• 1. Build background on geysers.
    Ask students if they’ve ever seen a geyser in person, in photographs, or on television. They may have heard of “Old Faithful” in Yellowstone National Park. Explain to students that a geyser is a vent in Earth’s surface that periodically ejects a column of hot water and steam. Geysers erupt because volcanic rock heats the water underground. Water and steam get trapped and eventually escape through fissures in an eruption that releases the pressure. Explain to students that hydrothermal vents are geysers on the ocean floor.

    2. Watch the National Geographic video “Hydrothermal Vents.”
    Show students the video “Hydrothermal Vents.” Then check students’ comprehension. Ask:

    • Where are the scientists looking for hydrothermal vents? (on the sea floor, a mile and a half below the ocean’s surface)
    • What is “bizarre” about the animals that live near the vents? (The animals do not take energy from the sun. They live in total darkness and take energy from the earth through chemosynthesis.)
    • What is chemosynthesis? (a process in which bacteria absorb chemicals in the vent water to make organic carbon, or food)
    • What did the scientists learn about the vents that surprised them? (Life can thrive in the absence of sunlight.)


    3. Have students use a map to identify and mark likely locations of hydrothermal vents around the world.
    Explain to students that hydrothermal vents are usually found at least 2,134 meters (7,000 feet) below the ocean's surface in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Tell students that, like volcanoes, hydrothermal vents are most likely to lie along areas where two tectonic plates meet. Display for students the NG Education interactive map with the Plate Tectonics data layer selected. Ask students to point out where they would expect to find hydrothermal vents in the ocean. Have them use the markers tab to place markers on the map at those locations.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • define vocabulary terms
    • explain where in the ocean the vents can be found and how the animals who live near them survive
    • analyze a map of plate tectonics to identify where in the world hydrothermal vents are likely to be found

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Visual instruction

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 7:  The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface
    • Standard 8:  The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems and biomes on Earth's surface

    National Science Education Standards

  • What You’ll Need

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
    • Plug-Ins: Flash

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    Hydrothermal vents are geysers located on the ocean floor in the deep sea. They are generally found at least 2,134 meters (7,000 feet) below the ocean surface in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. They spew hot water for the same reasons that land-based geysers do.

    Prior Knowledge

    • None

    Recommended Prior Activities


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    chemosynthesis Noun

    process by which some microbes turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates using energy obtained from inorganic chemical reactions.

    geyser Noun

    natural hot spring that sometimes erupts with water or steam.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geyser
    plate tectonics Noun

    movement and interaction of the Earth's plates.

    For Further Exploration



NOAA: National Marine Sanctuary Program