Kelp Activity #1



1. Sayings
Share the two sayings with students and ask them to brainstorm things in their experience that fit each of the statements.

"If it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it must be a duck."

"Looks can be deceiving."

Kelp Activity #1
Student Handout

2. Student Handout: Kelp: Is it ... Plant or Protist?
Tell students that one of the major "players" in the underwater world of Glacier Bay is the kelp. Gathered together in a large group, the Bull and Giant Kelps have been called kelp forests. Share the pictures on the Student Handout, Kelp: Is it ... Plant or Protist? with students. Would they classify kelp under the first or the second of the two statements? Why?

3. Using resources research question.
Divide the class into small research groups and, then, divide the Resources below among the groups. Have students use the Student Handout: Kelp: Is it ... Plant or Protist? to help them organize their findings.

4. Venn Diagrams
When students have completed their research and prepared their Venn Diagrams have them meet to decide: Does kelp look and act like a plant or are its looks deceiving?


5. Construct Kelp Model
Now, coordinate student groups in the construction of a full scale model of a Giant or Bull Kelp, and a similar sized tree found in their community. If possible, the models should extend from the floor to the ceiling of the classroom. They will need:

  • green and brown construction paper to make leaves or fronds
  • sticky notes or index cards for labels
  • magic markers to add detail and write labels
  • a large rock to attach the kelp's holdfast
  • a long piece of rope to be a stipe
  • long pole or bamboo to be a tree trunk
  • 1 helium-filled balloon to be the bladder

Have students label the important morphologic structures for the tree (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, etc.), and kelp (holdfast, stipe, air bladders, blades or fronds, etc.).

6. Answer Question
Ask volunteers to use the models to answer the question, Plant or Protist?



  1. Kelp Forests:
    A description of kelp forests, and geographic similarities and differences among species found in different locations.
  2. Kelp Forest Photographs:
    Beautiful photographs with some description of how species of kelp have adapted to survive.
  3. Wikipedia:
    1. Kelp
    2. Plants
    3. Protists
    4. Thallus
    5. Seaweeds
  4. Characteristics:
    A labeled drawing of a generic kelp plant.
  5. Monterey Bay Aquarium:
    Explore the aquarium and adjacent bay with selected Webcams, including one on kelp forests. target="_blank">
  6. Kelp Forests
  7. Kelp Forest
  8. National Marine Sanctuaries-Kelp Forests:
  9. University of Southern California Sea Grant Program:
    Online Kelp Activity
  10. Forests of Kelp
  11. Macrocystis pyrifera
  12. Puget Sound Shorelines: Bull Kelp
  13. Kelp Forests

>>Activity 2:
Underwater Forests: Giant Kelp

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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