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Make Your Own Ocean Current

7/10/18

Make Your Own Ocean Current

By Olivia Poindexter, Early Childhood Intern

When we want to get somewhere quickly, we drive on a highway so we can go faster for longer stretches of time. Sometimes, ocean animals like sea turtles need to get somewhere fast too, but how? They use swift ocean currents to move around the waterways as quickly as possible for necessary migrations. This experiment will help you explore just what an ocean current is, how they form, and how they move through the different oceans as you create your very own ocean current!

Materials

  • Cold Water
  • Boiling Water
  • Ice
  • Blue and Red Food Coloring
  • Large, Clear Baking Dish

Activity

First things first, you need to create your “ocean!” Pour cold water into your clear baking dish until it is 1/3 full. Put 2 drops of blue food coloring and 1-2 cups of ice into your cold water. Mix this all together until the ice melts a little. This ensures that the water is VERY cold which will help create your currents later. While you wait, with the help of a parent, boil about 4 cups of water. When the water is boiled, add 5 drops of red food coloring to the boiling water and mix. Now for the science magic! Have your parent gently pour the boiling water into the corner of the baking dish and watch as your little ocean suddenly forms moving currents. Eventually the water will turn purple and lukewarm, which is exactly what happens in the ocean!

The Science

Ocean currents are like a HUGE river in an ocean, flowing from one place to another. One of the things that create ocean currents is the different temperatures that are in the ocean. Currents are an important part of ocean ecosystems! They help disperse water and give animals an easier (and faster) way to migrate, or move, across the ocean. Fun fact: The leatherback sea turtle migrates close to 10,000 miles across the ocean using currents!

Further Exploration

  • Why do you think the hot water behaves like that when poured into the cold water?
  • Try the reverse! Have a parent pour the boiling water first and then immediately follow with the cold water. Did the effect change at all? Why?
  • How do you think currents help animals like sea turtles migrate? Can you think of more animals that use currents to travel around the world?

What Next?

  • Come to the Adventure Science Center all July as we DIVE IN to marine biology with FINtastic science and aquatic activities!
  • Check out this super fun clip from the movie “Finding Nemo” that shows sea turtles moving through the East Australian Current!
  • Check out this video from The National Ocean Service to learn about different types of currents!
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