Grade Level
3, 4, and 5


2 hours



  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.


Marine Life


Cathy DeCampli (Glowforge Education Ambassador)


Lesson for Download


Students should have previous experience using your school library’s print collection for research assignments. This lesson will introduce them to the library’s subscription databases as another tool for their research projects and a fun place to satisfy curiosity.


Thematic Questions:

  • What tools are available in electronic databases to guide our research?
  • How is searching electronic resources different from a print resource? What are the benefits or disadvantages of each?


Students will…

  • Locate the library’s subscription databases.
  • Search for and find research material relevant to their information needs.
  • Create a miniature aquarium exhibit designed for their ocean creature.


ISTE Standards

1.6.b Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

1.7.c Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

AASL Standards

1.1.4 Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions. 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understand in ways that others can view, use, and access.


For each diorama you will need:

  • 1 Sheet of Medium Plywood
  • Library Databases ex: World Almanac for Kids, World Book Kids, Explora Primary
  • A Box Design File (MakerCase is a great box creation tool)
  • Adhesive Foam
  • Craft Materials: Markers, paint, etc.
  • Ocean Animal Handout


Lesson Outline:


  1. Select a database to showcase.
  2. From the home page, ask the students what they notice about the site. Answers will vary but may include research topics, maps, games, etc.
  3. Ask students to identify three potential research topics from the home page.
  4. Pick a topic to research and navigate to that page using a simple keyword search.
  5. How is the database different from using a search engine like Google?
  6. Discuss the benefits of using databases over search engines or print materials.

Lesson Instructions

Animal Selection and Research

  1. Assign topics or allow students to pick their favorite ocean animals.
  2. Have students fill out the exhibit handout using information from 2 electronic resources.
  3. If this is a review for older students, consider adding a citation requirement.


  1. Using their new knowledge, have students draw the animal and anything that should be included in the exhibit (companion animals, coral, tides, etc.). Show students the final size of their exhibit so they understand the size limitations.
  2. Trace the drawings and exhibit information in the Glowforge. Engrave the information onto the front of the box and cut the drawings.

  3. Decorate the exhibit items and attach them to the back of the box interior using adhesive foam. Try stacking the foam to give the drawings more depth.


Reflection Questions

  • How is the database different from using a search engine like Google?
  • Discuss the benefits of using databases over search engines or print materials.


Pro Tip

  • The writing will shrink down to fit the project, but be sure the students’ handwriting is dark and legible so it will still be clear. Consider showing examples of engraved handwriting before they begin filling out their exhibit handout.



  • This activity could be used for mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other classifications.


  • Gather the projects and display your class aquarium! Try putting it in a public space like the library or showcase it during back to school night.


Meet Glowforge

The magical 3D laser printer that made this lesson possible. Learn more!

Glowforge Editors Choice