A coral reef is a long line of coral that lies in warm, shallow water. A diverse amount of sea life depends on coral reefs for food, reproduction, and protection. To see it first hand is quite extraordinary.
Last November, I went snorkeling in Grand Cayman. As I floated in the warm water, I was fascinated by the colorful coral and busy animals. The fish swam with purpose. They paid no attention to me as they ate their food and darted around. As I got closer to the sea creatures and watched their focused dance, I began to wonder about the aquatic ecosystem. What is coral? How fragile is it? What is the role of coral in the ecosystem? What types of sea life depend on coral? How does human interaction affect the coral reef? What sea creatures are dangerous? I realized the tremendous learning opportunities the coral reef offers. How incredible would it be for learners to visit a coral reef? With books, videos, and online resources, a virtual trip to a coral reef can happen tomorrow!
Here is a lesson idea to bring your learners on a virtual snorkeling field trip:
- Engage learners by asking if they brought their snorkeling gear to the school library. Explain that they may need it for their virtual field trip to a coral reef.
- Ask learners what they already know about coral reefs. Write their responses on an anchor chart.
- Explain that you will show a video of a coral reef. Their job is to wonder about what they are seeing and write questions on sticky notes. Here is one video that shows a variety of sea life: “Snorkeling Grand Cayman Rum Point.”
- Invite learners to share their questions and add their sticky notes to the anchor chart.
- Provide learners with colored pencils, paper, sticky notes, books, and online resources to find answers to their questions.
Here are some helpful resources:
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner. Learn about Ken Nedimyer, a man who found a way to restore coral reefs. Nedimyer loved the ocean as a young boy. He grew up snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida. He began to notice a problem in the reefs. The color of the coral was dissipating, and the number of sea life was shrinking. Nedimyer wanted to make things better. He learned how to grow and transplant coral. His work made a remarkable impact in the ocean. Kate Messner’s book has a vocabulary page and tips for readers to get involved. To learn more about Nedimyer, watch “CNN Hero, Ken Nedimyer Bringing Life Back to Coral Reefs.”
Coral Reefs by Jason Chin. The second you open this gorgeous book, you know you are in for a real treat. A girl pulls a book from a library shelf. The book happens to be the same book; Coral Reefs by Jason Chin. The girl is engrossed in the book. As she reads, coral starts to pop up in the library and water seeps in the room. Eventually, the library is submersed in ocean water. A coral reef appears in the grand library.
While the fascinating illustrations sweep readers away, informational text explains the coral reef ecosystem. Tips on how to save the coral reefs are included at the end of the book. Additional resources invite learners to read more about the topic.
“International Year of the Reef.” Take a trip around the world and visit coral reefs with Google Earth. Learners will compare pictures of healthy and unhealthy coral. They will discover what causes bleaching. This virtual trip will bring awareness to the global threats to coral reefs.
“Visit Jamaica’s Coral Reef in 360° Virtual Reality.” Explore this video by Morgan Andrews Somers. Learners control what they see by clicking and dragging their mouse. Encourage viewers to ask questions in the comment sections.
“Coral Reefs.” Learners can find many answers to their questions by visiting the Smithsonian website. Lesson plans are also available for educators. A list of contents makes the website easy to navigate. Beautiful pictures compel learners to continue reading about life in the sea.
Are you taking a virtual field trip with your learners? Please share your experience in the comment box!
Author: Maureen Schlosser
Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades published by ALA Editions