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Ocean Layers/Zones STEM & More

Along with the worksheet pack download below, I have provided a downloadable copy of all of the info you’ll read so you can view and/or print the info quickly or have a copy on hand if you prefer that way, personally, I do. We have been very excited to do this one! The kid is currently obsessed with the deep sea, and this project gave us a great opportunity to look into that amazing world a bit more. I included plenty of photos of our ocean layers jar for reference!

Like our planet earth, the ocean has layers too! Have you ever wished you could see them without going scuba diving or up close beside one another? Well, with this activity you can! Learn about the layers of the ocean right at home with this liquid density tower experiment! We love ocean activities and experiments! Ready? Let’s dive in!

This ocean themed experiment allows you to explore two different concepts by combining kitchen science (liquid density tower) and biome investigation (marine biome) in one simple, fun activity!  

Questions to ask with this experiment:

  • How many ocean layers/zones are there?
  • What are the different layers/zones of the ocean?
  • Why don’t different liquids mix?

Bonus questions to explore as well:

  • What is the deepest part of the ocean?
  • What sea creatures live in each layer/zone?
  • What else might you find in each layer/zone that isn’t typically found in the others?

Let’s explore and get our answers!

Some good to know info before diving in….

Ocean Layers/Zones:

The ocean is a type of marine biome and the levels of the ocean represent how much sunlight each layer/zone receives. The amount of light dictates what lives in what layer/zone!

There are actually 2 major layers/zones of the ocean that are further divided into the 5 ocean layers/zones we’ll be looking at in our ocean science activity. The 2 major ocean areas are the ocean floor (also known as the benthic layer/zone) and the ocean water (known as the pelagic layer/zone). The 5 ocean layers/zones are the trench, abyss, midnight, twilight, and sunlight. The top three layers/zones, sunlight, twilight, and midnight layers/zones, make up the pelagic layer/zone. The abyss and trench layers/zones are found in the benthic layer/zone.

Liquid Density Tower:

A liquid density tower deals with liquid matter (matter also includes solids and gasses). All matter has different densities, meaning some are heavier and some are lighter, this includes liquids. It’s hard to imagine that different liquids have different weights, but they do!

Liquids are made up of different numbers of atoms and molecules like solids. In some liquids, atoms and molecules are packed together more tightly, resulting in a denser/heavier liquid like corn syrup.

So why don’t these liquids mix with one another? Because they are not the same density, giving us the separation needed to form the awesome looking layers in the jar so we can explore the ocean at home!

Materials needed:

A large jar, typically glass. Mason jars work well.

Vegetable Oil

Dawn dish soap

Light corn syrup

Water

Rubbing Alcohol

5 paper cups

5 plastic spoons

Black, blue and dark blue food coloring

Black food coloring can be hard to find in stores but you can make it from the primary colors by mixing 2 parts blue food coloring, 5 parts green, and 3 parts red. To darken the blue simply mix 3 blue drops, 2 green, and 2 red.

Test by dipping paper towel into mixed color, if it isn’t dark enough you may need to even out colors by carefully adding 1 small drop of each color and testing color after each drop. You can mix your colors directly into your liquids or separately then add once you’re happy with the color.

Ready? OK! Let’s get started! The first thing you need to do is….

Coloring And Mixing Layers: Make sure to mix everything very carefully. The 3/4 cup is a recommended amount, it’s the average amount most people use. For ours we measured out each layer to scale as best we could to show the sizes of each in comparison. The coloring is also open for interpretation. I have seen it done many ways. I let the kid choose the coloring 100%. If the kiddo wanted we would have a rainbow ocean layer bottle. 😂

1. Trench layer: Measure 3/4 cup of corn syrup, mix with black food coloring and pour into your mason jar.

2. Abyss layer: Abyss layer: Measure 3/4 cup of dish soap and slowly pour into your mason jar on top of the corn syrup. Coloring is optional, deep purple or deep blue is recommended if you choose to color.

3. Midnight layer: Measure 3/4 cup of water, mix with dark blue (deep green also works) food coloring and carefully pour into your mason jar on top of the dish soap.

4. Twilight layer: Measure 3/4 cup of oil and pour your mason jar on top of the water.

5. Sunlight layer: Measure 3/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, mix with light blue or no food coloring and pour into your mason jar on top of the oil layer.

There are a few photos of how ours turned out below. Personally, I would have left the to layer clear, but as I said the color scheme was left up to the kid, it wasn’t my project after all. I think it’s very important to let your children have as much input and control over these type of things as possible. Air bubbles rising made a very cool lava lamp like effect until the layers settled, the kiddo thought that was pretty cool to watch!

Helpful Tips/Suggestions:

If this seems a little too complicated with all the different layers for your group of kids, try it with fewer layers! You can also do the 3 basic areas of the ocean – the surface ocean, the deep ocean, and an in-between layer!

OR

You can also make your jar with just two areas using dark blue water and oil! Maybe even add sand and shells to spruce it up a bit, have fun with it!

Below are the answers to the suggested questions to asked above.

How many ocean layers/zones are there? 

2 main areas separated into 5 zones.

What are the different layers/zones of the ocean? 

The 2 major ocean areas are the ocean floor (also known as the benthic layer/zone) and the ocean water (known as the pelagic layer/zone). The 5 ocean layers/zones are the trench, abyss, midnight, twilight, and sunlight. The top three layers include sunlight, twilight, and midnight zones, they make up the pelagic layer/zone. The abyss and trench layers/zones are found in the benthic layer/zone. Scroll down to read more about the layers/zones and what you can find in each.

Why don’t different liquids mix?

Because they are not the same density, giving us the separation needed to form the awesome looking layers in the jar so we can explore the ocean at home!

What is the deepest part of the ocean? 

The deepest part of the ocean is the Challenger Deep. It’s located beneath the western Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Mariana Trench. Challenger Deep is approximately 36,200 feet deep. It’s depth is difficult to measure from the surface, but modern estimates vary by less than 1,000 feet (305 meters).

What sea creatures live in each layer? 

To answer this question read the information provided by clicking HERE, searching the internet, or using any other resources at your disposal.

What else might you find in each layer that isn’t typically found in the others? 

To answer this question read the information provided by clicking HERE, searching the internet, or using any other resources at your disposal.

We also made mini vials (found at the dollar store near us) filled with colored liquids of the layers/zones, photo below. We will be using them in an art project this weekend! Check back next week to see what it is!

This pack includes detailed info on each layer. Fun facts, what lives in each, etc as well as worksheets to go with the reading materials! More packs HERE!
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I greatly appreciate everyone’s support! I honestly do work hard on all of this, so I am so happy it’s helped so many people! If you like what I’m doing here please continue the support and spread the word, pay it forward, help me reach as many people as possible so they to can enjoy and benefit from the FREE downloads and other things I offer every week! Thank you for following me on this crazy, but still incredibly wonderful journey! I hope you get something out of this, big or small.

Keep learning! Keep teaching! Be happy! Enjoy!

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