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Hawaii and Coral Reef Systems

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Paula Evans Paula Roknick-Evans 2640 Points

I was very impressed with the Coral Reef Systems SciPak. It really got me thinking about how to bring more of this information to my students in fourth grade. We usually do research and podcast presentations on endangered species in Hawaii. I plan to use more information gleaned from this SciPak to focus more on coral itself. I have a friend who works with the Marine Biology Institute who has agreed to come in to show videos of how they vacuum away invasive limu here on our side of the island. I also want to have the students create, direct, and produce PSAs pertaining to one issue that negatively impacts our coral reef systems. I am going to have a beach clean-up day one weekend with parent volunteers as well. These are my plans, and I think this website has a lot of information for me and my students to get us through this project. Happy learning all!

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Hi Paula,
Empowering your students to make a difference by conducting a beach clean up and creating PSAs is a fabulous idea.

I don't know if you are aware, but there are quite a few coral reef collections within the learning center that you might want to check out.

NOAA's website has a good tutorial on corals that you might be able to use in your classroom at

Some other sites are
Coral Reef Education Library
NOAA and Corals
Reef Relief

Lisa Lariscy Lisa Lariscy 130 Points

I am interested in learning more about the Coral Reef System. I teach first graders on the North Shore in Hawaii. Are you aware of any resources close to there? I have a beach clean up activity planned and we have seen videos on Safari-Montage that expalained the importance of the Coral Reef System and ways to protect it. Mostly through education, beach clean-up, not touching the reef, and not catching the reef fish.

Margeaux Ikuma Margeaux Ikuma 620 Points

Dear Paula,

I am reviewing the Coral Reef SciPak as well, and agree with you that it is impressive. It provided me with much more insights and knowledge about coral the role that it plays in the ocean ecosystem. I really like how you are taking what you have learned and are sharing it with your students.
I also teach fourth grade in Hawaii. My team and I are currently working on an interdisciplinary unit that will incorporate: life science, ancient Hawaiians and their impact on the land and ocean, ahupua'a (land division, exploring our own watershed, and the impact that we currently have on the land and ocean, extending all the way out to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

For our project, we are able to use a number of resources from the Navigating Change curriculum Hopefully it can be some help to you too!
Our ultimate goal is to jolt some ACTION into our students and provide them with the opportunity to change the negative impact that they have on the environment. We are also hoping that they will become advocates for the environment and be able to influence other people.
Could I ask you to share some of your experiences? Do your students present their presentations to other people outside of your classroom? Do they take it out into the community? Or do you post it to your school's website?
If possible, I'd love to do some sort of an 'exchange' where our students could share what they are doing with each other.

Thank you again Paula!

Randall Shinn Randall Shinn 510 Points

I was also impressed with the SciPack on Coral Reefs and will by tying this in to my benchmarks during the 4th Quarter on Ecosystems. I will be having my students do a biome shoebox on coral reefs and have them advocate to the community on how we can prevent the destruction of coral reefs as well. Has anyone done this before? If so, how did it work out with the students? Lisa: How were you able to get your school to give you the okay for the beach clean up? Was there any liability forms that you had to have signed?

Lynn Yamada Lynn Yamada 3020 Points

Hi all- I agree that the SciPacks are a great resource too! Over the years I've adapted bits and pieces of resources- some from NSTA, some from others, etc... to fit into units. Have you heard of Hoike O Haleakala- ( You'll find four different environmental topics and lesson plans that are based on the flora and fauna unique to Hawaii. Under the Marine Module, I have been successful in using Unit 2, Activity 2: Marine Food Webs. Even though it does take a little bit of preparation (I laminated 10 sets for my classes to share) I have been using the same cards for 3 years now (I teach hs, so they're not as gentle!). :) My students enjoy using the cards because they can move them around to build food pyramids/trophic levels, and they recognize the animals and plants! I highly recommend taking a look- there's other modules too. For instance, I incorporate a reading on the Hawaiian Honeycreepers when we study evolution. The nice thing too is the pdf files are easy to understand and implement! Enjoy!

Rachel Nieto Rachel Nieto 530 Points

Hi Paula, I was very impressed that you have your 4th graders to podcasts and are planning to have them to PSA on the effects on our coral reefs. I do not think my second graders would be ready for such a responsibility but it would be interesting to see them try =) Thanks again for the ideas, Rachel

Vincent Lowery Vincent Lowery 2750 Points

Hi, I also teach in Hawaii, but in high school, and I am currently teaching some math. I am just getting into the topic of coral reefs and I am very curious about the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. I greatly appreciate the link to navigating change provided by Margeaux. Maybe I could incorporate some form of lesson involving statistics. Does anyone have any ideas? There are a couple of lessons that I saw on the navigating change website. I am also interested in trying some sort of interdisciplinary approach involving Hawaiian culture. I currently am involved in a land-based project integrating math and ancient Hawaiian ruins. The students love it and I want to try an ocean-based project. Any ideas there? Thanks.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

I have my students read Dive to the Coral Reef and do a report on Coral Reefs and the human impact on these ecosystems. The students usually do their reports as 4 power points slides on each of 4 topics, How coral forms, Types of coral, coral ecosystem and human impact. Anyone have a suggestion as to how to best use the Sci pack on coral to help students learn more details? Do you just give kids or teams of kids a computer and have them read through the lesson and answer the questions, take notes?

Helen Hicks Helen Hicks 2635 Points

Coral reefs is a topic that gets all students excited. I did it last year with my fourth graders and started off my reading the picture book Coral Reef by Gail Gibbons because it is full of color and true to life drawing of the different sea animals at each level. I also showed them a point power that my colleague made. It shows the real sea animals found around the island of Oahu. The students really enjoyed seeing the pictures and beaches. I made it extra credit to students who took pictures of sea animals the saw when at the beach with their family. I tried to attach the power point but it's to large but if anyone would like it. I can email to you, let me know. Thanks, Helen

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Thanks Helen. I will check out the Gail Gibbons book. We are in Minnesota so the beach is not an option but I'd love to have your power point! Thanks. [email protected]

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Thanks Helen. I will check out the Gail Gibbons book. We are in Minnesota so the beach is not an option but I'd love to have your power point! Thanks. [email protected]

Shawna Fischer Shawna Fischer 2300 Points


There are a lot of websites that show the volume of garbage and other things that wash up on the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. They are also soon to be hit with tsunami debris. I saw a very powerful picture at an art museum in Maui that showed a dead bird filled with all kinds of plastic debris that it had consumed and ultimately died from. I think it is a good tie-in with environmental stewardship and I am sure there could be some statistics and math with the kinds of trash that are found there.
Here's a link of a picture of the bird. It is pretty shocking.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Thanks, Vincent. This is very useful for my coral reef research unit. Human impact is one of our main focuses for this.

Erin Howe Erin Howe 1405 Points

I got married in Ohio and was privileged to go snorkeling in some amazing Hawaiian coral reefs! It was amazing!! I think getting kids in touch with this type of environmental system will do wonders to help them care about the environment more!

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

We are starting our coral reef unit. We read "Dive to the Coral Reef" by Elizabeth Tayntor et al. We make a 4 square writing tool, ie we divide our page into 4 parts, and choose 4 topics to write about, eg. how coral is made, where coral is found, coral habitat, man's impact on coral. Students take notes as we read Dive to the Coral Reef together. Then they use library books (because I am inner city I usually check the books out for the kids from the public library and keep them in my classroom.) The students then use the notes they took in their 4 square to make four (or more in some cases) slides on a power point about coral reefs. They make the slides, type in the text then get pictures from google to illustrate their slide show. As they finish we have students present their slide show to class, so about 4 -6 per day until we finish. The kids really love it and learn a lot about Coral.

Lori Kuwahara Lori Kuwahara 500 Points

Hi to Those in Hawaii! Today my son went to a birthday party and it was at a wonderful live resource for those studying the coral reef and marine life here. It is the Living Art Marine Center located near the airport and Monday-Friday they take school groups for a great educational experience. They offer programs for preschool through high school and can accommodate up to 200 people at $5 a student. They are also open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. It's a great alternative to the Waikiki Aquarium which also has a great educational program. Check out their website if you're interested.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

That is so cool. In a perfect world I would be able to take my Minnesota kids on a field trip to a coral reef! Maybe someday.

Paula Evans Paula Roknick-Evans 2640 Points

All of your responses have given me great ideas to incorporate into my unit on endangered plants and animals of Hawaii. The kids have used many NOAA links as suggested and the Dive to the Coral Reef is an excellent resource as well. We are beginning script writing and story boarding for our public service announcements. They have some great ideas on how to introduce younger kids to the ideas of habitat loss, population growth, introduced species, and over-fishing. If anyone out there has some ideas on how best to showcase their works when we finish, that would be great. I appreciate your collegial responses and ideas. Mahalo! Paula

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Paula, Sounds like a cool plan. I really like having the students type up what they have learned on power point slides and illustrate them with pictures they can grab from the web. It's a great way to teach power point and teach them to cite sources. It also makes a great show case tool. We've had a celebration before where we invite the partents and principal and other teachers to our class to have some kids present their power point. I have all kids present over a 1 to 2 week period (I have 33 kids this year so likely to be 2 weeks). We've also put them all together in one show and let them run for parent night showcases. Good luck. sounds like you are having fun with this.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Paula, another great book is the book Helen Hicks mentioned in her post, Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons. Thanks, Helen, I checked it out and now it's a favorite of my students.

Eve Nishikawa Eve Nishikawa 3190 Points

I agree that the Hawaii and Coral Reef Systems is an AWESOME scipack. I had actually written a section on how much I love this scipack. Im sorry for missing your post, but Im glad you got to experience being in Hawaii through the scipack. I feel very privelaged to live in such a beautiful place and the ocean is always accessible. The coral reef scipack is full of beautiful pictures and very descriptive and accurate information. I would also like to look into that book that Helen was talking about by Gail Gibbons. Thank you everyone for your ideas!

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Eva, The Gail Gibbons book is great. So is Dive to the Coral Reef and Reading Rainbow has a old VHS video on it. I checked it out of our library. I also Checked out about 10 other kids books about coral reefs. My students had a great time reading them and getting facts to add to their four square. Once the students are done with their projects We hope to post them on our Farnsworth Aerospace 5th grade Huber web page. The kids are super engaged in getting these power points written. They are learning lots of amazing facts about coral and the importance of the reefs as well as things that can be done to help protect them.

Tamara Leong Tamara Leong 1015 Points

Hi Lori, Thank you for sharing this website! It looks like it would make a great field trip for next year. I especially like how they address grade appropriate topics for each age group. Do you know if they include an art activity with the tour? I am excited to look further into this!

Vincent Lowery Vincent Lowery 2750 Points

This is a very positive discussion thread. I feel that I learned a great deal from the Coral reefs scipack and also from the coral reefs sciguide. NOAA has so much stuff on coral reefs, its not even funny. You can learn everything you want through their offerings. I will check out the Gail Gibbons book and Thanks again for such an interesting discussion.

Sharon Chern Sharon Chern 2640 Points

I've collected a lot of resources from this thread, thanks everyone. I'd like to share a coral reef demo that gets students' attention. Put a small piece of chalk in a cup of vinegar (or stronger acid!) and the chalk literally disintegrates. Students can see the bubbles forming and pieces of chalk falling apart. Then we talk about the increasing CO2 concentration in the air, climate change, acidification of ocean and effects on coral reefs, etc.

Natasha Schmidt Natasha Schmidt 3110 Points

I also found this particular scipack interesting. I am currently finishing up my Teaching Elementary Science course, and in the classroom that I had done my hours h=in, the students were doing flipbook with facts about the coral reef system before their FCATs. I found the scipack very helpful with going into more detail about all the different aspects of it, as well as making all the information more relatable in the sense that it was able to be completed at my own pace.

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