Marine Biology 101: Taxonomy, Zonation, Protists, and Plankton!

Marine Biology 101: Taxonomy, Zonation, Protists, and Plankton!


About this course

This is Part 1 of a 4 part marine zoology series. It is only 4 weeks, and allows you and your child to make sure this teaching method and your learning style are a good match before committing to the full year of coursework. This class is the prerequiste for our full year Marine Zoology course, and will be immediately followed up in October with Marine Zoology: Invertebrates Part 1, followed by Marine Zoology: Invertebrates Part 2 in December. In February, the full year of Marine Zoology ends with the final installment of Marine Zoology: Vertebrates. The information learned in this class is the foundation for everything else we learn, and no student is allowed to take additional marine zoology sessions without having successfully completed this course.

If you plan on taking the full year of Oceanography,  you can take either course first- one does not build on the other.

Please note: If you enroll in Marine Biology 101, you are guaranteed space in the remaining marine zoology classes as long as you enroll before the deadline for each class. This first 4 week class is so you and your child can make sure our format is a good fit for your learning needs without you having to commit to a full year of classes.

Recommended Ages: 10-17

Levels: Class is offered in 2 levels. Level 1 is for younger students. Level 2 is for older students, or younger students who want more of a challenge.

Start Date: September 6, 2022. Class consists of 4 lesson plans. Students have 2 weeks after the last lesson is posted to complete the course. No live classes — do the lesson plans on YOUR schedule.

Price: $80

Space Available: Class is 80% full. This class sells out every year! Enroll now to guarantee your space!

If you have a student aged 10-17 that has an interest in marine biology, this is the class you want! My degree is in Marine Biology (from Texas A&M University at Galveston), and marine biology was the very first homeschool class I ever taught. I have since branched out into many other sciences, but always love it when I can teach my passion- ocean life! This will not be a “fluff” class, or an “overview”- it is an intensive, science heavy class where students will learn marine biology from many different aspects- taxonomy, evolutionary relationships, anatomy, function, habitat, etc… There will be no surface skimming in this class! We’re going to go deep!

As you may know, I moved to Panama in late 2020. I have 13 acres of jungle and Caribbean oceanfront that I plan to transform into an educational center for biodiversity. I am hoping to be ready for my first in person workshop in April/May of 2022! It will be created specifically for students who have completed the full year marine zoology course, allowing them to get hands on and put their knowledge to the test in the field! More information about this will be available in January 2022. For more information on this project, please watch this video.

In this session, students will be learning five of the foundation topics of marine biology:

1. Taxonomy: Students will learn how taxonomy works, how to read cladograms and see evolutionary relationships, how to read dichotomous keys, and how to create them. This course is heavy in taxonomy and key work- students will be learning the major taxonomic divisions of the animals we study. So a strong foundation in taxonomy is necessary!
2. Zonation: The ocean is VAST! And just like on the land, there are many different habitats that dictate evolutionary adaptations and the species that can survive there. We will learn all of the ocean life zones- both horizontal and vertical. These zones will be referred to in future courses, so it is important that students understand the terms and habitat conditions that are associated with them.

3. Protists: Did you know that kelp isn’t a plant? It’s a protist! As are many of the creatures- both plant like and animal like- that make up the plankton that is the basis of the food chain. Students need to understand what separates these organisms from true plants and animals.

4. Plankton: You can’t have the largest animal on earth (the blue whale) without the tiniest ones- plankton! We’ll learn about phytoplankton and zooplankton, focusing on individual species and their importance in the marine food chain. We will talk about plankton in some capacity in every other marine biology lesson plan, so this is a biggie!

5. Plants: There are actually a few true plants that are considered to be marine (most of what you think of as plants are actually protists!). Although not a major foundation for the rest of the course, this is the best place to talk about plants! We’ll learn about what separates a plant from a protist, and some of the unique habitats and ecosystems these plants are the “root” of! 🙂

I have created educational videos to accompany the course- many of these will be on site at various areas around southern California, both at the ocean and in some of our local aquariums. Each week, there will be a choice of hands on projects for students to complete to reinforce their knowledge of the material.

This is an academically advanced class. Younger students 10-12 should usually be placed in Level 1. Students age 13 and up, or younger students who want more of a challenge, should be placed in Level 2. Level 2 students will have more in depth homework.

LESSON PLANS: This is a 4 week class. Students have 2 weeks after the last class is posted to complete all work. Weekly lesson plans are posted on Tuesdays by 5pm Pacific Time. There is no “live” component to this class, which allows students to work at their own pace. This is a great option for busy students who need to work on their own schedule, and students who live all over the world and can’t easily coordinate time zones.

Lesson plans are a combination of power point, graphics, video, and audio. Each slide is fully narrated for students who prefer to hear material read to them. There is no textbook for this course.

DISCUSSION:We offer an “open talk” forum where students can discuss their lessons and have fun getting to know their classmates!

ASSIGNMENTS: Material is the same for both levels, it’s the depth of the assignments that is the main difference. Most weeks, students get to choose from a list of exciting and fun hands on projects to let them really dig deep into topics in the lesson plan that interest them the most! The goal is to allow students to explore the topic while allowing their creativity to flow. We encourage out of the box thinking! Generally projects can be submitted in any format of the student’s choosing…written, presentation, poster, stop motion animation, minecraft, song, skit…we’ve seen it all!! Check out our facebook page for examples of student projects. All students receive instructor feedback on submitted work.

QUIZZES: Online quizzes are available each week as a tool for students to see how well they understand the material. Format is generally multiple choice, matching, true/false, and fill in the blank.

GRADES: All students will have access to our online learning system where they can view their lesson plan and assignments, take optional quizzes, access our discussion boards, submit assignments, and view instructor feedback on those assignments. You have the option of having your student’s assignments graded or not. In a given semester, you choose whether you want all or none of that student’s classes to receive grades (for example, if they are taking 3 classes, all 3 classes must be either graded or not graded). You can change the option the following semester. Graded students will be required to take the weekly quiz and will receive a number grade for their assignments in addition to feedback. They will also receive a final report card that you can print and keep for your records. Please note: All quizzes and some homework assignments that require an online “quiz” like entry will receive a grade.

TIME: In general, expect 1-1.5 hours to work through the lesson plan each week, and an additional 2-5 hours working on assignments (it really depends what assignment your child chooses to do and how they manage their time).


Our course begins with the first step for generating great user experiences: understanding what people do, think, say, and feel. In this module, you’ll learn how to keep an open mind while learning.

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