Coral Cam Web Site

BUILD A REEF                     Pat Pierce and Cheryl Schroeder 

OBJECTIVE:   While building a coral reef, you will discover the organisms that make up
                               this special ecosystem.  .

AGE GROUP:   This activity is suitable for students aged eight through fourteen. 


If you look closely at a reef ecosystem, you see that it is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny animals called coral polyps plus various other algae and marine animals. Together these make up the coral rim-reef community. All these organisms live together, sometimes helping each other and sometimes fiercely competing with each other. Survival is very important. This coral rim-reef is an active place teeming with inhabitants competing for food and space. 


Scissors                          Envelopes                          Elmer's Glue
Coral Reef Organism Worksheet
Colored Pencils, Markers, Crayons, Paint, or Brushes
Paper (8.5 x 11 inches of paper, ex. Construction paper) or poster board
Sticky Tac (putty-like material used to affix items on walls)
Blue cellophane (plastic wrap) [optional] 

You can build your coral reef many different ways- by yourself on one sheet of paper or work with a group to build an almost life-sized reef on a bulletin board display. Choose the size reef you're going to build and here's how to get started.


I.Getting Ready

  A.Gather together all the materials you'll need- paper, glue, scissors, and worksheet.

  B.Your teacher will give you a sheet that has drawings of all the types of organisms you might see on a rim-reef in Bermuda.

  C.After you have found the organisms on the website (look under the coral, fish, plants, and zooplankton sections), color them according to what you saw on the page.

  D.Using scissors cut out each of the organisms. As soon as you finish cutting out each organism, place it in your envelope. 


II. Build Your Reef

A. Take your pieces out of the envelope and spread them all out on the desktop to see what you have and how you're going to use them to build your reef. What should go on the paper first? Think about the order in which you will put the organisms on the paper. Make a plan!

Hints:   1. Think about which organisms can be found on the bottom?
             2. Are any of the organisms growing attached to something else?
             3. Which organisms are swimming?
             4. Where do you think you'll find the phytoplankton and zooplankton (the really tiny
                 organisms that we've made large enough for you to see)?

B. Using a tiny piece of Sticky Tac, place the organisms on your paper according to your plan.

C.Use the Coral Cam to figure out if your plan for arranging your organisms is correct.

           1. Does the view you see from the Coral Cam look like your paper? It does? Great!
           2. Do you need to move something? Carefully lift up the organism and move it  where
                it should be.

D. Now you're ready to glue your organisms to the paper. How are you going to do that? You have to glue down the paper organism but you also have to remove the Sticky Tac. Decide upon the steps that you'll need to take to accomplish both these things.

E .Check to make sure that you don't have any globs of glue showing on your paper? Do you think you'd see that on a Bermuda coral reef?

F. One last thing you need to do is to sign your name to your paper. If you decide to add blue cellophane to your paper, add it now that you have everything else completed. Cut a piece a just slightly wider than your paper. Add a small amount of glue to the left and right sides of the cellophane and attach it to your reef paper. If you want to make it look like the water is moving, wrinkle the cellophane and then attach it in the same way to your paper.

G. Congratulations- you've built a reef! 


You will have reviewed the Bermuda Coral Web site before starting this activity. Following is a list of suggested steps for preparing this activity:

* Download the Build a Reef Activity Sheet and the accompanying Coral Reef Organism Worksheet,
* Print these sheets out so that you can photocopy them for your students,
* Assemble all the needed materials (Sticky Tac( is one name brand for the putty-like material   used to affix posters and other materials to walls, Blue Tac( is the original British brand name of this same material),
* Crayons and colored pencils are easier to use and less messy than markers,
* If you use colored paper as the background to build your reef upon, then you may want to use clear cellophane or Saran Wrap( instead of the blue. Use the blue cellophane if you use white paper for your background.
* There are steps in the building of the reef that require the students to problem solve. Act as a guide or facilitator but do not give your students specific answers or directions. Guide   their thinking or reasoning. What they should realize is that corals need to be placed first   as they are the platform upon which many of the remaining organisms grow or swim above. 


1.Bulletin Board: You will need to enlarge the organisms to build your reef on a    bulletin board. Make sure you enlarge all the organisms by the same amount. For instance, 100% may be large enough for your size board, so you may have to cut the organism sheet in half and enlarge half at a time. Try different percentages until you arrive at a size large enough for your purposes. Since these organisms will be so much larger, have one student color one organism. The board will then be a collaborative effort. Add dimensionality to your board by stuffing some of the organisms, such as the brain coral, with newspaper or paper towels.

2.Mobile: Instead of building a reef, you can make a mobile using the Coral Reef Organism Worksheet. Enlarge the organisms slightly and then color them as for the reef-building activity. Have your students cut out each organism or even just cut out representative organisms instead of the entire collection. Use coat hangers, sticks, wooden dowels, or Styrofoam plates (with holes punched around the perimeter) from which to suspend the reef organisms.

3.Transparency Overlays: Instead of photocopying the Coral Reef Organism Worksheet onto regular copy paper, copy it onto transparency sheets. You may make the copy darker than you would for regular photocopying. [Boxes of transparencies can be obtained for low cost- you don't need high quality transparency sheets.] You will use another blank transparency sheet (instead of paper) to build your reef upon. Use permanent markers to color the organisms, again in the appropriate colors seen on the web site. Carefully cut out the outline of each of the organisms that have been colored. Follow the same directions as for the paper   reef-building activity except use double-sided transparent tape to attach the organisms to the blank transparency sheet. You can still attach the blue cellophane over the completed reef. Have a showing of the completed reefs. Place each reef on an overhead projector or hang them in a sunlit window.

Coral Reef Organism Worksheet

A simple line drawing of the following organisms will be included with this activity: 

Sea Rods
Sea Whips
Sea Pudding
Corky Sea Fingers
Common Sea Fan
Brain Coral
Mustard Hill Coral
Star Coral
Elkhorn Coral
Sheet Coral
Purple Sea Urchin
Purple Sea Squirt
Blue Parrot Fish
Silver Porgy
Yellowhead Wrasse
Foureye Butterfly Fish
Yellowfin Grouper
Sergeant Major
Trumpet Fish
Blue Tang

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