My children love the ocean. My oldest, especially, is fascinated with everything oceanic. My children habitually beg to be taken to whatever is the nearest aquarium. When we finally visited the California coast a couple of years ago, we couldn’t leave without a trip to the beach. We stayed so long our baby fell asleep on our beach towels. This love has turned into curiosity about the ocean. To satisfy this curiosity we’ve worked on this Science in Action: O is for Ocean.
Creating an Ocean in a Bottle
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First, let me offer this disclaimer. This bottle is made using small pieces, baby oil, and soap and should not be given to a child to play with without the lid being securely sealed.
The bottles we created were based on other models of calm down bottles. However, we wanted the ability to create waves within our bottles, so we didn’t fill them completely. My children really enjoyed building these bottles together. The objects we used in the bottles were symbolic of a small part of the ocean’s ecosystem.
Before we began creating the bottles, we watched parts of the BBC program “The Blue Planet”*, about 20 minutes or so. If you’re looking for a great program, with amazing pictures and video, about the ocean – I highly recommend this program (and it’s available on Nextflix or from Amazon).
We talked about some of the amazing facts the program presented. Some of these include:
90 percent of the Earth’s mass is made up by the oceans.
70 percent of the Earth’s area is covered by the oceans.
Ocean waves look like small ripples in the middle of the ocean, and get larger as they progress toward shore, where they become the waves we are used to seeing.
The currents in the oceans dictate where the food sources for ocean animals will be.
There are more animals who live in the oceans than live on the land.
Plankton and Phytoplankton are the tiniest creatures in the ocean, and the bottom of the food chain.
Smaller animals eat the plankton and phytoplankton, who are in turn eaten by larger animals, and so up the food chain.
There were many more interesting facts in this program, but these were what stood out to my children. After learning about the ocean, we got to work on our bottles.
To make the bottles you will need the following materials:
1 plastic water bottle for each child
2 party bead necklaces for each bottle
1 bottle of baby oil for each bottle
3 oz. of water for each bottle
Blue and Green food coloring
Drops of dishwashing soap
Hot glue and hot glue gun
Begin by cutting some strips of the curling ribbon. We used these to represent the plankton and phytoplankton carried by the ocean currents.
Have the children place several of these into their empty water bottles.
Next, have the children cut the party bead necklaces apart in differing sizes. We cut these into 1, 2, 3, and 4 bead lengths to represent the many different animals in the ocean’s ecosystem.
Have the children place these into the water bottles.
Finally, we added the small seashells – mostly because our stores only had seashells when we went looking for ocean themed things to put into our bottles.
Now, it’s time to fill the bottles with liquid.
First, add the water, two drops of blue food coloring, and 1 drop of green food coloring. We also added two drops of dishwashing soap. The soap was added to create “sea foam” when the bottle was rocked back and forth.
Next, add the baby oil. We had a smaller bottle of baby oil and a larger sized water bottle, so the entire contents of the baby oil fit into one of our bottles.
It’s important to only fill the bottle 2/3 of the way up so that there’s space to create the waves.
Finally, seal the lid onto the bottle with a ribbon of hot glue around the outside of the mouth of the bottle. The contents of this bottle will create a fantastic mess that will be next to impossible to clean up, so be sure the bottle is well sealed before letting the children play with it. Also, be sure the bottle is played with under adult supervision.
This ocean in the bottle will create waves when the bottle is laid on its side and rocked gently from end to end. The soap will also create foam on top of the “ocean” waves, which my children really enjoyed. We did have to work with our children about not throwing or dropping the bottle, but other than that—they had a great time playing and watching their ocean in a bottle.