I will admit, I haven’t been so good about posting the SEA Creatures lesson plans as I’d wanted, so I’ll try and catch up over the next couple of days. But the good news is that the program is going very well so far! Pictures are updated on our Facebook page, and I am working on having a gallery on the main SEA Creatures page.
Coral reefs near Marigot Bay in Saint Lucia
Since Saint Lucia is surrounded by coral reefs, and these very reefs are endangered due to climate change, water pollution and coral diseases (amongst other things), I wanted to teach the kids about them. Many of the kids don’t know how to swim, and so they haven’t seen a reef before. Even those that had seen them didn’t know exactly what a coral was?
Corals may look like a rock or plant, but they are actually animals! And each structure you see isn’t just one coral, but is a colony. They can’t move around (They are sessile organisms) but because of a special relationship with a type of algae plant called zooxanthellae, they can still eat! The zooxanthellae live inside the coral reef, and like all plants, they get their energy from the sun. The zooxanthellae give some of the energy to the coral, and the coral, in turn, provide a safe place for the algae to live. Because the two organisms are helping each other, we call this a mutualistic relationship.
The algae alone isn’t enough to keep it alive. At night, the corals open up their rocky faces to reveal tentacles that can sting like a jellyfish. The coral can use these tentacles to stun and bring their food to their mouths (which is also their butt, hehehe). They can also use their tentacles to fight, as you can see in this video.
Coral Reef [Hunting & Fighting]
We did several activities across the different schools. One was to watch the “Magic School Bus: Takes a Dive” episode, which the kids loved. The episode takes them underwater and teaches them about mutualistic relationships, which was the theme of our lesson.
After the movie, we went outside to do 3-legged races, which represent how 2 organisms have to work together to survive!
At schools without access to a television, we focused on how a coral feeds and how the algae provides color and energy to the coral polyps.
White Latex Gloves (one for each kid)
Treat of some sort (we used cheeto snacks)
1) Allow each kid to have one glove and a sharpie. (We used Sharpies because I had them and they don’t run as much as a washable marker on a glove – paint might work too?)
2) Explain to the children that their hands are coral polyps and when it is white, it means that there is no algae inside. Without the algae (zooxanthellae) they will starve, so they have to color their gloves.
Kids coloring their gloves
3) Once everyone colors their gloves, instruct all the children to put their heads down on the desk and close their eyes… corals are blind you know!
4) Now, call out to the children that it is the daytime and the sun is out, so a coral will keep it’s tentacles in (so they should make a fist with their hands). Wait a bit, then say that it is getting dark, darker… until it’s nighttime! At night the corals open and wiggle their tentacles around to find food that is floating by. So, in our game, walk around and put little treats in the kids’ hands as they wiggle their fingers. Switch between day and night time, making sure the kids do the appropriate action with their hands. Keep going until everyone gets a nice little snack, or you run out of food.
Corals catch whatever floats by in the night.