Under the Ocean

Out of two books, we created an interactive & experiential children’s museum.

Primary source: Under the Ocean (Anouck Boisrobert)
Secondary Source: The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor (Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen)


We have all spent many summer days at the beach, but have never really explored the ocean floors. We have fond memories of fishing, collecting shells and crabs and swimming with the whales, but have never imagined what creatures look like in the dark trenches. Under the Ocean is an exhibition that takes children aged 5-8 through the waters around the globe in a yellow submarine bus as everything changes from busy port to icy Arctic, dark seas and beautiful sunsets.

  • Role Concept, design direction, narrative, floor plan, rendered perspectives, scale model
  • For Exhibition Design Intensive (Pratt Institute)
  • Designers Raleene Cabrera, Cindy Chang & Ece Yilmaz

Project goals:

Goals: o Show different ocean scenes around the world & help visitors understand the major differences between waters in different climates and topographies. o Highlight the life of sea creatures in the different depths of the ocean by making visitors experience the space as a sea creature o Promote and make children understand the importance of environmental protection

Floor Plan

Sectional Elevation

Introduction to the exhibition: Submarine School Bus

i. Visitors are taken into a digital space with a submarine school bus in the middle. ii. The screens are just showing moving water at first and the floor is also a video projection of the same imagery. iii. A 1-minute introductory video plays on the bus’s windshield (screen) as soon as 10-20 people are on it, briefly explaining that they will be taken into different parts of the ocean. Parents can opt to stay in the bus or not. iv. The enveloping screen outside the bus shows the changing environments they will be immersed in. v. The bus moves to the entrance as the video stops to allow visitors to enter the exhibition space.

The Continental Shelf – its sea creatures and the tropical environment

i. Lessons: Biodiversity & the different types of coral reefs ii. As visitors step outside the “intro room”, the space opens up to the continental shelf. In this space, they are the fish in the space. iii. Visitors pass through a line of giant hanging sea anemones & corals made of foam to make them feel like they are stepping into a coral reef iv. There is a big structure that you can see in the middle of a space- a giant flat-table coral wrapped around a safety net that kids can climb. There are projections of different fish on different levels so they understand that different sea creatures inhibit different corals. Some levels have physical fish mounted on the sides.
v. The floor around this area is glass with corals and the sea floor seen underneath. The ceiling is also a realistic image of the continental shelf. The walls surrounding this space is an extension of the flooring, just with the coral exposed so children can touch/feel them. The walls are filled with real videos from under the ocean to show the real conditions. vi. They exit this portion of the exhibition by going through giant hanging sea corals/anemones.

Continental Slope – Atlantic dolphins, whales, porpoises, the “deep blue”

i. Lessons: How cetaceans/marine mammals differ from other sea creatures, the food chain ii. Visitors proceed into the space that is in blue molded polyethylene, representing the deep blue sea. iii. The bottom of a ship can be seen above, just five feet below the ceiling. iv. There is a flowing net from the boat, showing some fish being captured. v. Atlantic dolphins and other mammals can be seen moving through the molded space (projected). vi. You can hear the sounds of the mammals throughout the space vii. Kids are taught about the food chain on some portions of the space. A specific wall is an interactive screen that allows kids to be sea mammals or smaller fish. The sea creatures move and if they’re assigned a bigger fish, they can “chase” smaller ones.

Deep Ocean Floor (the deep trench)

i. Lessons: Characteristics of the trench and how certain fish survive in it (phyiscal adaptations) ii. Visitors can enter this space that is enclosed and set off on one wall. The interior of the room is shaped like a funnel, to represent the deep Mariana Trench iii. The space is significantly darker, almost pitch-black, apart from the visible movement/effect of water. The entire enveloping space is an interactive screen. iv. Children can pick up their digitized “dorsal appendage” (just like an anglerfish’s) by the entrance to this space, which act as sensors. These lighted headlamps trigger certain points of the interactive screens and make other fish in the trench appear when visitors stand in front of them. v. Visitors can learn more about the trench and its creatures as long as they stay in the space.

Colder seas (Narwhals, sea lions, penguins, arctic whale)

i. Lessons: Pinnipeds (marine mammal like seals, sea lions, walruses), polar bears, penguins, etc. and characteristics of the arctic ocean (icebergs) ii. Visitors go through this space that is slightly separated from the rest by icebergs (exhibit space is still open apart from the trench) iii. The space transforms into the arctic sea and visitors feel like they’re situated underwater by seeing the bottom of a big iceberg. iv. There is a tunnel in the middle of the iceberg where they can enter. This space is supported by video with audio explaining the different sea creatures living in the arctic. v. The giant iceberg has two staircases on each side which they can climb to reach the “surface” of the iceberg. This is 10 feet above and it is overlooking the rest of the exhibition vi. Whales, bigger mammals and simple text are projected around the surface of the icebergs underwater. vii. Visitors can also interact with it by touching the icebergs. The sound of cracking ice and waves plays in the background. viii. The surface shows the tip of the iceberg, explaining that the small ice caps only appear as such above the water. ix. Different stuffed cold water mammals and fish can be seen on this level, living on the ice (narwhal, sea lions, penguins, polar bears).

Colder seas (Narwhals, sea lions, penguins, arctic whale)

i. Lessons: Pinnipeds (marine mammal like seals, sea lions, walruses), polar bears, penguins, etc. and characteristics of the arctic ocean (icebergs) ii. Visitors go through this space that is slightly separated from the rest by icebergs (exhibit space is still open apart from the trench) iii. The space transforms into the arctic sea and visitors feel like they’re situated underwater by seeing the bottom of a big iceberg. iv. There is a tunnel in the middle of the iceberg where they can enter. This space is supported by video with audio explaining the different sea creatures living in the arctic. v. The giant iceberg has two staircases on each side which they can climb to reach the “surface” of the iceberg. This is 10 feet above and it is overlooking the rest of the exhibition vi. Whales, bigger mammals and simple text are projected around the surface of the icebergs underwater. vii. Visitors can also interact with it by touching the icebergs. The sound of cracking ice and waves plays in the background. viii. The surface shows the tip of the iceberg, explaining that the small ice caps only appear as such above the water. ix. Different stuffed cold water mammals and fish can be seen on this level, living on the ice (narwhal, sea lions, penguins, polar bears).

New York ports

i. Lessons: How urbanism affects our ports & how dirty waters affect the population of fish ii. This is the last portion of the exhibition that explains the polluted ports in major cities. iii. Just like the Continental Slope portion of the exhibit, you can see the bottom of boats five feet from the ceiling to signify that it is a crowded port. iv. Periscopes are scattered throughout the space so visitors can see above the water- there are lots of ships/boats and the surrounding environment is New York City (a video plays as they peek through it)
v. There are dangling chains and anchors from the ships. vi. The lighting is green and murky. The environment is a bit foggy to make it appear more polluted. vii. There are no fish in this area. Trash can be found scattered on the ocean floor- bottles, plastics, tires, etc. viii. There are overstuffed nets on one wall filled with trash and some questions are seen on a video: i. Why is the ocean floor polluted? ii. What is missing in the dirty ports? iii. What shouldn’t be in the water? ix. Children can participate by getting trash and putting them in the empty nets x. An animated video plays about humans throwing their trash in different waters, making it pile up at the bottom of the ocean. Fish are disturbed by the pollution and swim away.

Back to the classroom i. Visitors are taken back to a classroom scene – ½ of a bus is present as a passageway/tunnel ii. There are interactive tables/desks where they can create their own “ocean world”. iii. There are games with simple drag & drop commands