Last fall Google took their “Street View” feature underwater and added the first panoramic images of coral reefs to Google Maps, in partnership with The Catlin Seaview Survey. The collection includes reefs at six sites in Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines. So, whether you live near the ocean or in a landlocked city, you can now explore the biodiversity of the world’s great reefs!

The interactive “reef view” is more than just good fun, it could be incorporated into a series of lessons on coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs are not only gorgeous, they play a critical role in the ocean ecosystem. While they make up only 0.1 percent of the total ocean area, 25 percent of the world’s marine life lives there. Corals are also a great model for biomimicry — demonstrating how nature creates calcium carbonate, a compound used in the manufacture of cement, in a sustainable way.

Read on for some ideas and resources for teaching life science and chemistry lessons based on coral reefs.

  • The PRISM partnership between University of Hawaii at Hilo & Hawaii Department of Education offers very comprehensive unit of 21 lessons for 4th grade Life and Environmental Science focusing on Hawaii’s Coral Reefs.
  • Our Concrete Without Quarries lab and lesson plan demonstrates how humans can emulate the coral’s process and addresses key chemistry education standards for upper elementary grades through high school.
  • This simple lab demonstration helps students visualize how excess CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to ocean acidification, a factor that threatens the survival of coral reefs worldwide.

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