Lesson 5: Waves and Currents

Getting Started

Today you are going to learn about motion in the ocean. Have you ever wondered why there are waves at the beach and why the waves are higher at some times of day than at others?

Stuff You Need

  • Oceans for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave
  • colored pencils or markers
  • drinking straw (kit)
  • large rectangular, glass baking dish
  • scissors
  • tap water
  • unsharpened pencil (kit)
  • watch or timer* (Activity 1 - optional)

* - denotes an optional material that may or may not be needed

Ideas to Think About

  • How are the lives of living things impacted by the ocean?

Things to Know

  • Water waves are caused by energy passing through water that makes the water rise and fall.
  • Currents move water and objects across the ocean.


  • Recognize that the geography of water and land impacts living things. (SS)
  • Locate geographical places on a map. (SS)
  • Recognize that waves are a form of energy. (S)

Introducing the Lesson

Tell your child that today he will study the motion of the ocean. If your family has been to the beach, discuss what the waves were like.
Reading and Questions
Materials: Oceans for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave
Read pages 77-79 in Oceans for Every Kid. Answer these questions.
  1. What is a water wave?
    A water wave is a disturbance on the surface of the water that repeats. The water moves up and down but not forward and back.
  2. Why do waves break on the shore?
    When a wave passes through shallow water, the lower portion rubs against the ground and slows down. The top of the wave keeps going and topples over.
  3. How are the biggest waves (tsunamis) started?
    By underwater volcanoes, landslides, or earthquakes.