Lesson Plan

Coral Reefs: A Chance Of Success

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Earth Science, Education, Environment, Marine Biology
45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Standard 7: Students examine organisms' structures and functions for life processes, including growth and reproduction.


Coral reefs are certainly one of our planet’s greatest natural attractions. During this activity, students will understand the three main environmental factors that corals need to survive and thrive on. Students will appreciate how fortunate we are in American Samoa to have all three important environmental factors in order for corals to survive. They will also learn how vitally important corals are, and what they need to do to protect these resources. 


Students will be able to:

1. Identify the three essential environmental components needed by corals to survive.

2. Identify the physical factors that limits where coral reefs develop.


Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Corals (amu) are actually colonies of tiny animals living together on the reef. The individual animals that build the reef are called “coral polyps”. Within the body of the coral polyp live small, single celled algae known as “zooxanthellae.” These tiny plantlike cells photosynthesize in the coral’s body. Just like terrestrial plants, they make food using sunlight and nutrients. Photosynthesis uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food and oxygen. They contain some of the most colorful and varied forms of life on earth. Thousands of living organisms rely on coral reefs for survival. For corals to really survive and thrive they need to have these three factors, the right temperature, the right depth, and strong enough wave action to bring in nutrients. Temperatures must not be too hot or too cold. Water temperatures must range from 62 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for corals to survive. Depths must be shallow enough for corals to have enough sunlight to begin the process of photosynthesis. When depths exceed three hundred feet, sunlight will not have enough energy to begin photosynthesize. Wave action must be strong enough to bring in nutrients for corals.       


American Samoa is one of the most privileged places in the world because all three of these environmental components exist here. The coral reefs of the Samoan Archipelago are biologically diverse. Over 250 species of corals have been reported in the archipelago. More than half of all the coral species known in the entire Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from East Africa to the islands of Polynesia, are found here. In addition, approximately over 950 near shore fish species in the waters of the archipelago, compared with only 460 nearshore fish species in Hawai’i. With global warming and climate change already affecting the growth of our corals, it is critical that humans must take action to preserve these precious resources.


For each group:
1. Die
2. Scorecard

3. Chart

Handouts & Worksheets
1. Scorecard
2. Chart