Lessons and curricula

With hundreds of online lessons and activities to choose from, it can be tricky for educators and parents to know where to start when working with students who are learning from home. Here, we’re keeping it simple with this shortlist of lessons and activities that work particularly well for remote learning.

A student looks at papers while standing on an outdoor balcony.

A student contemplates her Climate Action Plan during the 2018 Catskill Youth Climate Summit (Image credit: The Wild Center)

NOTE: This page is no longer being updated or maintained. 

You can find more lessons, activities, units for education at home and much more in our Sea to Sky database. You can bookmark this link, which will take you directly to the Sea to Sky database with education at home and lessons, activities, and units pre-selected. You can further refine by subject, topic, or other filters as needed.

These lessons and curricula can be done completely or nearly completely as part of distance learning, virtual learning, or home schooling. You can find even more lessons plans within the rest of our resource collections. In the topical collections (ocean & coasts, weather & atmosphere, climate, marine life, and freshwater), be sure to look under the "Lesson plans & activities" header within each page. This can be found on the right side on desktop and at the bottom on mobile.

This collection uses real-time environmental data in self-directed student activities exploring the natural world. Students learn about carbon cycling, ocean acidification, and other phenomena related to climate change. These modules are designed with a three-dimensional approach to teaching in mind and use a data literacy framework. Most lessons within this curriculum can be done with an internet connection and printed worksheets. A few require low-cost household materials and a few require more complicated materials.

Data in the Classroom

Data in the Classroom has structured, student-directed lesson plans that use historical and real-time NOAA data. The five modules address research questions and include stepped levels of engagement with complex inquiry investigations with real-time and past data. 

Earth science days

From studying the oceans to solar flares, NOAA has researchers in a wide range of scientific topics. Put on your scientist hat and explore the activities paired with videos from NOAA experts. Learn what it is like to be a NOAA scientist! These activities were designed specifically to be done either through virtual education or at home.

Estuary education

Estuaries are unique habitats where a river meets the ocean or another large body of water, like a Great Lake. This collection of lessons includes many that require minimal materials. Other lessons can be done outdoors. This collection also includes videos and animations, ways to virtually connect with estuaries, and resources from partner groups.

The following lessons only require internet access, printable worksheets, and writing materials: Amazing adaptations, Where rivers meet the sea, Don't shut your mouth, Mapping mangroves, Estuary food pyramid, Hooray for horseshoe crabs, Score one for the estuary, Survival in an estuary, Salinity and tides in York River, Human impacts on an estuary ecosystem, The jubilee phenomenon.

Hurricane Resilience curriculum offsite link

Hurricane Resilience is a high school environmental science curriculum for use in coastal locations where hurricanes are common. Through 20 days of instruction, students make connections between the science of hurricanes, how they affect their community and region, and how we can plan for a more resilient future. The curriculum unit aims to empower high school students to have a voice in resilience planning and understand the relationship between the science of hurricanes and the local impacts these storms have on people and places. Most lessons within this curriculum can be done with an internet connection, printed worksheets, and some low-cost household materials.

Marine Debris Tracker mobile app 

The Marine Debris Tracker app is a citizen science project where users monitor and report trash found along waterways (including freshwater!) and coastlines. They can then become involved with local and global data collection. 

National Marine Sanctuaries virtual dives and lessons

Immerse yourself in the ocean and your national marine sanctuaries without getting wet! These virtual reality voyages use 360-degree images to highlight the amazing habitats, animals, and cultural resources you can find in each national marine sanctuary. You can explore on a desktop browser, on a mobile device, or with a virtual reality device. Five NGSS-aligned lessons will further help students learn about America's underwater treasures. Most lessons can be completed by viewing the videos and completing accompanying tasks with minimal materials.

Sea level rise learning module

This learning module focuses on sea level rise, its causes, and impacts; and challenges students to think about what they can do in response. It features an integrated package of NGSS-aligned grade level-appropriate (6-12) instructions and activities centered on a 23-minute video presentation and an exploration of real time national water level data. The video has scheduled pauses so educators may facilitate discussions of presented topics.

SOS Explorer™ (SOSx) mobile app and learning modules

The revolutionary mobile app takes Science On a Sphere® (SOS) datasets, usually only seen on a 6-foot sphere in large museum spaces, and brings them into the palm of your hand. The visualizations show information provided by satellites, ground observations and computer models. Some of the datasets can be paired with the NGSS-aligned SOS phenomenon-based learning modules, which can inspire your students to dig even deeper into these ideas.