5th Grade Sea Turtle Curriculum

This curriculum was designed in 2014-2016 by Drs. Maia McGuire and Ruth Francis-Floyd with assistance from Dr. Mark Flint and Jaylene Flint. The intent is to have 5th grade teachers in Florida (and elsewhere) integrate these lessons into their regular curriculum. Comments on the curriculum should be sent to Maia McGuire (mpmcg@ufl.edu).

The curriculum consists of a book, One in a Thousand: Those Amazing Sea Turtles, with lesson plans to accompany each of the ten chapters. Teachers are free to download the book and either print it (85 pages) or make it available to students electronically (as a pdf file).

Each lesson contains a vocabulary list for the chapter, which is suggested for use as word wall words.

If you have used the book or any of these lessons, we'd love to get your feedback. Please take a few minutes to fill out a short online evaluation. Thanks!

Description: Students will learn about the biology and ecology of sea turtles; they will learn ways that humans impact and can protect them.

Book: One in a Thousand: Those Amazing Sea Turtles (pdf 19.5 MB)

Lesson Plans:

Overview of lessons (pdf 195 KB)

Lesson 1: Sea Turtle Biology.

  • Students will learn about basic sea turtle biology.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (206 KB pdf)

Lesson 2:  How Do Scientists Identify Turtles?

  • Students will learn about the characteristics of the seven species of sea turtles.
  • Students will design their own dichotomous key to differentiate four different types of coins.
  • Students will use a dichotomous key to identify a sea turtle that is assigned to them.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (3.4 MB pdf)

Lesson 3: Sea Turtle Evolution and Anatomy.

  • Students will design a timeline showing the relative timing of events in sea turtle history.
  • Students will compare sea turtle and human anatomy.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (338 KB pdf)

Lesson 4: How Does the Environment Affect Sea Turtle Nests?

  • Students will learn how storms and temperature can affect developing sea turtle embryos
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (412 KB pdf)

Lesson 5: Growing Up as a Sea Turtle.

  • Students will learn about the range of natural threats to sea turtles during their entire life history (egg to adult).
  • Students will apply their new knowledge by writing an "autobiography" from the point of view of a sea turtle.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (5.3 MB pdf)

Lesson 6: How Do Human Activities Affect Sea Turtles?

  • Students will learn about some of the many ways that human activities have impacted sea turtle populations worldwide.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (286 KB pdf)

Lesson 7: Natural Threats to Sea Turtles.

  • Students will learn about natural threats to sea turtles, including climate change and harmful algal blooms. 
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (486 KB pdf)

Lesson 8: How Do We Protect Sea Turtles?

  • Students will learn about laws that protect sea turtles, and ways that countries sometimes need to take special actions to help sea turtles survive.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (293 KB pdf)

Lesson 9: Turtle Tracking.

  • Students will learn how scientists track sea turtles' movements in the ocean.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (219 KB pdf)

Lesson 10: Helping Sick or Injured Sea Turtles.

  • Students will be able to understand that sea turtles can become sick and injured and that there are ways people can help them.
  • DOWNLOAD LESSON (274 KB pdf)

Dr. Maia McGuire is the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agent for St Johns and Flagler Counties. Dr. Ruth Francis-Floyd is a UF/IFAS Extension veterinarian. Dr. Mark Flint is research faculty for UF/IFAS and a veterinarian. Jaylene Flint is a research scholar at the University of Queensland and a sea turtle research biologist at The Florida Aquarium.


baby loggerhead

Hatchling loggerhead sea turtle with Sargassum seaweed.


green with flipper tag

Green sea turtle with flipper tag.


The 5th grade sea turtle curriculum was funded by a grant awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate. Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org.