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Academics - K-12

Creature From the Deep

Introduction: Students can use their imaginations to good advantage in this activity, but they must get the facts right! For example, they can change one characteristic of an organism, such as increasing the size of a salp to 10 meters, but they need to include information about the normal size in the definition section.

You may wish to have students choose from only certain terms, such as sea floor features, or you can provide the entire list for students to choose from. Marine biology provides a rich source of creatures which can easily be modified for the purposes of a horror story.


Reference materials: text books, glossaries of ocean terms, dictionaries

Examples of ocean horror stories (Jaws, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss, Peter Benchley’s The Beast, the B-grade movie Leviathan, tabloid news stories of sea monsters)


1. Using maps, images, and definitions, introduce the features of the sea floor. Be sure students understand the scale and typical location of the features. If studying marine biology, use this activity after students are familiar with the marine environment and many types of marine organisms.

2. Distribute and read through the list of terms. Explain to students they will be writing a horror story, appropriately using at least 8 of the terms. They will also be required to include a list of correct definitions of the terms they use. If a feature is altered in the story, the correct information must be included in the definition section. They can use theme of a research expedition that gets into trouble or design their own plot.

3. Read an excerpt from an ocean-based horror story to set the mood, then have students brainstorm and outline ideas individually. After they have used the information resources to record the meaning of their terms, they should begin writing.

4. Encourage students to illustrate their stories when finished, either with a book jacket cover design or a text illustration.

5. Students may want to share their stories with the class, or have their stories read aloud anonymously.

List of Terms:

Thermocline Pycnocline Halocline
Buoyancy Salinity Desalination
Surface Currents Density Currents Upwelling
Wave Height Wave Length Wave Period
Wave Base Crest Deep Water Wave
Wave Shallow Water Wave Seismic Sea Wave
Tsunamis Spring Tide Neap Tide
Tidal Range Shore Zone Rip Current
Spit Barrier Island Ooze
Continental Shelf Continental Slope Abyssal Plain
Seamount Rift Zone Bearing
Mid-ocean Ridge Oceanic Trench Fringing Reef
Barrier Reef Atoll Tombolo
Bay Barrier Lagoon Gravimeter
Plankton Phytoplankton Zooplankton
Nekton Benthos Copepods
Diatoms Pteropod Salp
Amphipod Euphausiid Dinoflagellate
Ctenophore Nautilus Cuttlefish
Architeuthis Carcharidon Gravity Core
Hydrocast Meter Tow Shipek Grab
Secchi Disk Neuston Net Steward
Mate Schooner Brigantine
Port Starboard Bow
Stern Helm Hull
Galley Head Berths
Yard Arm Winch Sextant
Downhaul Forestay Mainstay
Backstays Scuppers Taffrail Log


1. Correct use of at least 8 terms.

2. Correct sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.

3. Correct definitions for the terms used in the story.

Extensions: This project lends itself very well to shadow puppet projections. Make a shadow puppet theater by hanging a sheet from a string or dowel. Use a portable clamp lamp to backlight the action. Students can make cardboard silhouette figures for their stories and present them to class by holding the shadow puppets against the sheet and moving them while a narrator reads the story.

Source: Based on an idea by Julie Cunningham, SEA Experience, 1996 and Kristin Wyatt, Sea Experience, 1997

Copyright 1998-2008 by Sea Education Association, all rights reserved.
Compiled and edited by Pat Harcourt & Teri Stanley.


This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation (Proposals # TEI-8652383, TPE-8955214, and ESI-925324), the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Foundation, the Donner Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the Foundations.