Human systems—like energy production, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing—are interdependent with the ecosystems and habitats that support life, including the oceans.

Just as human systems affect the oceans, the oceans affect life on land.

Perhaps the most serious stress on the oceans today comes from our dominant way of producing energy. When we burn fossil fuels for energy, it releases carbon dioxide. This gas builds up in the atmosphere, where it traps in heat. This “blanket effect” is increasing, disrupting environmental systems—including our weather. The oceans function like the heart of Earth’s climate system, pumping heat and moisture around the globe. Ocean currents regulate the temperature and precipitation on the continents, shaping the climate that shapes human cultures and activities.

As the stress on the climate’s heart increases, it is “beating” irregularly, and long-standing weather patterns are shifting. Scientists expect stronger storms, more frequent droughts, and increased heat waves, putting people’s health and safety at risk. Some of the rampant carbon dioxide is also being absorbed directly into the sea, changing the ocean’s chemistry. This disruption is causing a variety of problems for different marine species, weakening the food web.

We all have a responsibility to protect the oceans—and we can fulfill that duty. Explore these pages to learn more about what we know about how a changing climate is affecting the oceans, and what the Aquarium and others are doing to make a positive difference, and how we can all act together to protect the blue heart of our climate.

Blue Impact Videos

Expand your students’ knowledge of climate change and draw connections between climate change and changes in the oceans. Originally developed as a tour for visitors to the New England Aquarium, this video series presents the challenges ocean animals face from global climate change, and how communities are working together to make a difference for the blue planet.

Blue Impact - Introduction


Learn about the science of climate change.
Student sheet (PDF 220KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 1.6MB)
Watch with closed captioning [Link goes to YouTube.]
Length: 5:06

Coral Breakup—A Tragic Love Story

Coral Breakup—A Tragic Love Story

See how rising ocean temperatures affect corals.
Student sheet (PDF 177KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 86KB)
Photosynthesis extension questions with key (61KB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 4:19

Thermal Expansion—The Dance of Rising Oceans

Thermal Expansion—Rising Oceans

Learn how sea levels rise with ocean temperature.
Student sheet (PDF 39KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 84KB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 2:51

Sea Jellies Take Over the Ocean Maze

Discover the science of booming jelly populations.

Student sheet (PDF 53KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 50KB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 3:24

Shorebirds on Stage

See how changes in weather affect shorebirds.

Student sheet (PDF 75KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 77KB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 5:19

Sea Turtles—A Temperature Tale

Learn how rising temperatures threaten sea turtles.

Student sheet (PDF 105KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 1.1MB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 5:21

Whales—Roadwork Ahead

Whales—Roadwork Ahead

Understand how whales’ food sources are changing.
Student sheet (PDF 42KB)
Teacher answer key (PDF 47KB)
Watch with closed captioning
Length: 4:40

Additional Resources

Student sheets and teacher answer keys can be found to the right of each video.

Teacher answer key (PDF 47KB)

Glossary (PDF 56KB)

Take action! videos

Digital Appendix

This appendix will link you to lesson plans and information on the topics featured in our Blue Impact Series. For additional resources, please contact the New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center. The Teacher Resource Center provides teaching materials, books, posters, curriculum guides, theme-based kits and biofacts, which are all available by loan.

Introduction Video

Research resources

  • US Composting Council Fact Sheet
  • EPA Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Recycling and Composting
  • NOAA: Climate Literacy—Concepts, Talking Points and Case Studies
  • New England Aquarium: Climate Change Effects on Ocean Animals
  • New England Aquarium: The basics—A Brief Introduction to Climate Change
  • EPA: Climate Change Basics

Activities and interactive games for kids

  • Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth
  • Carbon Footprint Calculator

Classroom resources

  • Complimentary Assembly Programs
  • School Idea for Reducing Carbon Footprint
  • Materials from the New England Aquarium’s Teacher Resource Center

Coral Breakup—A Tragic Love Story

Extension lessons

  • Virtual Ocean Acidification Laboratory
  • Coral Reefs in Danger: Ocean Acidification Lesson
  • Impacts of a Changing Climate on Coral Reefs Lesson

Research Resources

  • Coral Bleaching Article
  • Ocean Acidification and Global Warming Animation
  • VIDEO | “Zombie Coral Reefs” by PHD Comics

Thermal Expansion—Rising Oceans

  • Thermal Expansion Activity—Build a Thermometer (PDF)
    Demonstrate thermal expansion through thermometers and introduce the concept of thermal expansion and density on a smaller scale to reinforce how it works in the ocean.
  • Sea Level: On the Rise (PDF)
    Explore the relationship between climate change and sea-level rise through activities and experimentation about melting land-based ice.
  • Impact of Sea Level Rise on a Local Coastal Community (PDF)
    Students will examine USGS topographic maps and become familiar with the
    legend of a topographic map.
  • United Nations Environmental Program Ice and Sea-level Change Report (PDF)
    An in-depth look at ice and sea-level change around the world.

Sea Jellies Take Over the Ocean Maze

Amazing Jellies Teacher Guide

  • This guide provides information and basic lesson plans for different grade levels. Facts and general information on jellies, as well as additional activities for all grade levels.
  • Interactive Jellies Game – Explore resources and play games that will test your knowledge of jellies.
  • Jellyfish Taking over Oceans, Experts Warn – News report that explores some of the problems with growing jelly populations.

Shorebirds on Stage

  • A Claims-Evidence-Reasoning rubric (PDF)
  • Horseshoe Crab “Green Eggs and Sand” Curriculum –  Educational Design by Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Coastal Dune Protection and Restoration Bulletin (PDF) – This bulletin explains sand dune restoration projects using sand fencing and ‘Cape’ American beachgrass

Get Involved

You can get involved rebuilding shorebird staging sites by helping to plant dune plants, installing dune fencing, or even gathering oyster shells to create habitats for the birds’ food sources.

  • Audubon Society
  • National Wildlife Reserve

Sea Turtles—A Temperature Tale

  • Sea Turtle Conservancy: Information About Sea Turtles, Their Habitats, and Threats to Their Survival

Get Involved

There are many ways to look for opportunities to help with marine rescue efforts in your area.

  • Check your local aquarium website. (New England Marine Animal Rescue Program)
  • Contact the International Fund for Animal Welfare
  • Research Marine Animal Rescue
  • Learn about rescuing wildling through the Environmental Protection Agency

Whales—Roadwork Ahead

Student Research Pages

  • New England Aquarium’s Climate Change and the Oceans
  • Right Whale Research Project at the New England Aquarium
  • Ocean “Conveyor Belt” Sustains Sea Life via National Geographic
  • NOAA’s Currents in the Ocean
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Why Right Whales Linger in the Gulf of Maine

Classroom Resources

  • Right Whale Handouts and Information via Enchanted Learning
  • New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Identification Game
  • National Geographic Education’s North Atlantic Right Whale Activity
  • Right Whale Curriculum from University of Florida

See more teacher guides from the Aquarium’s Teacher Resource Center.