Friday, June 7, 2024

World Reef Day

World Reef Day is celebrated in the month of June to help create awareness of the stunningly beautiful and important coral reefs. When you look at a coral reef, you might think that it is a group of rocks. But corals are animals that together build a reef. Coral reefs are an important ecosystem engineer in our oceans and they can be found in tropical destinations around the world. The largest reef, Great Barrier Reef, can be seen from space.

Reefs are beautiful ecosystems that mostly lie just under the surface of the ocean.  They cover less than one per cent of the ocean but are home to 25 per cent of all marine species and are sometimes referred to as the Amazon of the Ocean.  Though most reefs are located close to the water surface, there are also deep-sea corals. The largest one is the Million Mounds, which stretches from Miami, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina. These colorful underwater gardens face a difficult and uncertain future. Changes in our climate have meant warmer and more acidic water. Pollution and overfishing are also challenges that face coral reefs worldwide. 

The corals are fascinating to explore, and your students will love to look for different shapes, textures and colors.  There are soft and hard corals, bumpy and smooth, and coral with stunning patterns. Your students will love exploring what a brain coral looks like, or an elkhorn coral. Building a model of a coral reef using recycled materials is a wonderful way to combine art and science.

You can include reading comprehension to a coral reef project by using our book Nyla’s Glowing Underwater Garden: A Coral Reef Adventure. This is a fiction story about a pygmy seahorse. Animals who live on the reef, camouflage to blend amongst the coral. The animals either want to stay safe from predators or hide as they hide. Finding a pygmy sea horse among sea fans, a type of soft coral is very difficult. Your students will enjoy looking for Nyla and her friend Nick in the book, which has stunning real-life photos. 

Through the story of Nyla, a pygmy seahorse, students will learn about the adaptations and changes made by marine life due to climate change, such as corals glowing in fluorescent colors. You might think that a glowing coral is great, but it is a sign that the algae that live in the coral has left. A coral is white, and the stunning colors come from the algae living inside them. When a coral gets stressed, they lose their color since the algae disappear. The coral turns white - coral bleaching. In a final desperate attempt to lure back the algae, and the coral glows in fluorescent colors. 

I hope you have a great time celebrating the amazing underwater gardens on the first day of June. And a project about coral reefs can continue throughout June, which is National Ocean Month! Happy snorkeling! 

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