Follow the World's Ocean Currents with the Ocean Surface Currents Web Site and the Adopt a Drifter Program

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The ocean surface has provided the interface for commerce, adventure and exploration for millennia. Studies of ocean surface currents play a vital role in our present day understanding of the dynamics at this ocean-atmosphere interface. Using technology to bridge vast distances, students can now reach the oceans and experience real-life challenges that rival those of the space program. In this paper, we detail two efforts using different approaches to engage teachers and their students in the study of ocean surface currents.

The NASA-sponsored Ocean Surface Currents Web site ( provides a comprehensive review of the surface circulation of Earth's ocean and classroom investigations appropriate for various disciplines at the high school level. The site highlights use of data derived from the online satellite data to understand patterns of ocean surface currents and how they relate to issues of exploration, commerce, marine life, weather/climate, natural hazards and national security. Classroom investigations help high school students practice skills matched to national standards, and keyed to topics covered in the traditional high school curriculum and to the stages of the 5 E's teaching and learning model.

The NOAA-sponsored Adopt a Drifter Program (ADP) provides an educational opportunity for K-16 teachers to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. The ADP promotes one-on-one partnerships between schools from the United States and international schools where students from both schools mutually adopt a drifting buoy to be deployed from a ship at sea. An educational sticker from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and teachers and their students access drifter location, sea surface temperature and/or sea surface pressure data from the drifter online at

These resources better equip teachers with the tools necessary to ignite the interest of students and explain complex relationships between dynamic atmosphere and ocean systems.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2005

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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