Through their thematic study of “The Sea,” fourth graders learn the oceanographic and social aspects of the world’s oceans. The emphasis is placed on the Atlantic Ocean, particularly the Gulf of Maine, but topics include all of the earth’s oceans and continents, salt marshes, barrier beaches, rocky shores, tides, waves, the plant and animal life of these environments, and the means by which humans have learned to live with and use the rich resources of the sea. The class takes numerous field visits to the beaches and marshes, and they maintain a salt water aquarium in the classroom.
Water experiments, fish printing, whales-to-scale drawings, and a lighthouse project give the fourth grade curriculum depth and excitement. Studies also include early whaling in New England and past and present fishing methods. Readings chosen often reflect the theme. For example, The Original Biography of Abbie Burgess: Lighthouse Heroine is read each year during our study of lighthouses. Other books chosen may focus on different aspects of living near the sea. The year culminates in a three day trip to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, where students sleep on a square rigger, the Joseph Conrad, and solve problems which may have challenged seashore communities and early sailors.