In the coming weeks, we will be narrowing the focus of our sea life investigation to coral reefs. We have noticed the children take a particular interest in reefs in various sea explorations over the past month, and are eager to spend a longer time learning about the different parts of the reef and what lives there. We also see an opportunity for discussions about "ecological justice," as reefs are increasingly endangered!
This week, I worked with small groups of kids to learn some introductory facts about coral. Before we started, we had a whole group meeting to ask what questions kids have about coral reefs. Amongst them was "What is coral?" which seemed like a great place to start. Teachers chose four facts about coral we felt were important as a foundation for studying reefs, and using pictures and short videos, I am sharing this information with the small groups and leading discussions about it. The four facts are:
1. Coral is an animal
2. Coral eats plankton. In this photo, the mouth is ingesting tiny plankton floating around it that the tentacles of the coral reach up and pull down.
3. Coral can also make its own food using sunlight (we will be learning more about photosynthesis soon). This is part of why coral reefs are always found in shallow water.
4. Coral reproduce during mass synchronized spawning events, in which the female coral release thousands of eggs, and male coral release sperm, and the two components meet in the water to form a new coral polyp, which floats down to the ocean floor to find a place to settle: