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Green Coral and Fish

Surf Science

As we kicked off our first week of Surf Science we talked about the basics of Chemistry. 

Chemistry is the science of how different materials and substances interact with each other. 


Imagine a lego set with different building blocks, each block is a different shape or color, but when you put them together they create something new. Chemistry is like the instructions of that Lego set. Just like how you can build a castle or a robot with the blocks, scientists use chemistry to make things like medicine and even gasoline for cars.

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Week 1
January 18th & 20th

Week 1

This week we went through several different labs. We first talked about how all of our ecosystems are connected and how pollution in one ecosystem can make an impact to all of our environmental systems. 

Lab #1:  How are our ecosystems all connected

Materials: Water Colors, Paper, Paint Brushes, Water


What we did:


We explored how people and habitats are all connected. We made a model to understand how ecosystems are different but connected. A model is a representation of what actually occurs in the scientific world to make it easier to understand. Mention why models are important.

We first painted a line of water down the paper to explain that all of Florida’s ecosystems are connected by water. Next we painted coral reefs at the bottom of the page.  Above the water we painted the mangroves, And above the mangroves we painted the pinelands.


Since all of our the ecosystems in Florida are connected to water, they all affect coral reefs. This means that what people do to pinelands will eventually reach the coral reefs.

We then took the brush and put a large drop of black watercolor paint at the top of the paper while holding it upright to demonstrate that actions inland can affect the coral reef because the habitats of Florida are connected by water. We kept adding water until the paint trickled into all of the habitats. The black paint represented the trash and other gross things some people add to different rivers and ecosystems or don’t dispose of properly.

We noticed that eventually the trash reaches the coral reef or comes close. What does this mean for us? What we do matters. We need to take care of the ocean by throwing away our trash properly and recycling. 


Lab #2:  Acid, Bases & PH

Materials: Butterfly Pea Tea, Lemon


What we did:


We learned about acids and bases and how adding acid to something can change it’s ph.


Butterfly Pea Tea ea acts as a base indicator, which means it will change color as the pH level changes. Lemons are high with acid. When the tea combines with the lemon, it will transition its color from blue, basic pH, into a purple-then-pink highly acidic pH.


Our third lab showed the effects on our oceans from extra carbon in our atmosphere. This is called Ocean Acidification. See the video below to see what we did. You can also download the full lab worksheet to go over why the change happens.

Watch this video to dive a little deeper and learn more about Ocean Acidification.


This week's homework is to research how you can reduce carbon that goes into our ocean. Take a photo or make a video of how you are going to help keep our oceans healthy and explain why this change will make a difference.

The second part of your homework comes from our surf coaches. Each day for the next two week, do 5 pop ups. Document your work in a chart, video or photos. Forgot how to do a pop up, check out this video.

Email us both of these items by Monday, January 30th and you will get a coupon to pick one item from the Surf Skate Science Treasure Chest.

Week 2

Week 2
February 1st & 3rd

For our second week of Surf Science, we were visited by the Miami National Weather Service branch of NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association). NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Their reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as they work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.

From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need, when they need it.

NOAA’s mission to better understand our natural world and help protect its precious resources extends beyond national borders to monitor global weather and climate, and work with partners around the world. 

NOAA  holds key leadership roles in shaping international ocean, fisheries, climate, space and weather policies. NOAA’s many assets — including research programs, vessels, satellites, science centers, laboratories and a vast pool of distinguished scientists and experts — are essential, internationally recognized resources. They work closely with other nations to advance our global  ability to predict and respond to changes in climate and other environmental challenges that imperil Earth’s natural resources, human life and economic vitality.


The team of meterologists shared a few ways that they predict our weather.  A meteorologist is a type of scientist that studies the atmosphere to predict and understand earth's weather. They help us prepare for each day's temperatures and let us know to expect rain, snow, or sun.


Weather Balloons

Twice a day, every day of the year, weather balloons are released simultaneously from almost 900 locations worldwide! This includes 92 released by the National Weather Service in the US and its territories. The balloon flights last for around 2 hours, can drift as far as 125 miles away, and rise up to over 100,000 ft. (about 20 miles) in the atmosphere!

Weather balloons, which are made of latex or synthetic rubber (neoprene), are filled with either hydrogen or helium. The sides are about 0.051 mm thick before release and will be only 0.0025 mm thick at typical bursting altitudes! The balloons, which start out measuring about 6 ft. wide before release, expand as they rise to about 20 ft. in diameter! An instrument called a radiosonde is attached to the balloon to measure pressure, temperature and relative humidity as it ascends up into the atmosphere. These instruments will often endure temperatures as cold as -139°F (-95°C), relative humidities from 0% to 100%, air pressures only a few thousandths of what is found on the Earth's surface, ice, rain, thunderstorms, and wind speeds of almost 200 mph! A transmitter on the radiosonde sends the data back to tracking equipment on the ground every one to two seconds. By tracking the position of the radiosonde, we can also calculate wind speed and wind direction. The radiosonde is powered by a small battery.

A parachute, attached to the end of the balloon, allows the radiosonde to fall slowly to the ground at speeds less than 22 mph after the balloon bursts. Each radiosonde contains a mailing bag and instructions on what to do if you find one. About 20% of the 75,000 radiosondes sent up each year in the US are found and returned. These instruments are fixed and reused, saving the government money.

Weather balloons are the primary source of data above the ground. They provide valuable input for computer forecast models, local data for meteorologists to make forecasts and predict storms, and data for research. Computer forecast models which use weather balloon data are used by all forecasters worldwide, from National Weather Service meteorologists to your local TV weatherman! Without this information, accurate forecasts beyond a few hours would be almost impossible!


Videos of Weather Balloons

Weather balloon launch: (from NWS Green Bay, WI)

Mark Rober drops an egg from a weather balloon

Weather Stations

Weather stations are like little houses on the ground that have special instruments inside to measure the weather. These instruments might include a thermometer to measure temperature, a barometer to measure air pressure, and a hygrometer to measure humidity.

These can be purchased for home use and help contribute to our national weather database as part of citizen science.

Hand-held Weather Meters

Hand-held weather meters are smaller instruments that meteorologists can carry around with them to measure the weather. For example, they might use an anemometer to measure wind speed or a rain gauge to measure how much rain has fallen.

What is a citizen scientist?

A citizen scientist is someone just like you who helps real scientists with their work. Scientists study all sorts of things, like the weather, animals, plants, and the environment. But they can't always do all of the work by themselves, so they ask people like you to help them gather information and observe things.

It's like a big adventure where you get to use your curiosity and observation skills to help make new discoveries and learn more about the world around us. By being a citizen scientist, you can play an important role in real scientific research and help make the world a better place!

This's week's lab showed how development and our natural environment can affect flooding in a storm.


  • Clear glass or plastic bowl

  • Plate

  • Cup or pitcher of water

  • Legos

  • Playdough

  • Fish Gravel, potting soil or sand

  • Strainer to drain your gravel


What We Did:

Everglades Environment

  1. Fill a bowl half way with gravel, potting soil or sand.

  2. Create a landscape that mimics the Everglades by keeping most of the ground uncovered. Add a tree or gator only.

  3. Very slowly add water to your everglades environment..

  4. Note how much water is added before your environment floods.


Stilted House 

  1. Fill a bowl half way with dry gravel, potting soil or sand.

  2. Create a building built on stilts where the house does not touch the gravel but is below the top of the bowl. 

  3. Add a car below the house.

  4. Very slowly pour water over your building. 

  5. Note how much water is added before your car is affected.

  6. Keep adding water. How much water does it take to affect your building?

Brickell, Miami (Densely Populated Cities)

  1. Fill a bowl half way with dry gravel, potting soil or sand.

  2. Try to cover every bit of the gravel, potting soil or sand with lego buildings.

  3. Very slowly pour water over your city.

  4. Note how much water is added before your city floods.

Atlanta, Georgia (Clay-based Soil Environments)

  1. Fill a bowl half way with dry gravel, potting soil or sand.

  2. Place a thin layer of play dough over the gravel, potting soil or sand.

  3. Build your city on top of the play dough.

  4. Very slowly pour water over your city.

  5. Note how much water is added before your city floods.

Which environment flooded the fastest? Which environment could handle the most water? Why?


For this week's homework is to you have a few choices (choose 1):


  • Make a poster explaining why each environment reacted the way it did in the experiment.

  • Look at the local weather at and make your own newscast on the weather for the week.

  • Create your own weather device using recycled materials, legos, cardboard or anything you can find around the house.

  • Tell us what a meteorologist does and places that a meteorologist may work. You can make a poster, create a video or write about it.

The second part of your homework comes from our surf coaches. Each day for the next two week, do 5 pop ups. Document your work in a chart, video or photos. Forgot how to do a pop up, check out this video.


Email us at with your video or a photo of your work for a coupon. All homework must be turned in by Monday, February 20th.

Week 3
February 22nd & 24th

This week we discussed the importance of water quality in our oceans. Our oceans are a delicate ecosystem. Just the slightest change can be detrimental to our marine environment.

Did you know that ocean water is so much more than saltwater? Saltwater is rich in minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium. These can help reduce inflammation, protect our skin and heal any scrapes, cuts or sores. But, the list of sea water health benefits is almost endless.

It's good for your mood and boosts your health.  It stimulates our body and promotes the feeling of well-being that surfers very well know.

On average, sea water has 3.5 percent of salt (sodium chloride). In other words, you get 35 grams of salt for one liter of water. And then small parts of magnesium, sulfate, and calcium. The ocean is fantastic medicine for people with a weakened immune system, anemia, and high blood sugar levels. It is good for bone and muscle pain, arthritis, circulatory, and post-surgical issues. And, because it contains magnesium, sea water will calm you down. People who live a stressful life are advised to go to the beach for its relaxing atmosphere and because of the soothing medicinal properties of sea water. The list goes on and on,

All of the water in South Florida is VERY important!  The Everglades provides over 80% of our drinking water. And our oceans are a source of food, a place for recreation, a source from medicine, and an important part of our economy. 

Today some worry that about our water. Do we have enough fresh water for our growing population? Is our fresh water safe for drinking and are our ocean clean? Water quality can affect which organisms live in it, and in some cases alter the drinkability of the water or the ability to enjoy things like swimming, surfing, snorkeling or fishing. 


This week we looked at the water quality at our local beach by checking for things such as phosphates, nitrates, pH, turbidity, salinity, and temperature.  Scientitsts measure water quality with sophisticated instruments in labs for accurate results. We looked for the same things scientists test for using a water monitoring. We were able to find out key things about the health of our local aquatic.

What did we measure the quality of our water? Below are some of the things we tested for:


Phosphate helps plants take energy from the sun and make food. Although naturally occurring phosphorus in small amounts is a good thing, high concentrations of phosphorus can cause rapid and extensive growth of aquatic plants, especially algae. Scientists have determined that excess phosphorus in the form of phosphate has put the fragile Everglades and ocean environments environment at risk. High phosphate concentrations favor the growth of simple algae and plankton over more complicated plants. Increased growth of algae and some plants will overcrowd the ecosystem, changing native plant communities and resulting in a loss of open water area where wading birds feed. For example, the characteristic sawgrass marshes are being overrun by a monoculture of cattails, which thrive in areas of high nutrient pollution by growing faster than other aquatic plants. The excessive growth of cattails in the Everglades prevents sunlight from reaching a variety of slower-growing aquatic plants, limits access for wading birds and fish, and blocks natural water flows to Florida Bay. Although cattails in southern Florida are native, because of elevated phosphorus conditions, native cattails can now be classified as “invasive” plants in the Everglades system. 


Nitrogen is an element found in nature that uses the help of bacteria to fix it into organic compounds called nitrates. Sewage and agricultural runoff are the main contributors to high levels of nitrate in a waterbody. High levels of nitrates in a waterbody increase plant growth and decrease the amount of oxygen available in the water. Freshwater habitats in the Everglades feed into saltwater ecosystems that do not tolerate excess amounts of nitrate. Because of Lake Okeechobee discharges, excess nitrogen is one of the main culprits increasing the frequency and intensity of nearshore red tides in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Dissolved Oxygen (DO) 

All aquatic animals need oxygen to survive. Although water (H2O) contains an oxygen molecule, this oxygen is not the one that living organisms use. There is a small amount of oxygen, about 10 molecules of oxygen to 1 million molecules of water, that is dissolved in the aquatic environment. Dissolved oxygen saturation is dependent on water temperature and a relative measure of how much oxygen is dissolved, or carried proportional to the maximum concentration that can be dissolved. Natural and human-induced changes to the aquatic environment can affect the availability of dissolved oxygen. High levels of phosphorus and nitrogen affect ecosystems and potentially lower the amount of oxygen available, threatening aquatic animals and plants. 


Excessive plant and algae growth can raise the pH of a water body, altering the ecosystem water chemistry and creating an imbalance in microbial bacteria, all of which alters species composition and dominance, markedly reducing species diversity. pH can also be affected by industrial waste, agricultural runoff, or from mining operations. Most aquatic organisms are adapted to a specific pH level and may die if the pH of the water changes even slightly. The Everglades has a water quality criterion for pH of not < 6.0 or > 8.5. Values lower than 6.0 are routinely reported in the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, but not considered of an ecological concern because of the Refuge’s naturally low alkalinity. The ocean also must maintain a critical pH level to prevent our reefs and sea life can be devasted by ocean acidification.


Week 3 Homework

For homework this week, please download and complete the lab below at home. You will create a polluted ocean environment and then try to clean it up. Take photos and answer the questions, then email us by Monday, March 6th for your coupon to our treasure chest

Week 3

Week 4
March 8 & 10

Thermochemistry is the study of how heat energy is related to chemical reactions. When it comes to the ocean, thermochemistry can help us understand how heat energy affects the density layers, currents, and thermal vents.

Let's start with density layers. As you may know, the ocean is divided into layers of different densities. The densest water is at the bottom, and the least dense water is at the top. This is because cold water is denser than warm water. When water gets colder, the molecules in the water move slower and become closer together, making the water denser.

Temperature layers of ocean.png

Now, let's talk about currents. Ocean currents are like rivers in the ocean, moving water around the world. These currents can be affected by temperature, because warmer water is less dense than colder water. So, if a current of warm water meets a current of cold water, the cold water will sink below the warm water, and the warm water will flow on top of the cold water.


Finally, let's talk about thermal vents. These are openings in the ocean floor where hot water and minerals are released from the Earth's crust. Thermochemistry can help us understand why these vents exist. When water seeps into the Earth's crust, it gets heated up by magma and other hot materials. This hot water then rises back up through the ocean floor, bringing with it minerals and nutrients.


So, in summary, thermochemistry can help us understand how heat energy affects the density layers, currents, and thermal vents in the ocean. Cold water is denser than warm water, which creates layers of different densities. Warmer water is less dense than colder water, which affects the flow of ocean currents. And hot water and minerals are released from the Earth's crust through thermal vents, which are created by the heat energy of the Earth's interior.

Week 4 Homework

If you have Disney+, we highly suggest you watch Aliens of the Deep and check out the amazing underwater vents and saline.


For homework this week, make a quick video (age appropriate) of what happened when we created the volcanos on the beach. How do mentos and Diet Coke create the chemical reaction to explode? 

Send us your video before our next Surf Science class to get a coupon for our treasure chest.

We have a few weeks off for Spring Break so you have until April 17th.

Week 4

Lake Worth Water Chemistry Field Trip

Welcome to Lake Worth Lagoon, PBC’s Largest Estuary!

What is an estuary?

  • Place where freshwater from land meets saltwater from the ocean and the mixing of the two becomes brackish.

  • Dynamic – daily incoming/outgoing tides & seasonal freshwater from rain/storms/drought

  • An area of transition between two types of environments, an ecotone.



  • stratification - Ocean stratification is the natural separation of an ocean's water into horizontal layers by density. The ocean is naturally stably stratified because warm water sits on top of cold water, and heating from the sun reinforces that arrangement. Salt content also changes density of layers.
  • salinity - Sea water salinity is expressed as a ratio of salt (in grams) to liter of water. In sea water there is typically close to 35 grams of dissolved salts in each liter. 
  • turbidity - Turbidity is the measure of relative clarity of a liquid. It is an optical characteristic of water and is a measurement of the amount of light that is scattered by material in the water when a light is shined through the water sample.
  • physical reactions - It can be a change in the shape or appearance of an object, like crumpling a piece of paper, or cutting, bending, or dissolving something. Since objects do not become a different substance during a physical change, it is usually easy to reverse the change.
  • chemical reactions - A chemical change is any change that causes a new substance to be formed. For example, when the camp fire has burned completely out, what's left behind? Ashes! Ash is a new substance formed due to the burning of another substance, wood. This is a chemical change.
  • secchi disk - The Secchi disk, as created in 1865 by Angelo Secchi, is a plain white, circular disk 30 cm in diameter used to measure water transparency or turbidity in bodies of water. 
  • refractometer - A refractometer is a tool that can determine the salinity of water.
  • pH - In chemistry, pH also referred to as acidity, historically denoting "potential of hydrogen" (or "power of hydrogen")
  • dissolved oxygen - Dissolved oxygen (DO) is a measure of how much oxygen is dissolved in the water - the amount of oxygen available to living aquatic organisms.
Our Outdoor Water Sampling Lab

We completed an outdoor field lab to learn about chemical and physical properties of water & ways they influence life here in the estuary. Chemical Properties – cannot be seen, felt, etc because they undergo a chemical change at the molecular level.

pH (Use pH strips)

  • Most aquatic organisms are adapted to live in solutions with a pH between 5.0 and 9.0, outside this range, critical biological processes may be disrupted resulting in stress or death.

  • pH in an estuary tends to remain relatively constant because the chemical components in saltwater resist large changes to pH.

  • Biological activity, however, may significantly alter pH in the freshwater portions of the estuary.

  • Photosynthesis (making food). Plants (seagrass, algae, bacteria, phytoplankton) remove (CO2) from the water and emit (O2). (CO2) becomes carbonic acid when it mixes in water. Removing (CO2) can increase pH alkaline, or basic.

  • Respiration (breathing). Plants also release (CO2) into the water resulting in lower pH, or acidic.


Dissolved Oxygen (DO)
  • Dissolved oxygen is critical for the survival of animals and plants that live in the water.

  • *The amount of DO in an estuary is the major factor that determines the type and abundance of

    organisms that can live there.

  • Measured in mg/L

  • O2 enters the water through two natural processes:

    Diffusion from the atmosphere

    Photosynthesis by aquatic plants.

  • DO levels are influenced by temperature and salinity.

  • Ability for O2 to dissolve in water (solubility) decreases as temperature & salinity increase.

  • Other factors: wind & waves increase rate O2 can mix & decomposers reduce DO by consuming O2

    while breaking down organic matter.

    Salinity (Use a refractometer)

  • Concentration of salt in water measured in parts per thousand (ppt).

  • Seawater in the open ocean is constant between 30 and 35 ppt.

  • In an estuary DO varies according to location, daily and storm-driven tides, and the volume of fresh water inflow.

Physical Properties – can be felt, seen, smelled, tasted b/c these do not change the molecular structure

Turbidity (Use Secchi disc)
  • Suspended solids (silts, clays, industrial wastes, sewage and plankton) floating in the water.

  • Absorb heat in the sunlight = raise water temperature = lower DO

  • Scatter light & prevent underwater plants/algae from photosynthesizing reducing DO even more

  • Impact marine life’s vision, respiration, & reproduction leading to an increase in crab abundance

  • Estuaries are generally more turbid b/c greater algal mass & continual re-suspension of sediments.

    Temperature (Use mercury thermometer)

  • Indicator of how healthy the estuary is b/c it can tell us how much O2 can dissolve in water.

  • Water temperature increases = amount of O2 that can dissolve in the water decreases.

  • Low temperatures: molecules move slowly = increase in DO

  • Warmer temperatures: molecules move faster = DO escapes into the atmosphere.

  • Helps us ID plants & animals are able to live in the estuary (all live has a temp. range that they thrive and reproduce). THINK manatees.

  • Water temperature is not necessarily the same at the bottom of the estuary and the surface.

  • Differences in water temp. creates stratification layers (distinct, non-mixing layers in the water b/c

    water density changes with temp.

  • Stratification = chemically & biologically different regions in the water column

  • Many animals can adapt by moving to areas with better levels, others like mollusks, oysters, and

    other benthic bottom dwelling organisms cannot travel as far to find better water quality.

    What causes the chemical and physical properties of water in an estuary to change? Over a day

  • Salinity (increases with incoming tide, decreases with outgoing)

  • pH (lower at night b/c plants aren’t photosynthesizing, increasing during daylight)

    Over a season

  • Temperature (warmer air in summer = warmer water and vice versa in winter)

  • DO (lower levels during the late summer months when temperatures are highest)

  • Turbidity (rainfall can increase sediment runoff into canals and inflow)


Over a year...
  • Salinity decreases w/ freshwater pulses via heavy rains and storms

  • DO sudden decreases from large-scale plants dying (algal blooms) = hypoxic (very low O2) = fish kills.

    Shallow, well-mixed estuaries are less susceptible to this phenomenon because wave action & circulation patterns supply the waters with plentiful oxygen.

Estuary Plants & Animals Lab

What lives here? Different habitats: grass marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, underwater (tidal/intertidal zones) shoreline (rocky or sandy) have different types of plants/animals that find food/shelter,etc. BUT, 70 % of our lagoon’s shoreline looks like that – sea wall. THAT HAS NO HABITAT VALUE.

ERM staff work to “re-create” natural shorelines like Snook Islands that you will/did paddle. We also created these planters lined with rocks the seawall so mangrove/saltmarsh grass could grow, high tide would provide water, and animals can find food/shelter. We call them living shorelines.

What is a living shoreline?

  • Nature-made versus man-made

  • Rocky layer holding everything together

  • Ground is muddy – where does the mud come from? Mud (clay, silt) on land carried by freshwater mixes

    with sand carried by tides from the ocean.

  • Covered by water at high tide and then exposed at low tide.

  • Good place to see the base of the food chain

  • Decomposers (bacteria, small algae, and fungi) release hydrogen sulfide = rotten egg smell as they break

    down detritus (leaves and other plant parts, animal remains, waste products, and other organic debris)

  • Detritus is the energy base of many ecosystems b/c it is what invertebrates eat and then vertebrates eat

    the invertebrates.


What lives in the sandy shoreline at Snook Islands?

  • Life burrows at low tide (worms, small shrimp (Amphipoda) or climbs (mangrove crabs) on vegetation & birds walk around looking for food.

  • Plants must be salt tolerant and able to be submerged in water and then exposed to air – mangrove trees & Spartina grass

What lives in the rocky shoreline area at the planters at the seawall?

  • Algae, oysters, barnacles (animals that can attach their bodies to a surface) live here as well as arthropods (bugs, crabs) and other animals that can crawl and hide in between the rock crevices.

  • They are an important link in the food web between the producers (e.g., leaves and algae) and higher consumers such as fish.

  • Set some shell bags out to attract marine macro invertebrates and other marinlife that “hide” in the rocks. Pull a bag and examine what life we find.

Question: will we see diversity or will we see a monopoly of species? What chemical or physical property of water is effecting the life that we observe the most?

Check out the photos from our field trip here


Week 5
April 19th & 21st

Have you ever heard the saying "happy chemicals"? Well, it turns out that our bodies have these special chemicals that make us feel happy!


The four main happy chemicals are called dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.

Dopamine is like a reward chemical. When you do something that makes you feel good, like getting a high score on a game or eating something yummy, your brain releases dopamine and you feel happy!

Serotonin is like a mood stabilizer. It helps you feel calm and content. When you do something that makes you proud, like helping a friend or achieving a goal, your brain releases serotonin and you feel good!

Oxytocin is like a love chemical. It's released when you hug someone you care about, or when you're spending time with people you love. It makes you feel warm and happy inside!

Endorphins are like painkillers. When you exercise or do something that's physically demanding, your brain releases endorphins to help you feel less pain and more pleasure. That's why some people say exercise makes them feel happy!

Let's explore how these chemical work in surfing...


Week 5

This week's home is to name the parts of your brain and their functions. Then, create a "formula" for happiness. Download the worksheet for your homework at the button below.

Week 5
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