Coral Cam Web Site

Coral Reefs,Polyps and Heads               Hilda E. Taylor

OBJECTIVE:  Students will learn about how coral communities form, and assist in the
                               building of a model.


In this lessson students will learn about the animals that live in the reef; the corals. Students will explore an individual coral polyp, build a coral head which is made up of many polyps fused together. 


A hand out of organisms, construction paper of different colors, colored pencils, long -tubed shaped balloons, toilet paper or paper towel roll, glue, scissors, student made coral polyps, plastic wrap, tape. 

Note: Teacher may construct a model of a classroom reef. Students can help in the construction if the teacher so desires.  After building the reef, identify the location and importance of the rim reef, the patch reef, and the terrace reef. 


Building a Coral Polyp 

1.Make an accordion style fold to represent "pleats" using colored construction paper.

2.Use colored pencils to draw, and color green circles on one side of the pleated construction paper to represent the zooxanthellae.

3.Form a short cyclinder by holding together both ends of the construction paper. Make sure that the green circles are on the inside of the cyclinder. Roll the cylinder small enough so that it can fit inside the paper tubes.

4.Cut off the pleated construction paper, so it is the same length as the paper tube. The rolls should represent the coral cup.

5.Take several uninflated balloon ends and place them in a circular fashion around the inside of the cylinders.     These represent the tentacles. The tentacles feed the corals at night when the zooxanthellae cannot produce energy.

6.Place the cylinder inside the paper tube with the balloons sticking out.


Building a Coral Head 

7.A coral head is made up of individual coral polyps. They come in many different shapes. Provide students with pictures of different kinds of coral heads.

8.Divide students into two groups. One group will make The Common Brain Coral and the other group will make The Great Star Coral.

9.As a group, combine and tape individual polyps into assigned coral heads. Connect the cups only. The tentacles for each polyp need to be free for feeding.

10.When the coral heads are complete, place white tissue paper covered with plastic wrap between the coral polyps to represent calcification. Don't put any tissue paper or plastic wrap over the tentacles.

11.Attach coral heads to the classroom reef. Attach polyps that are leftover.

12.Place the tentacles inside the cup during the day to simulate the process of photosynthesis being carried out by the zooxanthellae. Remember to take the tentacles out before leaving school, so the corals can feed in the evening when the sun goes down. 


Get students to discuss or conduct research on how the model can be used to teach others about the structure of coral communities. Students should also include in their research who is most likely to live where on the reef and why?

BBSR and TCOE Coral Web Site Team 1999
Funded by a grant from the Goldman Foundation