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Ideas for Teachers

The ocean is the world's largest natural habitat, covering over two thirds of our planet. Our climate, our trade and our food supply all depend upon it. And yet we probably know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the deep oceans.

The help teachers educate their pupils about the sea, and how important it will be in the years to come. We would like to give a few ideas for entertaining and educational lessons that might come in handy. We'll also be looking at educational resources worldwide, including websites, DVD's, books and lesson plans that teachers might find useful.


cockle logo

Starting with Submarines

Submarines are exciting. They can provide a theme for a number of lessons related directly to the curriculum - including history and energy & forces - as well as providing a theme for art and literature.


John Phillip Holland


A Little Bit of History - The Man from Clare

The father of the modern submarine is generally recognised as an Irishman from Clare, John Phillip Holland (1841-1914).
He emigrated to the USA in 1873 and, after working as a schoolteacher in Paterson, New Jersey, began designing submarines.
After a number of failures, he succeeded with the Holland I, a tiny two-ton, petrol driven sub in 1877. From there he moved to bigger and better boats that formed the first fleets of the US, British, Japanese and Dutch navies. He died only a few months before the first ever sinking of a warship by a submarine with a torpedo at the opening of the first World War.



How a Submarine Dives

Submarines are made by building a watertight ‘pressure hull’, where the crew live and work, inside a free-flooding ‘outer casing’ with holes, or ‘vents’, at the top and bottom.

To dive – the crew open the upper vents allowing water to flow into the outer casing and the sub sinks.

To surface - the crew closes the  upper vents and blows the water out of the bottom vents with compressed air.

how a submarine dives

Submarines work best at ‘neutral buoyancy’ – when they neither rise or sink in the water. At this point they can be ‘flown’ underwater with ‘diving planes’ which work just like the flaps on the wings of an aircraft.

In fact, the controls of a modern atomic submarine look very similar to those of a plane, with a big ‘joystick’ to ‘fly’ the sub through the ocean depths.

how to make a submarine out of a bottle

Make Your Own Submarine in the Classroom

Submarines surface by pumping air into “ballast tanks” to increase their buoyancy.

Fill a plastic drinks bottle with water and put it carefully in a bowl of water. This is like a submarine with its ballast tanks flooded and the bottle sinks.

Put a piece of plastic tube into the end of the bottle and gently blow in air. This is like a submarine filling its tanks with air. The water is pushed out and the sub surfaces


Submarines in Literature

Perhaps the most famous fictional submarine is Jules Verne's Nautilus from the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Written over 140 years ago, when real submarines were no more than dangerous experiments, this story told of a fantastic voyage around the world. It included a mission under the Pole (which was done for real almost a hundred years later by the first atomic submarine, named appropriately - the USS Nautilus!

squid and nautilus
octopus and computers

Ollie says "Check out these useful resources!"

John Holland and Submarines

Submarine Museum at Gosport, UK

Submarines in Films and TV

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
  • The Enemy Below
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Fantastic Voyage
  • Around the World Under the Sea
  • SeaQuest DSV
  • Run Silent - Run Deep
  • Crimson Tide


The Submarine Cormorant

Captain Cockle's Log

Captain Cockle's Seashore Safari

Graphics and Text - Copyright John Joyce 2007