Winged Ambassadors: Ocean Literacy through the Eyes of Albatross

Albatrosses, charismatic and threatened seabirds, are ambassadors for a clean ocean. They traverse vast oceanic regions searching for floating food. Along their journeys, they ingest plastic trash and are hooked in fisheries.

This activity packet is a cohesive unit based on the California and Hawaii State Science standards for students in Grades 6 - 8 using principles of backwards design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2001). While intended to be used as a unit, each lesson may also stand alone. The packet also reflects the Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence, which notes levels of detail at which students should be approaching the Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Ocean Literacy at each grade band (Strang, DiRanna, & Topps, 2010). The lessons are also correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics.

Lesson 1 – Introduction to Seabirds
Lesson 2 – Tracking Albatross Migrations
Lesson 3 – Protecting Ocean Hotspots
Lesson 4 – Bolus Analysis
Lesson 5 – Campus Debris Survey

Students will:

  • Use real data from current research tracking albatross migrations and ocean plastic pollution
  • Be inspired by paintings and photographs from scientist and artist Sophie Webb
  • Investigate albatross diets using detailed images of dissected boluses by National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager

Each lesson includes:

  • Lesson plan with learning objectives and procedures, an outline of necessary materials and preparation, time estimates, suggested discussion questions and possible answers, ideas for differentiating activities for diverse learners, and expanded resources, videos and links
  • Student Worksheets and Handouts for photocopying and/or projecting
  • Presentations with photos, art, wildlife research data, and teacher presentation notes to support the lesson

Download the activity package for free at

Laysan albatross chick.
Laysan albatross chick. Photo: R. Kohley

This activity package was produced by Oikonos - Ecosystem Knowledge and Meghan Marerro in collaboration with Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with funding from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Pacific Islands region, and West Coast region.