From  VDOE's Curriculum Framework (a student friendly version is located on the activity page in the Study Guide for each standard)
Standard 5.6 - Oceans
The student will investigate and understand characteristics of the ocean environment. Key concepts include
a) geological characteristics (continental shelf, slope, rise);
b) physical characteristics (depth, salinity, major currents); and
c) biological characteristics (ecosystems).

The concepts developed in this standard include the following:
· Oceans cover about 70% of the surface of the Earth.
· Important features of the ocean floor near the continents are the continental shelf, the continental slope, and the continental rise. These areas are covered with thick layers of sediments (sand, mud, rocks).
· The depth of the ocean varies. Ocean trenches are very deep, and the continental shelf is relatively shallow.
· Ocean water is a complex mixture of gases (air) and dissolved solids (salts, especially sodium chloride). Marine organisms are dependent on dissolved gases for survival. The salinity of ocean water varies in some places depending on rates of evaporation and runoff from nearby land.
· The basic motions of ocean water are the waves, ocean currents, and tides.
· Ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, are caused by wind patterns and the differences in water densities (due to salinity and temperature differences). Ocean currents affect the mixing of ocean waters. This can affect plant and animal populations. Currents also affect navigation routes.
· As the depth of ocean water increases, the temperature decreases, the pressure increases, and the amount of light decreases. These factors influence the type of life forms that are present at a given depth.
· Plant- like plankton (phytoplankton) produce much of the Earth’s oxygen and serve as the base of the ocean ecosystem. Plankton flourish in areas where nutrient rich water upwells from the deep. Phytoplankton are eaten by animal-like plankton, swimming organisms, and those things that live on the ocean bottom.

In order to meet this standard, it is expected that students should be able to:
· explain key terminology related to the ocean environment.
· create and interpret a model of the ocean floor, and label and describe each of the major features.
· research and describe the variation in depths associated with ocean features including the continental shelf, slope, rise, the abyssal plain, and ocean trenches.
· design an investigation (including models and simulations) related to physical characteristics of the ocean environment (depth, salinity, formation of waves and currents such as the Gulf Stream).
· interpret graphical data related to physical characteristics of ocean.
· explain the formation of ocean currents, and describe and locate the Gulf Stream.
· design an investigation (including models and simulations) related to biologic characteristics of the ocean environment (ecological relationships).
· interpret graphical data related to the biological characteristics of ocean , such as number of organism vs.  depth of water.
· analyze how the physical (depth, salinity, and temperature) characteristics of the ocean affect where marine organism can live.
· create and interpret a model of a basic marine food web including floating organisms (plankton), swimming organisms, and organisms living on the ocean bottom.