquarium once each year for FREE! Don’t worry if you do not live near an aquarium.  There are online aquarium webcams that you can check out right from your home:

Related: 17 Free Virtual Aquarium Tour Ideas

Beach – If you are planning to look for shells, make sure you bring this shell identification guide.  It is the perfect size for slipping in a beach bag and is laminated to protect it from the water and sand.

We took a field trip to the beach in order to collect and sort sea shells.

Homeschool Marine Biology Curriculum Outline

This is the marine biology homeschool curriculum outline I created and used with my own children.  One of the key benefits of homeschooling is being able to adapt any curriculum to the needs and interests of our own children. 

Don’t be afraid to add or subtract resources to make this a customized plan for your students.

I.  Chapter 1: The Living Sea

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 1 Ocean Currents and Global Weather
  •  Coloring page: 3 Tides
  •  Activities – Create a diagram of the ocean floor – Enourage your kids to research a diagram of the ocean floor and then draw it. My kids loved drawing the ocean floor with icing on a pan of brownies. They always pay extra attention when food is involved!
  • Explore ocean salinity and density

II.  Chapter 2: Coral Reefs

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 12 Types of Coral Reefs
  • Coloring page: 13 Coral Reef Residents
  • Coloring page: 22 Sponge Morphology
  • Coloring page: 47 Coral Reef Fish
  • Watch Blue Planet episode: Coral (Netflix)
  • Activities – Coral reef lapbook

III.  Chapter 3:  Islands

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Watch Galapagos: episode 1 (Netflix)

IV.  Chapter 4: Estuaries 

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 30 Bivalves
  • Coloring page:  26 Innkeeper Worm
  • Coloring page:  37 Crabs
  • Coloring page: 83 Crab Life Cycle and Reproduction
  • Observe and dissect: oysters, clams, and crabs
  • Draw the 4 estuarine communities on a piece of paper folded into 4 sections

V.  Chapter 5: Shallow Bays, Lagoons, and Inland Waterways 

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 53 Sea Snakes 

VI.  Chapter 6: Sub-tidal Soft Bottoms

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 10 Sub-tidal Soft Bottoms
  • Coloring page:  39 Sea Star Structure

VII.  Chapter 7: Sandy Beaches

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page:  9 Sandy Beach
  • Coloring page:  53 Turtle
  • Coloring page:  56 Shore Birds
  • Research sea turtle conservancy

VIII.  Chapter 8: Rocky Shores

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 5 Rocky Shores
  • Coloring page:  29 Interior of a Shell
  • Coloring page:  31 Shelled Gastropods
  • Coloring page:  59 Marine Mammals
  • Coloring page:  60 Pinnipeds
  • Dissolve a sea shell

IX.  Chapter 9 Tide Pools

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 6 Tide Pools
  • Coloring page: 20 Green Algae
secular marine biology curriculum written between a book with shells and ocean floor brownies

X.  Chapter 10: Kelp Forests

XI.  Chapter 11: Open Ocean

  • Read the chapter and answer questions
  • Coloring page: 14 Photic Zone
  • Coloring page:  19 Plankton
  • Coloring page:  43 Fish Morphology
  • Coloring page:  44 Locomotion
  • Coloring page:  45 Pelagic Fish
  • Coloring page:  51 Sharks
  • Coloring page:  52 Rays and Relatives
  • Coloring page:  58 Oceanic Birds
  • Coloring page:  61 Whales and Echolocation
  • Coloring page:  62 Baleen Whales
  • Watch Blue Planet – the Open (Netflix)
  • Shark oil buoyancy experiment

XII.  Chapter 12: The Abyss

  • Read the chapter and answer the questions
  • Coloring page: 69 Bio-luminescence
  • Coloring page:  70 Bio-luminescence
  • Watch Blue Planet – the Deep (Netflix)

XIII.  Chapter 13: Polar Seas

XIV.  Chapter 14: Environmental Ethics

XV.  Career Exploration – Marine Biologist

Have you ever studied a homeschool marine biology curriculum with your students?  I would love to hear about your favorite activities and field trips!

Share this post with anyone looking for a secular homeschool marine biology curriculum.

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    1. It does not. The Teacher’s Guide only has discussion/comprehension questions and lab activities. It doesn’t give the answers to the questions, but does say where to find them in the student text.

  1. This is wonderful! I have been searching for a conprehensive marine biology curriculum! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hello,

    I would LOVE to read/learn more about the major difference in secular vs creation marine biology course materials. Although catholic, I have always preferred secular science as well BUT am considering a Apologia
    Educational Ministries Marine Bio class for my daughter because I heard great things about the teacher. My child is in 8th grade and this course is a HS course. I want to be sure that she is not missing on instruction that will cause holes later when I get her back into a public HS in 2021-22 school year. Thank you for you help!!!

    1. Hi!
      I’m not really sure of the differences between the secular curriculum I used and the Apologia Marine Biology class. My local homeschool bookstore didn’t have it in stock when I was looking so I couldn’t compare. If my kids were planning to take a creation-based science class with a teacher, I would probably reach out and ask his or her thoughts on the differences. Sometimes teachers choose curriculums because they think it is the best, they have used it for years and are comfortable with it, or because it isn’t easy to find high school level secular science curriculum. I bet the teacher will be able to show you the scope and sequence for the course to help you decide if it is a good fit. Take care!

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