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2007 Aquarius Mission
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Aquarius Mission 2007
If Reefs Could Talk - Education References

Five lesson plans have been developed for this mission.  Follow along with your classrooms through lessons based on National Science Standards.

These inquiry-based lesson plans provide a framework for students' interaction with researchers during the Aquarius mission and relate to National Education Science Standards. Their goal is to help students develop an understanding of marine reef ecology and environmental stewardship.

Lessons and activities are available for use before, during, and after the Aquarius mission. They are designed for third through sixth grade levels.  Below are links to multiple other sites with Aquarius education information, and adaptations for other school levels.

Click here to download Aquarius Technology: Building an Underwater Habitat (pdf).  This lesson teaches students about how technology enables science through designing and building Aquarius Habitats.

Chat with Team Aquarius

Please join us on an internet chat room with team Aquarius to a mission at Aquarius Reef Base seven miles off the coast of Key Largo, FL in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Register and enter your questions and comments into the chat room. Our mission staff will answer your questions from both mission control, and from inside the Aquarius habitat. Here is the link you will need to register and enter the chat room:


Some chosen questions will be answered live on our Team Aquarius daily shows airing at NOON daily. Be sure to tune in and follow our team as they discover what the reefs have to tell.

Web sites with more information

http:// www.uncw.edu/aquarius/ -- This is the home website for the Aquarius Habitat run by the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the National Undersea Research Center. 

http://www.scienceunderthesea.org -- This website provides excellent lesson plans and extensions based on the Aquarius Mission with Philippe Cousteau of Earth Echo International and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

What You Can Do Lesson Plan

1. Write a Letter Lesson and Sample Letters

2. Recycling

Below is some information for your classroom to be used for the What You Can Do lesson plan.

While there are problems - we can all make a difference (individually and as a group) 

The 7C’s - correct things to do

  • Care - to discover, learn and experience the ocean
  • Courtesy - don't disturb, trash, or pollute
  • Conserve - (water and energy - e.g., carpool, mass transit)
  • Choose - sustainable seafood (and other eco-savvy products - e.g., organic, biodegradable)
  • Challenge - yourself by volunteering (naturalists, cleanups, monitoring) and getting involved locally and globally
  • Create - ways to get involved - (share enthusiasm, attend meetings, talk to legislators)
  • Complement - what you already know and keep learning

Care - to discover, learn and experience the ocean
Web sites with additional information

Courtesy - don't disturb, trash, or pollute


As a class, contact local environmental agencies or non-profit organizations about opportunities to participate in local clean-up efforts of your waterways. Depending where you live it may have many different names- Adopt-A-Stream, Stream Clean-Ups

The Ocean Conservancy holds the International Coastal Clean-Up every September in 40 US states, territories and around the world. oceanconservancy.org/icc


A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."  Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They cross county, state, and national boundaries. No matter where you are, you're in a watershed!

Examples of some of the largest watersheds in the US:


Forty percent of the United States drains into the Mississippi River watershed which then drains into the Gulf of Mexico.


Chesapeake Bay watershed: The Bay watershed encompasses approximately 64,000 square miles. It includes parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia and also includes all of the District of Columbia.


Colorado River: drains 242,000 square miles of land, from the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Rio Grande: It flows 1,760 miles (2,830 km) from its sources in the southern Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico and marking the entire border between Texas (U.S.) and Mexico.

Learn about your watershed- where does your storm water go.

Using a map, track where the water goes. 

Additional web sites with watershed activities:
EPA Watershed

Storm Drain Markings

Sanitary sewer systems carry human and industrial wastewater to a treatment plant. Storm drainage systems, which is composed of the open drainage grates along the roadside, carries untreated storm water runoff from roofs, roads, sidewalks and parking lots directly to streams, ponds, oceans, and lakes.   Each time it rains, pollutants such as trash, used automotive oil, yard waste (grass clippings, leaves) excess or improperly applied yard chemicals, sediment, and pet waste are transported by storm water directly to nearby streams, ponds, lakes, and eventually the ocean.

Storm Drain Marking is one way of reducing the amount of pollutants going down the drain.  While it won't solve all our water pollution problems alone, the highly visible marker is a practical and easy first step toward public education and active involvement in storm water pollution prevention.

In your community, organize a storm drain marking project. Check with local agencies on where the storm drains drain to, using templates, and spray paint label drains- Example- “Don’t Pollute- Drains to Ocean” or - “Don’t Pollute- Drains to Rock Creek” 

Conserve - (water and energy - e.g., carpool, mass transit)

Water Conservation
Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids Stuff - EPA Web site on Water Conservation- activities for students and teachers- grades K to 12.

Choose - sustainable seafood (and other eco-savvy products - e.g., organic, biodegradable)

These web sites have information and activities on sustainable seafood:

Purchase only MAC certified marine ornamentals for your aquarium. For more information: www.aquariumcouncil.org/

Challenge - yourself by volunteering (naturalists, cleanups, monitoring) and getting involved locally and globally

Sites that offer Volunteer opportunities:

Create - ways to get involved- (share enthusiasm, attend meetings, talk to legislators)

Writing letters to elected officials is one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing lawmakers. The letters must be well written and individualized in order to have an impact.

Click here to download the In My Opinion lesson plan in Adobe Acrobat format.

Complement - what you already know and keep learning

The Coral Reef Ecosystem of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is alive with an abundance of fish, stony and soft corals, sponges, jellyfish, anemones, snails, crabs, lobsters, rays, moray eels, endangered sea turtles, dolphins, sea birds and other sea life. In fact, it is home to one third of Florida’s threatened and endangered species.

Coral Reef Vocabulary (pdf)


There have been many lessons and activities developed about coral biology, coral reefs, and the coral reef ecosystem for all grades.

We highly recommend the “An English/Spanish Compilation of Activities for Middle School Students”

Dr. Sharon H. Walker, Project Director

R. Amanda Newton, Project Coordinator



Download these pdfs for games in the classroom:

Crossword Puzzle
Crossword Key

Word Search
Word Search Key

Zooxanthellae Word Game
Word Game Key           


Download these pdfs for more information:

Sponges are simple, but fascinating animals that are commonly found on coral reefs of the Florida Keys. The many different kinds of sponges have different shapes, sizes and colors.  For many years, people thought sponges were plants because they lived attached to the seafloor or other hard surfaces.  Today we know that sponges are actually very simple animals that feed by filtering water through their bodies.  They remove the oxygen and food they need to survive from the seawater. In recent years, scientists have begun to look more closely at how these ancient animals might be interacting with other organisms, including corals, at the coral reef. 


Filter-Feeding in Reef Sponges

This lesson includes activities and demonstrations that teach students about the feeding methods of the simplest multi-cellular animals called sponges. After watching a video that shows sponges filter-feeding using a tracer dye, students will record their observations and create a diagram depicting what they observed. They will also learn about volume and pumping rates as they relate to sponges on the coral reef and begin to understand that organisms at the coral reef interact with one another, sometimes competing for living space.

Click here to download in Adobe Acrobat format Filter-Feeding in Reef Sponges.

Pump It Up!  (Or it’s a Sponge, Bob!)  Lesson 3 from Science Under the Sea:  Philippe Cousteau Live from Aquarius -- This lesson provides background information about sponges and archived video that can be viewed to learn more about coral reef and sponge ecology. 

Science Daily News Articles on Sponges for Medicine 

The bodies of many sponges contain chemical compounds that help the sponge survive in its environment. Many of these chemicals are actually being made by the bacteria living inside the sponge itself.  The sponge may give off these chemical to keep other sessile (attached) animals from growing too close and taking space that the sponge may need to grow.  Other chemicals found inside the sponge may make the sponge distasteful to animals that may want to eat it.  In recent years, scientists have begun to look at chemicals in sponges to see if they will be helpful in medicines, especially medicines that slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Click here for the article and here for the release.

Additional Websites

The Animal Diversity Web site, developed by University of Michigan Museum of Zoology is an excellent resource for background and taxonomic information on the sponges, Phylum Porifera.   The site provides information, pictures, classification, and anatomical diagrams that can be most useful in understanding and learning more about sponges.

The education resource website of the National Marine Science Educators Association, the Bridge selected this website about marine invertebrates, including sponges. 

The Aquarius website contains information on a 2003 mission to study the role of sponges on coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

The Oceanic Research Group Web site contains basic information on sponge biology, including a diagram that shows sponge anatomy

Students can complete this Sponge Crossword Puzzle using sponge vocabulary. 

Toilet Paper Tube Corals
This is a simple way to illustrate a coral polyp.

The Changing Coral Reef Community Game

Observe and track changes in the species composition on a coral reef as various factors and environmental influences affect the populations on a coral reef.

Students will learn about the living requirements and ecology of three important sessile organisms that inhabit the coral reef:  corals, sponges and seaweeds. 

Students will chart the changes in the population of sponges, corals, and seaweeds over time as the coral reef community experiences environmental changes and other factors that affect the growth, mortality and recruitment of reef organisms. 

The Changing Coral Reef Community Game: Click here to download the lesson plan in Adobe Acrobat format.

Coral Growth

Activity looks at the growth pattern of corals and how this helps us with paleoclimatology. Click here for the pdf.

Coral Bleaching A White Hot Problem

This activity on the Bridge web site is appropriate for 5th through 12th graders.

Reef Fish

In the National Marine Sanctuary Program’s Southeast Region lie three marine sanctuaries: Gray's Reef (off the coast of Georgia), Florida Keys, and Flower Garden Banks (off the Texas/Louisiana border). Although we group them together geographically, they vary in size, habitat types, species and resources present, and management challenges. After familiarizing you with each sanctuary, we will present you with some exercises using real data to examine how habitat influences the presence or absence of certain species of fish.


Coral Spawning

Reverse snow globe that models spawning on the reef - click here for pdf.

Additional Web Sites with additional coral reef lessons and/or information:

Designed for 9 to 12 grade:

NOS Education Discovery Kits - Corals

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Sea Stat - Corals

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