What Causes Big Waves?

What Causes Big Waves? lesson plan

What causes high waves to form? Set up these colorful science experiments to better understand the world’s oceans!

  • 1.

    Do research on how waves and even tsunamis are formed. Sudden wind movements, earthquakes, and even a chunk of an iceberg dropping into the Arctic sea can cause a perfect wave for a surfer on a Hawaiian beach. See wave formation first hand with this science-experiment diorama.

  • 2.

    Color construction paper with Crayola® Markers to form an ocean surface. From another sheet of paper, use Crayola Scissors to cut four 1-inch wide (2.5 cm) strips of paper lengthwise. Fold the strips accordion-style to make springs. With Crayola School Glue, attach the springs to the corners of the platform. Air-dry the glue.

  • 3.

    Cover your art area with recycled newspaper. Use blue Crayola Markers to draw wavelike designs on white facial tissues. Add Crayola Glitter Glue sparkles to your "water." Air-dry the glue.

  • 4.

    Draw and cut out paper boats, fish, a sun, or a surfboarder for your scene. Let your imagination sail! Stand your platform upright on its paper springs. Glue one edge of the tissue waves to the blue paper ocean. Glue the cutouts in place.

  • 5.

    Now start your experiments and record your observations. Here are a few possibilities to get you started. Blow on the tissue. What happens? Wind causes waves on the ocean surface. Stronger winds from storm surges cause larger waves. Did you notice the wav

  • 6.

    Press on the paper springs. Underwater disturbances such as earthquakes cause the sea to rise up and down, sometimes creating monstrous waves called tidal waves or tsunamis.

  • 7.

    Drop a rock on your scene. The tissue paper wave moves up and down. Arctic icebergs dropping into the sea can cause big waves. If wind combines with such a wave, a huge wave can result. Waves can move for a long time with the help of wind. What did you le


  • Students research the various causes of different types of ocean waves.
  • Students create a simulated 3-D ocean using paper.
  • Students engage in various experiments to determine how different phenomena result in ocean waves.


  • Find out where the biggest waves in the world occur. Why?
  • Discuss the possibility that wave energy could be used to power ships, make electricity, or be harnessed for other uses.
  • Assessment: Determine that the constructions are assembled properly before experiments begin. Observe student engagement in the trials. Review their written notes to determine accuracy of observations and conclusions.