The Depth and Breadth We Seek

Advances in technology permit exploration deeper into oceans and over wide expanses of uninhabited or unexplored lands. Centuries-old maps provide direction for modern-day trekkers seeking to follow in early pilgrims’ footsteps, modern maps allow comparison, and 3-D maps give dimension to discoveries above and below sea level.
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It has inspired writers, poets, artists, and explorers.  Referred to as “inner space” it covers more than 70% of Earth’s surface and when viewed from outer space makes our planet appear as a beautiful blue marble. Its mountainous features dwarf the highest peaks on land while the deepest canyons have yet to be explored. It is a source of valuable minerals, fuels, and food and more than half the oxygen you breathe is generated here.


Modern explorers plunge into the depths of the oceans to locate its floor and all that resides between. They have found the impressive Tamu Massif underwater volcano, great canyons, faults and sunken vessels. Scientists have found seismic action, new species and sources of medicines.


Breadth can simply be the size of something from one side to another. It is also the intent of extensive travel, the extent of knowledge gained from exploration and the expanse of an open-minded view of cultures.


In this guide, we introduce the expeditions of Herodotus, Ibn Battuta and techie trekking journalism Paul Salopek who traversed land masses. We join educators at sea and honors students who embark on Dr. Robert Ballard’s Puerto Rico Trench expedition. Students are asked to take a bathymetric challenge, meet a 14th century pilgrim and read maps.


October 2013

Classroom at Sea
Resource Graphic 

Develop Vocabulary
English, Geography, Social Studies, Reading

Whether trekking around the globe or descending into the depths of the Puerto Rico Trench, students expand their vocabulary in geography, marine biology, technology and science arenas. In the Know provides terms used to describe the seeker of adventure and truth.


Tackle Technology
Marine Biology, Reading, Science

In recent decades, advances in technology have allowed exploration into the depths of oceans. Before reading about the Nautilus Exploration Program and recent underwater discoveries, review advances in technology that have allowed ventures into the deepest regions. Terminology you might review with students includes
• AUVs
• Diving helmets
• Sonar
• Submarines
• Research ships – E/V (Exploring Vessel) Okeanus and E/V Nautilus
• ROV s
• Telepresence (technology used to connect ship to shore)


Map It
Geography, History, Social Studies

Geography is the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries. Both the journey of Paul Salopek and the undersea exploration of teams on the E/V Nautilus are projects that bring geography in its many dimensions to life.


Map It — Trekking the Globe” may be used with “Retracing man’s first footsteps” or as a separate activity. It is organized to introduce students to categorizing geographic information. 


Underwater maps are included in "Taking Measure of the Ocean's Depth." Use these to teach 3-D map reading and to introduce students to the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.


Travel With Paul Salopek
Geography, Social Studies, World History

Before reading the KidsPost article “Retracing man’s first footsteps,” read the illustrations and maps. What information do students gain from them?


Read “Inspiration for the Walk.” Who are Herodotus and Ibn Battuta? What activity do they have in common? Combined with the headline, what does this information indicate about Paul Salopek’s intentions?


While reading or after reading “Retracing man’s first footsteps,” give students “Paul Salopek on a 7-Year Trek,” discussion questions and activity.

Ibn Battuta
Resource Graphic 

Meet Ibn Battuta and His World
Geography, Religion, World History

Before giving students “Meet Ibn Battuta and His World” to read, teachers might cover one or more of the following:
1. What is a Hajj?
2. Locate Morocco, Tangier, Mecca (Makkah), Oman, Turkey, Malay Peninsula, the Maldives and India on a map.
3. Explain the importance of the Silk Road (land and sea routes) to the spread of goods, culture and beliefs. A previous Washington Post NIE curriculum guide, China, provides an introduction to the silk road and travel.
4. Today’s readers know of Ibn Battuta mainly through his memoir, called the Rihla. He traveled alone, had no planned itinerary and no personal journals exist. "Rihla" is an Arabic literary term that indicates a pious work concerned with holy pilgrimage and foreign travel. Discuss with students memoir writing, oral history, scribes and translators. How might each of these influence the account we read in English?


The introduction to Ibn Battuta was compiled from several sources. The primary source was an extensive, illustrated article in Saudi Aramco World magazine. Teachers may wish to read Introduction: The Longest Hajj: The Journeys of Ibn Battuta. Older students might also find the article stimulating for further reading.


Read the Map
Geography, Marine Biology

World’s largest volcano found beneath Pacific” reports on a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience in September 2013. Discoveries are being made in the depths of oceans and confirmed. Over almost 20 years after the initial research cruise, “with over a year total at sea,” scientists gathered evidence “through core samples and seismic-reflection data to confirm that much of Shatsky Rise is made up of one central volcano.”


Review the maps, read the article and discuss with students. Points of discussion might include: 
• According to the 3-D map, where is the highest point in the volcano?
• How many square miles comprise New Mexico? How does this compare to the size of your state?
• Previous to the discovery of TAMU Massif, what was the largest volcano on Earth?
• Why did it take so long to confirm TAMU Massif was one very large volcano?

Read About Sea Searches

Take the Bathymetric Challenge
Marine Biology, Mathematics, Science

Teachers Notes guide teachers in creating an environment within a tank and making simple tools to take depth measures. By color coding the measures placed in a grid, students get a sense of the varying seafloor. In the interest of time, it is suggested  that the whole grid be divided among groups of four students to color according to the key that is provided.

Groups of students could compare the measures taken of the same tank and their color coding. If differences occur, students could be asked to compare their measures within their group; if this fails to explain the discrepancy, students could remeasure the areas within each grid section that varies. 


Learn About Life in Oceans
Biology, Marine Biology, Science, Technology

In June 2013, Stephen Paul Nash reported that marine scientists had discovered gardens of vivid coral in deep canyons about 50 miles off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Read "Vivid corals and other creatures are found deep off the Mid-Atlantic coast" to learn more about the little-known cold-water corals found along the walls of the Washington, Norfolk and Baltimore canyons some 5,000 feet deep.


A year earlier Post reporter Joel Achenbach wrote about other deep sea finds. Read "Ancient life, potentially millions of years old and barely alive, found beneath ocean floor."


Compare and contrast the findings reported in these articles. Questions include:
• What do they reveal about life in deep, dark realms? 
• What advances in technology allowed for this research?


Board the E/V Nautilus
Biology, Marine Biology, Reading, Technology

Identified as the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, the Puerto Rico Trench is the subject of one segment of the current exploration of the E/V Nautilus. In October the Nautilus Exploration Program, took Educator at Sea Lisa Wu and Honor Student Catherine Valery of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to the depths as seen through ROV monitors, measures and samples.


Teachers and students can join the expedition live, send questions and view the ROV monitors in real time. In addition, archival footage is available. In the student activity sheet, “All Aboard the Nautilus Exploration Program,” students relate their observations.


Read the Log of the Educator at Sea
English, Marine Biology, Reading, Science

Logs are kept aboard ships to record position, weather, change of command, orders received and the many details that form a history of the voyage. Lisa Wu, Oceanography & Geophysical Systems Lab Director and marine biology educator at Thomas Jefferson H.S. for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., while aboard E/V Nautilus as a 2013 Educator at Sea shares her personal log. As students read the logs, ask them to make a list of new terms, organizations and the most interesting event of each day. Discuss with students the kinds of information they gain about the first days of research and exploration. 


Be a Science Journalist
Journalism, Marine Biology, Media Arts, Science

Using the information available from a variety of sources — The Washington Post science coverage, online from the Nautilus Exploration Program, the logs of professor Wu and the press release, for example — students are asked to be a science reporter. Write an article for the science pages of their student media based on what they observed in archived and live footage and other sources.


Share With The Post's NIE Program
Art, Biology, Journalism, Marine Biology, Science 

The Post's Newspaper In Education (NIE) Program would love to hear from you and to share your projects that this curriculum guide stimulated.
• If your class communicates live with the E/V Nautilus in October 2013, take a picture as the messages are written and tell about the response you receive.
• If your class designs its own badge for the science team that is exploring the ocean depths, send the best designs with an explanation of the symbols and name. Be sure to include the student artists' names.
• View the videos of ROV discoveries. Select one of the creatures to draw or paint. Title the artwork and add a story caption to tell the day it was viewed, your reaction to this creature and any other information about it that you would like to relate. 



Resource Graphic 
In The Know 
Adventurer  Nomad
Caravan Pilgrim
Explorer Pilgrimage
Hajj Trekker
Historian  Memoirist
Journalist Wanderer

ANSWERS. Paul Salopek on a 7-Year Trek
1. Adventurer, dreamer, trekker, explorer, journalist
2. Audio recorder, camcorder, computer, satellite phone
3. Fellow trekkers who help carry supplies and keep him company
4. Answers will vary
5. Red Sea, Bering Strait
6. A fossil is a remnant of an organism such as a bone, footprint or leaf imprint. They have been found in the Rift Valley in Ethiopia.
7. Answers will vary
8. Answers will vary. Visit the KidsPost postings

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

World History and Geography I: Middle Ages to the Age of Revolutions: Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, social, and religious structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages. (Grade 9, ERA IV: Middle Ages)
4. Explain the significance of the Qur'an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs, practice, and law, and their influence in Muslims' daily life. (R, S)
6. Explain the intellectual exchanges among Muslim scholars of Eurasia and Africa and the contributions Muslim scholars made to later civilizations during the Islamic Golden Age in the areas of science, alchemy, geography, mathematics (algebra), philosophy, art, and literature. (I)

Social Studies: Students use a variety of maps and documents to identify physical and cultural features of neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries. Students interpret historical maps and charts. (Geographic Skills, Grades 6-8)

Geometry: Demonstrate the ability to visualize solid objects and recognize their projections, cross sections, and graph points in 3-D. (G.G.21)


Learning Standards for DCPS are found online at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Geography: Examine how physical and human characteristics shape the identity of places and regions and influence the development of civilizations in world history (Topic B)


Geography: Describe and analyze population growth, migration and settlement patterns in early world history (Topic C)
b) Explain how the development of transportation and communication networks influenced the movement of people, goods and ideas from place to place, such as trade routes in Africa, Asia and Europe and the spread of Islam


Earth/Space Science: Interactions of Hydrosphere and Atmosphere (Topic E)
c) Identify and describe how the temperature and precipitation in a geographic area are affected by surface features and changes in atmospheric and ocean content.
• Relative location of mountains
• Volcanic eruptions
• Proximity to large bodies of water
• Heat energy of ocean currents 


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

World History and Geography to 1500 A.D. (C.E.):  The student will improve skills in historical research and geographical analysis by
b) using maps, globes, artifacts, and pictures to analyze the physical and cultural landscapes of the world and interpret the past to 1500 A.D. (C.E.)
e) analyzing trends in human migration and cultural interaction from prehistory to 1500 A.D. (C.E.) 


World Geography: The student will use maps, globes, satellite images, photographs, or diagrams to
a) obtain geographic information about the world's countries, cities and environments;
d) create and compare political, physical, and thematic maps (WG.1)


World Geography:  The student will apply the concept of a region by
a) explaining how characteristics of regions have led to regional labels;
b) explaining how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants;
c) analyzing how cultural characteristics, including the world's major languages, ethnicities, and religions, link or divide regions (WG.3) 


Standards of Learning currently in effect for Virginia Public Schools can be found online at

Common Core Standards 

Science and Technical Subjects: Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, defining the question the author seeks to address. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.6)


Science and Technical Subjects: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.7)


Reading Informational Text: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7)


Mathematics: Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using information presented in line plots. (CCSS.Math.Content.4.MD.B.4)


Current Common Core Standards may be found at