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Ocean Learning Lessons
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Learning Lesson: How it is Currently Done

OBJECTIVE Observe how the wind creates ocean currents.
OVERVIEW Students will make their own ocean currents using straws and black pepper.
TOTAL TIME 10 minutes
SUPPLIES One drinking straw per student.
One baking pan (or pie pan) for each group of four students.
Coarse ground black pepper.
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The constant pushing of molecules into each other is the reason we feel wind. As one molecule bumps into another, it transfers energy into the next molecule. This constant pushing on the oceans surface also transfers energy to the water. This energy transfer is responsible for the motion of the world's ocean currents.

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  1. Fill the baking pan with water to about one inch deep.
  2. Position one student on each corner of the pan.
  3. Sprinkle some black pepper in one corner of the baking pan.
  4. At each corner position, have the students aim their straw along the side of the pan to their left.
  5. Have each student gently blow through the straw across the top of the water and observe the motion of the pepper.
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In a short time, the students will see a circulation develop in their pan and observe the pepper move in a clockwise motion. This clockwise motion is the same basic motion of the currents in the Northern Hemisphere.

The persistent high pressure systems over both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have created the clockwise motion of the currents in each region. Since wind moves in a clockwise motion in high pressure, the wind tranfers some of its energy to the sea surface generating currents.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the wind in high pressure systems moves in a counter-clockwise motion. As a result, the ocean's currents also move in a counter-clockwise direction.
 Back:  Ocean Circulations

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Updated: March 29, 2006
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