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STEM Activity: Twilight Zone

STEM Activities

Design the ultimate fish to survive in this fascinating zone of the ocean. Then, create an innovative collecting device to bring living sea creatures back to the lab!

Materials Needed

  • Bucket (or container or pool)
  • Design materials (e.g., plastic wrap, straws, wax paper, etc.)
  • Drawing utensils (e.g., crayons, markers, pencils)
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape

At-Home Instructions

  1. Go online or take a trip to your local library and research fish and other marine life that live in the ocean’s twilight zone.
  2. Gather sketching materials and mix and match some of the creatures’ features and characteristics to make the ultimate marine animal to survive in these deep, fascinating waters.
  3. Next, imagine you are trying to catch one of these fish or creatures in order to research it at the local marine laboratory.
  4. Design and make a prototype of a device that can safely bring living species back to the surface and into the lab. Don’t forget that the change in pressure from deep water to the surface can be problematic for marine life. You will have to invent a solution!
  5. Explore various materials for your device and choose the best one(s) to make it waterproof.
  6. Test the device in a container, bucket or wading pool. Play this track for greater immersion while testing.
  7. Finally, research how other innovators are tackling this challenge of safely bringing marine life samples up from the twilight zone to study them.

Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications

Explore fish anatomy by printing out images of animals from the ocean’s twilight zone. Have a discussion about what seems similar and what seems different between the various species. Have children sculpt models of their fantasy twilight zone creatures, place them in a wading pool, and take turns trying to safely retrieve them from the pool using their marine-catching device prototypes. When all the creatures are retrieved, place them on the shelf in the “lab”!

What are we learning?

We have made many ocean discoveries thanks to the development of technology such as the Aqua Lung, invented by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan. The ocean twilight zone, a transition zone between the sunlight and midnight zones, however, is too deep for regular SCUBA gear. Since submarines tend to research deeper waters, the twilight zone has long been ignored by ocean researchers. Since most life ultimately gets its energy from the sun, sea animals that live in this darkened zone tend to be somewhat sluggish. This is because their food source mostly includes low-energy treats, like bacteria and detritus that drifts down to this level. With a newfound focus on this area of the ocean, researchers are beginning to discover exciting new species. Perhaps you too could one day find a creature no one has ever seen before!

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