The sixth graders have been exploring the depths of the ocean. . . in shoeboxes!

During this innovative project, students start with a very concrete experience. The learn the names and features of the ocean's landscape. Then, using found items (ie--recycling) they re-create some of these features in a shoebox.

A seafloor model with features labeled

Next, the students make a grid and cover the top of the box. Then, they exchange boxes with a classmate for the rest of the assignment.

The grid covers the seafloor

Students use a measuring device (in this case, a pencil with centimeter marks) to determine the depth at each location. This helps them learn more the features they cannot see (just as oceanographers do). They record their findings in a graph.

The next step is to determine the formula for turning the measurements into a model of the seafloor in the box. Paper and pencil come first.

Scissors and paper first.

Next, students use Excel to create graphs of the sea floor. First they put the data into Excel and color code what they discovered in the shoeboxes.
Data sheet.

Then the data becomes a line graph:
3 D line graph

Finally, students create a 3 dimensional model of the interior of the shoebox (without peeking!) using advanced graphing features of Excel.

From concrete to abstract.

The steps help make an abstract process (sonar) more understandable to students.

The last step is to compare the 3D representation to the real thing! Students--how did you do?