Columbia Summer Research Program

August 2008

Satanya McLaughlin

Bayside HS, Queens




Subject: Environmental Science

Grade Level: 9-10th

Unit Plan: Ecology

Standards: NYSP: NYSP: 6.1a-c,e & f,  and 6.2a-Plants and animals depend on each other & their physical environment. And there are factors that limit growth of individuals & populations.


Objective: SWBAT- 1) Trace the energy flow in a coral reef ecosystem

                                  2)  Identify various types of nutritional relationships in a coral reef


3)      Distinguish between autotrophic vs. heterotrophic nutrition

4)      Explain the importance of biodiversity within a coral reef

5)      Describe the conditions that are required for a self-sustaining ecosystem within the coral reef

6)      Create simulation of acidification of the coral reef


Materials Required: Coral Reef Article entitled “Coral Reef Under Siege”,  LCD projector/lap top computer, Globe/Atlas (of the world), markers/crayons, old magazines with pictures of marine life-forms from simple to complex, lab tops for students to use/computer with internet access (optional), Calcium Carbonate, Aquarium and pH meter/pH paper.


Background Information: It is recommended that students should be taught about the ecosystem of the “coral reef”, such as what is the coral reef? How is it formed? Which organisms inhabit the coral reef? Where are these reefs located geographically? This can be done by providing students with appropriate article/journal reading to learn about the coral reef for background information.

Coral Reefs are found in warm, clear and shallow Ocean. The formation of coral reefs are a built up of limestone formed from coral polyps (tiny animals that live in colonies after they die). This type of habitat is usually full of a diverse array of marine life forms; almost similar to a Rainforest.

A Marine Science class can adapt this lesson to teach classification, nomenclature and evolutionary relationships of organisms found living in the coral reef, using a “cladogram”. Also the activities provided below can be used to foster inquiry-based learning through hands-on experience.



Activity 1: Reading Assignment of “Coral Reef Under Siege”

Instruction: Students should read the article first and then try to answer the following questions based on the assign reading.


1. What is a coral reef?

2. Which organism found in the reef is endanger of becoming extinct?

3. Where do you find coral reefs? [Specific Response]

4. How is the U.S. government trying to protect the reefs?

5. How is human activity contributing factor that can lead to coral reef damage?

6. What is the greatest threat to coral reefs? Why?

7. What is “coral bleaching”? What causes it? How does it impact the reef?

8. Identify the type of life support that coral reef provide for marine species.

9. List three factors that can contribute to the permanent loss of biodiversity found in the reef.


Activity 2: Location of Coral Reef

Instruction: Print out a copy of the handout template provided below and have students use the internet/globe to fill out the template. Students can work in a group of 4 or pair up to complete this task. This template is modified from (


Name: ________________________________________


I.  Geographic Location(s) of Coral Reef: Write in the box various regions of the world that coral reef can be located.


















II. Map Activity: Use the information from table I to shade in the regions on the map to indicate the specific locations of various coral reefs. Try to use different color markers to fill in the various geographic locations of countries. Then fill in the various oceanic location found all over the world.


III. Reef Life-forms: Write in the textbox the various types of life that you can find inhabiting the coral reef.




A. Name of Plant(s):




B.  Name of Herbivore(s):


c. Name of Carnivore(s):




d. Name of Omnivore(s):




IV. Nutritional Relationships: Create four food chains using the organisms name from part III and then turn your food chain into a food web. Cut out pictures of these organisms from old magazines/internet and paste them on the index card provided by your teacher. Then put a string through each card and start to form a food chain with the various pictures, which will then later turn into a food web.



Activity 2 Questions:

  1. If the oceanic water temperature is very cold in Indonesia, which coral species will be affected most directly? Which one will be affected the least? [Explain rational for both responses]
  2. How can climate change affect the biodiversity of coral reefs? What will human lose if the coral reef loses its biodiversity?
  3. Identify a specific human activity that is a direct link to increase levels of climate change that affect coral reefs.  Propose a plan to reduce this action.
  4. Using your map, which region of the world is least like to have coral reefs? Which regions on the map most of the coral reefs are found?
  5. Why are coral reefs found at a specific geographic location?





Activity 3: Growing Coral Activity



In this activity students can get a better understanding on the physical characteristics of coral, so that they will be better equipped to identify and explore its physical features. The protocol for growing coral activity can be found on the following website link given below:


After students have completed growing their “simulated coral reef”, then move on to having students try to create acidification of the reef by using CaCo3 (Calcium carbonate). Before adding CaCo3 to the “simulated reef”, have students test and record its pH.  Then have students add CaCo3 to the reef until it becomes acidic.  Therefore, they will have to test the “simulated reef” pH level each time they add the CaCo3 and have them test its pH level again; to observe if there is any change in its pH level ranging from an acid/base/neutral.


Activity 3 Questions:

1.      What did the CaCo3 do the “simulated reef”?

2.      How does change in pH level affect the coral reef?

3.      Predict which type of symbiotic relationship between species will be destroyed, when the reef gets acidified.

4.      How can help save the biodiversity of coral reefs and stop climate change?