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2010 Aquarius Mission - If Reefs could talk

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Aquarius 2010:
Education Programs

Lesson Plans
  • Download lesson plans (see below) to share the messages of Aquarius with students of all ages.

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lesson plan for edible coralMake an Edible Coral Reef
Students make edible coral reef out of a variety of food and candy. This allows the classroom to start thinking about what is included in a coral reef community.



lesson plan for diving inDive In!
Students will be able to explain Archimedes' Principle, and explain how this principle applies to scientists underwater. Students will be able to identify the source of atmospheric and underwater pressure, and explain how these pressures vary with altitude and depth.

lesson plan for changing coral reefThe Changing Coral Reef Community Game
Overtime, coral reef experiences shifts in the ecosystem which changes the type of species that thrive. In this lesson, students will explore the factors that enable specific organisms to survive and live successfully. Students will then track changes in a coral reef community to observe how species diversity, abundance, and interactions change over time. Students will apply scenarios to the corals, sponges and seaweeds on the coral reef in this game, that results in a shift within the ecosystem leading to a change in species composition. Scenarios may be natural or human- induced. Click here to download cards to be used with this lesson plan.

lesson plan for marine osteoperosisMarine Osteoperosis
In this lesson students will explore the effects of acidic oceans on certain marine organisms, in the ocean food web, and to humans. Students will conduct a science experiment using the scientific method to see the effects of increased acidity on certain species. They will also investigate the causes for increased ocean acidity and discuss ways to minimize the impact as an individual and as a society. Click here to download a presentation to be used with this lesson plan.

lesson plan for in my opinionIn My Opinion
In this lesson students will learn how to write a formal letter to an elected official on an environmental issue. Students will investigate and learn about particular environmental issues, identify the appropriate politician to address, and learn how to clearly and concisely communicate their own perspective. At the end, students will present to their class the environmental issue they researched.

Introduction: "What Is It?"
Each day, If Reefs Could Talk will feature a different marine organism or creature in a segment called "What Is It?" Students will be invited to create their own art interpretations during a short guided piece that will incorporate art and science. If you are unable to participate in the activity during the live broadcasts, detailed lesson plans can be downloaded from OceansLIVE.org

If Reefs Could Talk Art Contest
There is no better inspiration for creating art than our Ocean!

We encourage your students to send in their artwork from each daily "What Is It?" segment. We will choose the best artistic interpretation for each day and announce surprise award. Please send submissions to sanctuary.education@noaa.gov.

In addition, at the conclusion of the "What Is It?" series of presentations, classes will be asked to send us their interpretations of a coral reef habitat. The best class creation will be given a special award.

What Is It: Start at the Very Beginning
The ocean is the most amazing source of art inspiration. In this lesson, students will create a piece of original art after discussing the properties of the three finger algae. They will learn that the sea bottom is made up of a substance called calcium carbonate. The leaves of the three finger algae contain calcium and when the green algae dies, the calcium in the leaf segments remains on the sea bottom and builds the reef.

What Is It: Moving In
In this lesson, students will create a piece of original art after discussing the properties of the polka dot batfish. They will learn the characteristics of the fish and its properties and how best to create their own interpretation of this interesting fish. Students will learn the role camouflage plays in the survival of certain marine fish.

What Is It: Group Foraging
In this lesson, students will create their own interpretation of Group Foraging amongst fish. Group foraging refers to behavior where one species of fish will create a feeding opportunity for another species of fish. In this lesson, students are introduced to the goatfish that stirs up the ocean bottom with its barbells (whiskers) as it feeds. Some creatures move away from the goatfish and this creates a feeding opportunity for the bar jacks that are following along behind the goatfish. The bar jacks can feed without expending too much energy.

What Is It: Fish Movement - The Great Barracuda
In this lesson, students will be introduced to one of the top predators of the ocean: the Great Barracuda. They will compare the habitats from the previous lesson: the ocean bottom, to the habitat of the Great Barracuda. They will make observations about how well each creature is suited to its different environment. Students will discuss shape and Great Barracudas.

What Is It: Hidden Critters - The Giant Barrel Sponge
In this lesson, students will learn that sponges are filter feeders. They are composed of cells that pump water through the wall of the sponge, trapping microscopic plankton for food. Barrel sponges are the largest of all the sponges and so they make great homes for a variety of creatures, such as fish and shrimps. Students will discuss how the barrel sponge is constructed, and then create their own interpretation of a giant barrel sponge.

What Is It: Aquarius Reef Base - The Cleaning Station
In this lesson, students will create their interpretation of a cleaning station. This is usually a prominent place on the reef, like a large coral colony where special fish or shrimp, known as cleaners, live. Cleaners make their living by picking parasites and dead skin off fish. Scientists think that the cleaner fish have certain colors and body patterns to distinguish them as cleaners. This lesson suggests using collage to create the artistic interpretation, however a painting or a crayon drawing will work well.

What Is It: Staghorn Coral
In this lesson students will learn about the importance of staghorn corals and their part in building the reef. Staghorn coral has been one of the three most important Caribbean corals in terms of its contribution to reef growth and fish habitat. Students will discuss the coral habitat in relation to creating a safe haven for juvenile fish, and for building the reef and protecting the substrate. Students will create their own version of the staghorn coral as a habitat for young fish. This lesson is well suited to collage, painting and crayon.

What Is It: Mat Zoanthids
In this lesson, students will learn about zoanthids. These organisms are related to anemones and live inside tubes that are buried in mud, sand or gravel. They have two rings of tentacles that are usually seen at night when the animals feed. Zoanthids are also closely related to corals and many of them have limited feeding requirements, as they contain symbiotic zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae provides them with food and the zoanthids provide the zooxanthellae with protection. The mat zoanthid has a seemingly endless display of colors and they provide an inspiration for creating ocean art. Students will learn to use line to create texture and how use colors to create value.

What Is It: Sea Urchins
In this lesson, students will learn about the role of sea urchins in the coral reef environment. Sea urchins have a spherical-shaped body, and students will discuss how the shape of this creature lends itself to the function as they use paint or other art media to create their interpretation of a long-spined urchin.


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