Coral Reef Unit Study Resources and Lapbook
Coral reefs swarm with brilliant colored fish, starfish, giant clams and sea slugs. They are not only beautiful to look at; but they are home to thousands of other species. Coral reefs can be large or small and are some of the oldest ecosystems on the planet.
Coral reefs can cover thousands of square miles but yet are built by tiny creatures called polyps. The designs by the builders in the ocean in some ways surpasses any building by men. The marvelous building material forms underwater gardens that teem with life.
What is coral?
It is a type of marine animal that lives in large colonies. Coral is formed from the hard outer skeletons of tiny animals called polyps. People use to think that corals were plants. However, polyps are related to sea anemone and jellyfish. Coral reefs can be made up of hundreds of different species of coral.
(Sea Anemones displaying radial symmetry)
Polyps are animals that look like upside down jellyfish. These creatures are jellylike, pliable and have a cylinder shape. Polyps are made out of an outer cell layer called epidermis and an inner cell layer called gastrodermis. A jellylike substance called mesoglea is in between. After briefly swimming in their larval state, they settle down to a very stationary life. One end is anchored to the skeleton of other coral animals or the colony and the other end is a mouth with tentacles. These tentacles extend out and capture small plankton drifting by.
When do they start building?
The polyps began building by secreting a calcium carbonate skeleton when the drifting larva comes to rest on a spot. Generation after generation of coral build on each spot slowly building up the reef. So coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals.
Building an island is not too great of a feat for these sea creatures. Did you know that Barbados is composed chiefly of coral?
How long does it take for a reef to grow?
They grow very very slowly. The reef grows about one inch each year. However, some can grow as much as 6 inches a year. Brain coral and star coral grow considerably slower.
Where does it form or grow?
Coral reefs can be found in all tropical areas of the world and it can also be found in deep cold oceans. True reef building coral grows in clear, warm shallow water and where the temperature does not fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit or (20 degrees Centigrade).
What are the main types of reefs?
There are 3 main types of reefs. Fringing, Barrier and Atoll.
Fringing Reef – These are reefs that generally close right next to a volcanic island and visitors to this type of reef may be able to walk to them from land. They can extend from the shore.
Barrier Reefs – These reefs parallel the shore line and are separated from the short but follows the shore. It is separated from the shore by a lagoon with calm waters.
Atolls– These reefs are ring shaped islands that encircle a lagoon. Sandy sediments made by waves that ground up the coral form sand islands a few feet above sea level. These sandy islands often have trees and plants.
Hard and Soft Coral
Although there are many different species of coral, literally hundreds they can be categorized as hard or soft coral. Hard corals like elkhorn and brain coral are the builder of the colonies when they create their skeletons out of calcium carbonate or limestone. They are the builders of the huge coral reefs.
Soft coral like sea whips looks like plants or tree. Hence the underwater ecosystem looks like a garden or forest.
Coral can grow in amazing shapes and patterns and often take their names from the shape the resemble. Look at some of these species.
Brain Coral.Red Mushroom.(Pic. Attribution)
Staghorn Coral.(Pic. Attribution) Pillar Coral.Black Coral.Gorgonian Coral.
Purple Sea Whip.
Life at the Reef
If the coral reefs are the jungles of underwater, then the marine life that exists there are its animals. From unusual fish to crustaceans to marine mammals the jungle is teeming with life. Look at some of these animals that call the reef home.
Green Sea Turtle is about to break the surface for air. (Pic. Attribution)
Queen Angelfish.(Pic. Attribution) Royal Gramma. (Pic. Attribution) Clown Triggerfish. (Pic. Attribution) Porcelain or Anemone Crab usually found within the stinging tentacles of an anemone.
(Pic. attribution)Ribbon eel Moray eel
Death of a Coral Reef
Men can be the greatest enemy to the life of the coral reef. We can damage the reef is a variety of ways from pollution, deforestation, fishing or try to collect coral reef.
Importance of Coral
Coral provides protection to our coastlines against hurricanes, sea swells and tidal waves. In addition to their diversity, coral reefs are very productive communities.
Pict Attribution Copyright Jupiter Images
Lapbook of Coral Reef
Pictures to help you put your lapbook together. Remember that these minibooks can be fitted onto a notebook page as well.
Covers for outside or use as dividers/and or Coloring Pages
Coral Reef Unit Study Resources
Coral reef art tissue.
Monterey Bay has a beautiful poster of the coral reef. This makes a beautiful cover or notebook page too. Scroll to the very bottom of the page.
I think our top favorite is this 175 Page Curriculum Guide found on Reef Relief. Look under Educational Resources and you will find some other printables as well.
This video actually explains about the coral reef.
(Pic of the floor model reef at the class)
Pictures of our class and field trip. I love it when our field trip group signs up for a class and it turns out to be fun and interactive. We had a great time at the class Rendezvous at the Reef. This floor model (pic above) of a reef that was at the class, I think, is a great idea for an interactive co-op. I bet it could be built pretty easily.
My oldest son was a “sport”. He was Mr. Sunshine..lol so the kids could have a hands-on experience learning about the reef.
Some kids sat on the floor to be polyps the other two hold the blue cloth are the waves and waving up and down and my youngest that you can’t see in the red shirt is sprinkling salt on the waves.
Overall it was a great hands on class for our whole group.