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A Paper Relief for the Coral Reef

Create your own coral reef and learn about these delicate ecosystems.

  • Grade 2
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Share a book about coral reefs with the class such as “Life in a Coral Reef” by Wendy Pfeffer.
    2. Talk about coral reefs and why they are endangered. Show the class photographs of reefs and the marine life they support.
    3. Give children an opportunity to examine illustrations in coral reef books. Encourage them to observe texturing and special techniques. Demonstrate how to do a crayon-watercolor resist, by first drawing with crayon and then painting the entire page with watercolor. The wax of the crayon “resists” the watercolor, resulting in a unique effect. Demonstrate how sprinkling a small amount of salt on the artwork, while the watercolor is wet, results in a special, crystalized effect as the color pulls towards the salt and dries in interesting color clusters.
    4. Have children begin by using Crayola® Crayons to draw seaweed and coral on the ocean floor. Then they will paint over their crayon drawings with watercolors to create the sea. Students can create a bubbly effect by sprinkling a bit of salt across the painting. Allow the work to sit until fully dry and then brush the salt off.
    5. Using photos as inspiration have students create sea creatures on separate pieces of paper using watercolors, markers, or other materials. Cut them out and add them to the sea scenes using Crayola® Glue and folded paper to give a 3-D effect. Encourage creativity and imagination.
    6. Ask students to think about how sea life is fragile and how the coral reef is a delicate ecosystem. Invite each student to write a poem about the importance of protecting the planet, from their sea creature’s point of view.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

    LA: Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).

    SCI: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the types of habitats in which organisms live, and ask questions based on that information.

    SCI: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information that in any particular environment, some kinds of organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

    SCI: Use evidence to argue that some changes in an organism’s habitat can be beneficial or harmful to the organism.

    SS: Recognize and interpret how the "common good" can be strengthened through various forms of citizen action.

    SS: Explore causes, consequences, and possible solutions to persistent, contemporary, and emerging global issues, such as pollution and endangered species.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

  • Adaptations

    Display students’ paintings together on a large wall in an underwater scene. Observe the various techniques students used. Discuss what we can do to maintain the health and beauty of coral reefs.

    Investigate how pollution affects coral reefs and sea life. How much plastic ends up in the ocean each year?

    Read “Coral Reefs” by Gail Gibbons, “Coral Reefs in Danger” by Samantha Brooke, or “Over in the Ocean” by Marianne Berkes.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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