Aboard the Calypso: Jacques Cousteau and Ocean Conservation

Aboard the Calypso: Jacques Cousteau and Ocean Conservation
Hillary Clinton: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Three to Four Class Periods


In 1992, the year that Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States, an international conference called the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro. Popularly called the Earth Summit, or the Rio Summit, the conference was a gathering place for scientists and other people interested in Planet Earth.  One of those was Jacques Cousteau, whose ocean explorations aboard the Calypso had been made famous by the televised programs that showcased his work. Since then, the issues surrounding aspects of climate change have grown more serious, and much more is known about them.  While many folks are currently participating in the debate about how best to take care of the planet, Jacques Cousteau is one of those who started the conversation in the first place.


Students who participate in this lesson will gain knowledge about Jacques Cousteau, about the oceans and seas of the world, and about efforts to conserve and protect the valuable and often precarious balance among the earth's eco-systems.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to print materials about oceans and seas, and about Jacques Cousteau and the Calypso.


1.  Introduce students to Jacques Cousteau and his work, in part through the web sites listed below, but also with books and/or videos of his work on the Calypso.

2.  Ask students to research aspects of Cousteau's life, including his invention of the aqua lung, and the meaning of the acronym, SCUBA.  

3.  When students have a good command of Cousteau's life and work, ask them to find information on the world's oceans and on some of the problems associated with oceans and seas.  Useful websites for this research "Fun Facts About the Ocean," "The Rio Summit: Ocean,"  "Rio Earth Summit," and "Global Warming and Polar Bears" (below).

4.  Divide students into small groups and ask each group to make a poster illustrating something about the ocean--a characteristic or a looming problem.

5.  Ask students to discuss the "seven biggest issues facing our seas, and have each student write a short paper on what he or she can do to help protect the environment.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended with more emphasis on environmental issues, or by extending work on global warming, or on animals, fish, and plants in the oceans of the world.In addition, YouTube.com has a large number of hour-long videos under the title, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau."  Individual students could watch one or more of these and share that information in a variety of ways.  

Sources & Resources:


Cousteau, Jacques.  The Ocean World. Harry N. Abrams and Co., 1979.

Roberts, Callum. The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea. Penguin Books, 2013.


Jacques Cousteau Biography

Jacques Cousteau: French Ocean Explorer and Engineer

Famous Scientists: Jacques Cousteau

What Happened to the Calypso? 

The Meaning of SCUBA

Fun Facts About the Ocean 

Rio Earth Summit

7 Biggest Issues Facing Our Seas 



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.