} CAS: Teachers - Ocean Life Opposites

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Connected Experience: Ocean Life Opposites


In this lesson, students will compare and contrast the behavior and appearance of marine animals along the California coast, practicing their observational skills in the classroom and the Steinhart Aquarium.


In this lesson, students will:

  1. compare and contrast the behavior and appearance of marine animals along the California coast.
  2. practice observational skills in the classroom and the Steinhart Aquarium.


  • chalk board or dry erase board
  • visual aids of California Coast creatures.  Use photes we've compiled, or create your own. (Some ideas: Pacific Octopus, Hermit Crabs, Ochre Sea Stars
  • Ocean Life Opposites worksheet (1 per student)
  • Ocean Life Opposites scavenger hunt (1 per student)


  • opposite:  a word that expresses a meaning opposed to the meaning of another word
  • observe: to notice with care using all senses
  • intertidal zone: the area on the shoreline that is regularly exposed and submerged by water due to the movement of the tides


Before Your Visit


  1. Make copies of Ocean Life Opposites worksheet (one per student).
  2. Print out example pictures of animals.  Use attached examples, or create your own using online resources such as:


  1. Start the lesson by showing the students a map of California.  Use your finger to trace the border of the state to represent where the California coast is located.
  2. Explain to students that they will be visiting the California Academy of Sciences and viewing the California Coast tanks in the aquarium.  They will see many kinds of animals that live in the Pacific Ocean and in the rocky intertidal zone.
  3. Show students pictures of animals found along the California coast.
  4. Ask students if they can identify the animals.  Review the common names of the animals.
  5. Ask the students what else they notice about the picture.  Ask, “Is the animal in shallow or deep water?”
  6. Ask students, “Is it light or dark? Is it wet or dry?”
  7. Inform students that the descriptive words you are using are opposites. Go over some of the big differences between the words below. Make a table on the board and draw examples next to the words if possible.


















  8. Test the students’ understanding of opposites using visual aids of creatures inhabiting the California Coast.
  9. Show one picture to the students and ask, “Which pair of opposites does this picture represent?”
  10. Ask students, “How does this animal demonstrate the words on the board?” or “Which words on the board describe this animal?” (Example: One clam is open and one is closed.)
  11. Tell students they are going to practice making observations and circling the appropriate word that best describes the animal in the picture.
  12. Hand out one Ocean Life Opposites worksheet to each student and have them complete it in class.  Review the answers to prepare students for the field trip.

At the Academy


  1. Make copies of the scavenger hunt (one per student).
  2. Fold each paper into eighths and cut along the dotted line.
  3. Fold each paper in half after cutting and grab the two outside panels and push them together to make an X.
  4. Fold the pages together to make a booklet for each student.
  5. Staple the binding of each journal to secure it.


  1. Hand out one scavenger hunt and one pencil to each student.
  2. Inform students they will use their observation skills again, but this time they will be studying live animals at the California Academy of Sciences.
  3. Ask students to find each organism in their journal, and circle the word that best describes what each is doing.
  4. Students will need to record all observations in their journals such as color, size, behavior, etc.

Back at School


Discuss the data that the students collected while they were on their field trip to the California Academy of Sciences.  Ask the following questions and encourage students to explain how the observations they made might relate to what the animal needs to survive, such as food, water, or a home:

  • Where was the Pacific Octopus in her tank? ( was she in a crevice,  which serves as a nice, safe home during the day?/ was she out and about, maybe looking for food?)
  • What fish is the opposite size of the giant sea bass? (the giant sea bass is big, so maybe it eats smaller fish / the blue rockfish is small, so maybe it eats snails or worms or tiny fish)
  • Where were the moon jellies in the tank? (the moon jellies were high, because they float around in the ocean / the sea anemones were low, because they are stuck to rocks and don’t swim)

California Content Standards


Life Sciences

  • 2a. Students know how to observe and describe similarities and differences in the appearance and behavior of plants and animals.
  • 2c. Students know how to identify major structures of common plants and animals.

Grade One

Life Sciences

  • 3a. Students know different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments and have external features that help them thrive in difference kinds of places.
  • 3b. Students know both plants and animals need water, animals need food, and plants need light.
  • 3c. Students know animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants or even other animals for shelter and nesting.

 Investigation and Experimentation

  • 4a. Draw pictures that portray some features of the thing being described.





The power of observation is an important skill. Scientists often use journals to record observations they make about an organism’s characteristics such as color, size, and behavior. When observing animals in their natural habitat, notations may have to be made quickly before they swim, fly, or run away. Fortunately, aquariums provide the opportunity to view aquatic life for longer periods of time. Animals can still hide in their aquarium habitats but there are more chances to see them up close.

Looking for opposite characteristics or behaviors can be a fun exploration for children and a way to enhance their powers of observation. In nature or the aquarium, we can search for opposites in the physical characteristics and behaviors of many animals. For example, the Pacific Octopus may hide in crevices between rocks during the day, but be out at night hunting for food.


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