Lesson Plan:

Content Area: Science

Class time Required: 2 class periods

Overview and Purpose:

The shore, which is covered by sandy beaches, is home to many sea creatures. This area is a very harsh environment as it is at the mercy of waves and tides. Tides are the regular rise and fall of water along the beaches of the oceans. Tides vary from day to day as the moons pull causes the sea water to be pulled towards the shore. When the land faces the moon it is high tide. When the ocean faces the moon, the water bulges out away from the land and it is low tide. The suns gravitational pull causes the difference in height of the day to day tides. Every day water rises for about six hours and falls for about six hours. The part of the shore between high tide and low tide is called the intertidal zone
The marine animals that live in this environment have to survive both in and out of sea water. They have to deal with change in moisture, temperature, saltiness and being covered with water during high tide and exposed during low tide. During a rough wave some of the animals can get dislodged if they don’t hold on tight. Barnacles and mussels attach themselves to rocks. Clams burrow into the sand during high tide. The crabs follow the waves to stay wet during low and high tides. Snails and Mussels survive low tide by holding water inside them. Only very hardy animals can survive in this environment.

Science Standard 7: Understand the structure and functions of cells and systems in organism.

Benchmark: Knows that living things have features that enable them to survive.
SEACO (Special Education Administrators of County Offices) Curriculum

General Goals:

Students will have an understanding of the following concepts.

  • To survive in a tide pool the animals have to keep from getting washed away during high tide.
  • The animals have to keep from drying out by the sun during low tide.
  • The animals have to keep from being eaten by predators.

Specific Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson the participants will be able to:

  • Students will identify tide pool animals.

  • Students will recognize that the animals have features to survive and thrive in a inhospitable environment

  • Students will demonstrate their understanding by being able to verbalize the three concepts mentioned in the general goals

  • Students will use hands on activities to learn about the rocky shore habitat

Activity: High tide and low tide in a plastic pan.

Materials Needed:

basin rocks and pebbles black or brown paint
sand blue gravel potato halves
water modeling clay spray bottle
shells toothpicks  

1. Show students pictures of tide pool animals. Give them modeling clay to makes the tide pool animals. To make sea urchins you cut a potato in half, paint it black or brown, let it dry. Color some toothpicks the same shade of black or brown. Now pierce the toothpicks into the potato half all around to look like a sea urchin.

2. Fill basin half way up with sand. Spray the sand with water. Have students with their hands flatten sand uniformly. Now with fingers make a few depressions in the sand for the tide pools and put some blue gravel in it. Have students put rocks on one side of the basin, then arrange the tide pool animals made by the students in the depressions in the sand and by the rocks. Now pour water in the basin about a couple of inches above the sand making sure not to disturb the sand. Now you tilt the basin towards the rocks to simulate high tide. Then tilt the other way for low tide. point out to student the depressions filled up with water at high tide and became dry at low tide.
Teaching Strategies:

1. Look up tide tables on the internet or the local newspaper or weather channel, then have students make up their own tide table. Have a sheet with four columns for each student. The columns should be labeled “where”, “day’, “high” and “low”. Then they can record the tides every day. The students will notice each day the tides occur about 50 minutes later than the previous day. Students can learn to draw a simple graph on tides or read one made by the teacher as a math activity.

2. Buy a basket of shells from a novelty store then have students trace them and notice the colors and patterns on the shells. Borrow a shell field guide from the local library and identify the shells.

3. Have students do an IntelliPics activity. Click here to open instructions for InelliPics

4. If possible take a field trip to a tide pool. it is a good idea to have a magnifying glass to look at slimy plants, tiny animals, snails, and barnacles.


1. Have students verbalize and tell their classmates about how a chosen tide pool animal protects itself when the tide goes out.
2. Students who are able to answer worksheet questions can be given quizzes to answer.
3. Show students a variety of tide pool animals and have them point out which features help them survive the harsh environment of the tide pool.
4. Have students identify tide pool animals when there are many different kinds of sea life in a poster or picture.


Have students make a story from the tide pool animals view using Kid Pix or Hyperstudio for Reading and Language Arts. Tide pool Scavenger Hunt worksheet can be used to learn new vocabulary words for reading and language arts.

Let students build a Tide pool in a large cardboard box for art class.


These lessons can be used for 2nd and 3rd grade students.


Tide Pool - Look Closer by Christiane Gunzi A Funfax Book

Tidepools by Diana Barnhart & Vicki Leon
Silver Burdett Press

Beneath the Waves by Norbert Wu Chronicle Books San Francisco

One Small Square Seashore by Donald m. Silver McGraw-Hill

Shells - Eyewitness Explorers by Jennifer Coldrey
Publisher - Dorling Kindersley

Discovering Seashells by Douglas Florian
Publisher - Silver Burdett Ginn Inc.

Seashore Life on Rocky Coasts by Judith Connor


Behind-the-Scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
-- Monterey Bay Aquarium
Eyewitness Seashore -- DK Vision
Life In The Deep -- Monterey Bay Aquarium

Web Sites:


Http://www.mbayaq.org Monterey Bay Aquarium web site





Acknowledgment: For the courtesy of allowing me to use the flounder image

Photographer: Steve Canipe
"Teacher Double Feature"
A competitive grant opportunity provided through a partnership between the Contra Costa County Office of Education and Pacific Bell.

Contra Costa County Office of Education
77 Santa Barbara Rd.
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

May 2002