Explaining Waves

Explaining Waves

Watch this brief, video picture of practice that captures everyday classroom life and provides real-life examples of how students learn and think about ocean topics.


3 - 8


Earth Science, Oceanography

Students in coastal areas may have daily or weekly experiences with currents, tides, and waves. They may drive by a coast and see waves coming to shore. They hear about times that low tide and high tide are expected to occur. They may go fishing or surfing or hang out at a beach with friends or family. When they are at the beach, they know about areas to avoid swimming near because of rip currents or undertows. Even students living in inland communities have experiences of a coast, either through trips to a beach or what they see in movies. Because so many of these coastal phenomena occur in relation to one another, students may have a difficult time understanding the different mechanisms that drive each. While waves are relatively easier to understand compared to currents and tides, students still struggle with identifying wind as the driving mechanism.

Watch this video of 5th and 7th grade students in coastal communities in California. The purpose of this classroom video is to hear students describe what causes waves and compare these ideas to a scientific explanation.

For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Explaining Waves" in the One Ocean Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 26.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

E. Tucker Hirsh, M.S. Environmental Science and Management
Tara G. Treiber, B.A. Natural Sciences: Ecology
L. Jeremy Richardson, Ph.D. Physics
Marcia S. Matz, M.A. Design
Meghan E. Marrero, Ed.D. Science Education
Amanda P. Jaksha, M.Ed. Teaching and Teacher Education
Rachel J. Fisher, M.S. Biology
Cindy Olson
Julie Brown, National Geographic Society
Kristen Dell, National Geographic Society
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D.
Chelsea Zillmer
Educator Reviewers
Catie Boarts, Heal the Bay
Meghan E. Marrero, New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA)
Tara G. Treiber, Heal the Bay
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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