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Deep sea exhibition projects

In Kragerø, a small city in the southern part of Norway, all 7th grade classes has been working with one week projects related to the MAR-ECO exhibition “Deeper than light”. 136 pupils participated.

 read Deep ocean fever, about the exhibition
~ download norwegian version of the school-project (pdf)

A visit to the exhibition was a part of the municipality’s cultural plan called “Perleraden”. The exhibition was held at the Aquagallery, and displayed photos by David Shale from the 2004 MAR-ECO expedition, scientific illustrations by Thorolv Rasmussen drawn during the RV Michael Sars expedition to the Atlantic Ocean in 1910, the MAR-ECO documentary “The ocean land” produced by the NRK and footages provided by MAR-ECO.

The school project, which was administered by Per-Erik Schulze at the Aquagallery in co-operation with Kragerø School Office, included preliminary work, suggested activities during the exhibition visit and follow-up activities. 

Five objectives of the day was listed:

  • Get to know the deep sea as habitat and be introduced to the mysterious diversity there.
  • Look into why deep sea creatures look so weird, and what this may tell us about what kinds of unique adaptations they make to this environment (cue: enormous mouth and fangs, various camouflage colours, either tiny or very large eyes, luminous fishing pole)
  • Get acquainted with some of the main groups of marine animals, their place in the food chain, and their most significant characteristics: plankton, fish, octopuses, jellyfish, and crawfish.
  • Be introduced to marine research and use of sketching and fantasy as important scientific methods.
  • Get inspiration to value the sea and aspire to explore it more closely.

They suggested the following criteria for achieved objectives:

  • Signs of wonder and enthusiasm in the group of pupils
  • Through discussion and supplementary work be able to understand the biological principle that there frequently is a link between an animal’s looks and the environment in which it lives.
  • Be able to name at least two important characteristics of deep sea environments, and give examples as to how specific animals have “fixed” this.

The school project

The school project was presented like this:

The major parts of the world’s surface area are oceans, and the majority of them are not a series of islands (skerries), but deep seas. Just outside Jomfruland the sea goes down as far as 500 metre, and further out in the Atlantic Ocean it takes several thousand metres to reach the bottom. What do we find here?  Can anything at all be living here? A lot of marine environments still remain hidden to us. In fact, you might say that the deep sea has been less explored than the moon has. For long our only knowledge of the deep sea has been that it is vast, dark, and cold, and that strange creatures live there – creatures we have barely seen – for example the giant squid. Last summer Norway headed a large expedition called Mar-Eco, which set out to explore this deep sea with the help of modern technology, like for example small submarines. The exhibition “Deeper than (the) Light” is a unique wandering exhibition which –with the aid of photographs, videos, films, and drawings - presents the findings of the expedition. Come along and dive into the deep sea where no man has ever has set foot.

Suggestions for preliminary work
Challenge the imagination and general knowledge! Ask yourselves the questions:

What does it look like out there in the deep sea? (Feel free to use the VØL-form as a learning strategy – see example below)

Use pictures and words when talking about a topic.

Topic/Discussion point
V ( Know) - I know this  
Ø (Wish)  -  I wish to learn more about 
L (Learnt) -  I learnt this

  • What kinds of animals do you believe, or do you know about that are living in the deep sea?
  • What do you wish to find out?

Background material

The Learning Zone on the MAR-ECO website (backgrounders)
Resources on the MAR-ECO website (images and video)

Suggested activities during the exhibition visit

  • Make your own quick pencil sketches of what you see on the images, the film, and the videos in order to remember it for later. They don’t have to share a likeness to what you have seen; just make a drawing of what you think is important to remember. (To scientists such quick drawings are important tools, and water scientists always use pencils to avoid spoiling their notes because of water splashes.)
  • While you’re viewing the exhibition and perhaps you’re also drawing, then write down and arrow strange features or characteristics of these animals which make them unlike other “ordinary” fishes and marine animals you’ve seen before.
  • Discuss in group work and plenum discussions what these animal features can tell us about what it is like to live in the deep sea. Use your imagination, because there’s not always a key to this. Imagine yourself as this animal and how you can use some of your “tools”, like for example luminous dots/points or an enormous mouth.

Marine biologists will be present as exhibition guides. They will assist by pinpointing things and discuss what this may mean. Explanatory texts accompany the exhibition.

  • Suggested follow-up activities
    Logic mathematical: Draw a depth section and indicate on it the various numbers of metres where deep sea animals live.
  • Spatial (visual):
    a) Create your own deep sea animals from the knowledge you now possess! Draw, use modelling clay, Plastilina or similar material. Make you own deep sea with strange-looking animals.
    b) Make a mobile of deep sea fantasy animals from paper mache and hang it up somewhere in the class room.
    c) Draw a cartoon with a storyline featuring deep sea animals (see example below)
  • Linguistic (verbal):
    Write the life history of a deep sea animal. Imagine that it’s dark, cold, and perhaps silent, and that it may take a couple of weeks between each time you spot something edible….
  • Interpersonal (social) and kinetic (body movement): Make a sketch, a small play, or similar, where various deep sea animals meet under, for example, somewhat special circumstances….. What if somebody turned out the light?
  • Musical: Find some music you think would be fitting to a play or compose your own – it’s fine if you use ORFF instruments, flute and others.
  • Visit the seafood shop on the wharf and see what the marine animals there have and have not, compared to deep sea animals.
  • Visit the MAR-ECO internet pages for schools and play your way through images, films, and other information shown/presented there. (The pages are in English, so you will need to use your English a bit in order to navigate through the pages).

One sheet of practice questions was given for the visit to the exhibition:

  1. What is the name of MAR-ECO’s research vessel?
  2.  What is the home port of the research vessel, and where did it go to on this cruise?
  3. How many different countries did the researchers on board come from? 
  4. What kind of equipment had they brought along onboard the vessel?
  5. Underline characteristics about the environment in the deep sea (the answers may be used as topics for conversation)
    Dark/Light, Warm/Cold,  Wet/Dry,  Quiet/Noisy,
    A lot of food/little food, Often/Frequently food/Rarely food Safe/Dangerous
    (Abundance of food/Scarcity of food)
  6. Name some strange bodily features of the animals in this exhibition
  7. What may these features be used for (discussion later)?
  8. Which of the animals in the exhibition do you believe eat other ones, and which are most frequently eaten?
  9. What senses do you think deep sea animals use the most? For example, how do they know where they are going, where they can find food, and how to avoid being eaten by the eerie predatory fish?
  10. What is bioluminescence (1) and what do the animals use it for?



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