Lesson Plans for Exploring Ancient Coral Gardens Expedition

Educators and scientists working with NOAA developed a series of lesson plans for students in Grades 5 - 12 that are specifically tied to the science behind the Exploring Ancient Coral Gardens Expedition. These lesson plans focus on cutting-edge ocean exploration and research using state-of-the-art technologies.

The lesson plans are grouped into the following categories:
Grades 5-6
Grades 7-8
Grades 9-12 (Chemical, Biological, Earth, and Physical Science)
Other Relevant Lessons

In addition to being tied to the National Science Education Standards and the Ocean Literacy Essential Priniciples and Fundamental Concepts, the hands-on, inquiry-based activities include focus questions, background information for teachers, links to interesting Internet sites, and extensions. Web logs that document the latest discoveries and complement the lesson plans, complete with compelling images and video, will be sent back each day from sea. Teachers are encouraged to use the daily logs from the Exploring Ancient Coral Gardens Expedition, which are posted on this site, to supplement the lesson plans.

Read a description of each lesson plan and/or download them to your computer. All of the lesson plans are available in a PDF format, and may be viewed and printed with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download a lesson plan, click on its title from the listing below. (Note: if you have problems downloading one of these lessons, right-click on the link and save the lesson to your desktop.)

 


Grades 5-6

A Piece of Cake (4 pages, 244k)
Focus: Spatial heterogeneity in deep-water coral communities (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to explain what a habitat is, describe at least three functions or benefits that habitats provide, and describe some habitats that are typical of deep-water hard bottom communities. Students will also be able to explain how organisms, such as deep- water corals and sponges, add to the variety of habitats in areas such as the Charleston Bump.

Easy as Pi (4 pages, 280k)
Focus: Structural complexity in benthic habitats (Life Science/Mathematics)

In this activity, students will be able to describe the importance of structural features that increase surface area in benthic habitats and quantify the relative impact of various structural modifications on surface area in model habitats. Students will also be able to give examples of organisms that increase the structural complexity of their communities.


Grades 7-8

Big Fleas Have Little Fleas (7 pages, 1Mb)
Focus: Physical structure in benthic habitats (Life Science)

In this activity, students will recognize that natural structures and systems often display recurrent complexity over many scales of measurement, infer the importance of structural complexity to species diversity and abundance in benthic habitats, and discuss ways that octocorals may modify seamount habitats to make these habitats more suitable for other species.

Climate, Corals, and Change (14 pages, 441k)
Focus (Physical Science) - Paleoclimatology

In this activity, students will be able to explain the concept of “paleoclimatological proxies” and describe at least two examples, describe how oxygen isotope ratios are related to water temperature, and interpret data on oxygen isotope ratios to make inferences about the growth rate of deep-sea corals. Students will also be able to define “forcing factor” and will be able to describe at least three forcing factors for climate change and discuss at least three potential consequences of a warmer world climate.


Grades 9-12

History's Thermometers (5 pages, 80k)
Focus: Physics – Use of deep-water corals be used to determine long-term patterns of climate change

In this activity, students will be able to explain the concept of paleoclimatological proxies, learn how oxygen isotope ratios are related to water temperature, and interpret data on oxygen isotope ratios to make inferences about climate and climate change in the geologic past.

Cut-off Genes (12 pages, 648k)
Focus: Gene sequencing and phylogenetic expressions (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to explain the concept of gene-sequence analysis; and, given gene sequence data, students will be able to draw inferences about phylogenetic similarities of different organisms.

No Escape (12 pages, 1Mb)
Focus: Fate of benthic invertebrate larvae in the vicinity of seamounts (Earth Science)

In this activity, students will be able to field data to evaluate an hypothesis about the influence of a water circulation cell on the retention of benthic invertebrate larvae in the vicinity of a seamount, and describe some potential advantages and disadvantages to species whose larvae are retained in the vicinity of seamounts where the larvae are produced. Students will also be able to describe the consequences of partial or total larval retention on the biological evolution of species producing these larvae.

Feeding in the /flow (6 pages, 316k)
Focus: Effect of water currents on feeding efficiency in corals (Life Science)

In this activity, students will be able to describe at least two ways in which current flow may affect the feeding efficiency of particle-feeding organisms and explain how interactions between current flow and the morphology of a particle-feeding organism may affect the organism’s feeding efficiency. Students will also be able to identify at least two environmental factors in addition to current flow that may affect the morphology of reef-building corals.


Other Relevant Lesson Plans from NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program

Grades 5-6

Friend, Foe, or ...(5 pages, 331k) (from the North Atlantic Stepping Stones 2005 Expedition)
Focus (Life Science) - Symbiotic relationships with corals
In this activity, students will be able to define and describe symbiotic, mutualistic, commensal, parasitic, facultative and obligatory relationships between organisms; describe at least three species that have symbiotic relationships with corals; and discuss whether these relationships are mutualistic, commensal, or parasitic.

Deep Gardens (8 pages, 359k) (from the Florida Coast Deep Corals 2005 Expedition)
Focus: Comparison of deep-sea and shallow-water tropical coral communities (Life Science)
In this activity, students will compare and contrast deep-sea coral communities with their shallow- water counterparts, describe three types of coral associated with deep-sea coral communities, and explain three benefits associated with deep-sea coral communities. Students will explain why many scientists are concerned about the future of deep-sea coral communities.

Architects of the Deep Reef (5 pages, 388k) (from the Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Reproduction in Cnidaria (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to identify and describe at least five characteristics of Cnidaria coral, compare and contrast the four classes of Cnidaria, and describe typical reproductive strategies used by Cnidaria. Students will also be able to infer which of these strategies are likely to be used by the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa, and will be able to describe the advantages of these strategies.

Volcanoes, Plates, and Chains (7 pages, 116k) (from the Exploring Alaska’s Seamounts 2002 Expedition)
Focus: Formation of seamounts the Axial-Cobb-Eikelberg-Patton chain, Gulf of Alaska
In this activity, students will be able to describe the processes that form seamounts, describe the movement of tectonic plates in the Gulf of Alaska region and explain the types of volcanic activity that might be associated with these movements, and describe how a combination of hotspot activity and tectonic plate movement could produce the arrangement of seamounts observed in the Axial-Cobb-Eikelberg-Patton chain.

Leaving Home (6 pages, 396k) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2004 Expedition)
Focus: Larval recruitment on New England seamounts (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to explain the meaning of “larval dispersal” and “larval retention” and explain their importance to populations of organisms in the marine environment. Given data on recruitment of organisms to artificial substrates, students will also be able to draw inferences about larval dispersal in these species.


Grades 7-8

Biological Communities of Alaska Seamounts (5 pages, 108k) (from the Exploring Alaska’s Seamounts 2002 Expedition)
Focus: Biological Communities of Alaska Seamounts
In this activity, students will be able to infer why biological communities on seamounts are likely to contain unique or endemic species, calculate an index of similarity between two biological communities given species occurrence data, make inferences about reproductive strategies in species that are endemic to seamounts, and explain the implications of endemic species on seamounts to conservation and extinction of these species.

It’s OK To Be a Clod (5 pages, 252k) (from The Charleston Bump 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Principles of solubility and measurements of water currents (Physical Science/Earth Science)
In this activity, students will be able to describe factors that affect the solubility of a chemical substance in seawater and explain how information on the solubility of a substance can be used to measure water currents.

Design a Reef! (5 pages, 408k) (from the Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Niches in coral reef ecosystems (Life Science)
In this activity, students will compare and contrast coral communities in shallow water and deep water, describe the major functions that organisms must perform in a coral ecosystem, and explain how these functions might be provided in a miniature coral ecosystem. Students will also be able to explain the importance of three physical factors in coral reef ecosystems and infer the fundamental source of energy in a deep-water coral community.

Let’s Go to the Video Tape! (7 pages, 552k) (from the Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Characteristics of biological communities on deep-water coral habitats (Life Science)
In this activity, students will recognize and identify some of the fauna groups found in deep-sea coral communities, infer possible reasons for observed distribution of groups of animals in deep-sea coral communities, and discuss the meaning of “biological diversity.” Students will compare and contrast the concepts of “variety” and “relative abundance” as they relate to biological diversity, and given abundance and distribution data of species, will be able to calculate an appropriate numeric indicator that describes the biological diversity of a community.

A Matter of Density (6 pages, 416k) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2004 Expedition)
Focus: Temperature, density, and salinity in the deep sea (Physical Science)
In this activity, students will be able to explain the relationship among temperature, salinity, and density; and, given CTD (conductivity, temperature, and density) data, students will be able to calculate density and construct density profiles of a water column. Students will also be able to explain the concept of sigma-t, and explain how density differences may affect the distribution of organisms in a deep-sea environment.

Food Web Mystery (4 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Food webs in the vicinity of seamounts
In this activity, students will be able to describe typical marine food webs, and explain why food is generally scarce in the deep-ocean environment and discuss reasons that seamounts may be able to support a higher density of biological organisms than would appear to be possible considering food available from primary production at the ocean’s surface.

Come on Down! (6 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Ocean Exploration
In this activity, students will research the development and use of research vessels/vehicles used for deep ocean exploration; students will calculate the density of objects by determining the mass and volume; students will construct a device that exhibits neutral buoyancy.

Biodiversity of Deep Sea Corals (3 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Deep-sea corals
In this activity, students will research life found on tropical coral reefs to develop an understanding of the biodiversity of the ecosystem; students will research life found in deep-sea coral beds to develop an understanding of the biodiversity of the ecosystem; students will compare the diversity and adaptations of tropical corals to deep-sea corals.

Treasures in Jeopardy (6 pages, 299k) (from the Florida Coast Deep Corals 2005 Expedition)
Focus: Conservation of deep-sea coral communities (Life Science)
In this activity, students will compare and contrast deep-sea coral communities with their shallow- water counterparts and explain at least three benefits associated with deep-sea coral communities. Students will also describe human activities that threaten deep-sea coral communities and describe actions that should be taken to protect resources of deep-sea coral communities.

How Am I Supposed to Eat THAT? (4 pages, 248k) (from The Charleston Bump 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Feeding adaptations among benthic organisms (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to describe at least three nutritional strategies used by benthic organisms typical of deep-water coral communities and describe physical adaptations associated with at least three nutritional strategies used by benthic organisms.


Grades 9-12

Cool Corals (7 pages, 476k)
Focus: Biology and ecology of Lophelia corals (Life Science)
In this activity, students will describe the basic morphology of Lophelia corals and explain the significance of these organisms, interpret preliminary observations on the behavior of Lophelia polyps, and infer possible explanations for these observations. Students will also discuss why biological communities associated with Lophelia corals are the focus of major worldwide conservation efforts.

What’s the Difference? (15 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Identification of biological communities from survey data (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to calculate a simple similarity coefficient based upon data from biological surveys of different areas, describe similarities between groups of organisms using a dendrogram, and infer conditions that may influence biological communities given information about the groupings of organisms that are found in these communities.

Round and Round (11 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Circulation cells in the vicinity of seamounts (Earth Science)
In this activity, students will be able to interpret data from a three-dimensional array of current monitors to infer an overall pattern of water circulation, hypothesize what effect an observed water circulation pattern might have on seamount fauna that reproduce by means of floating larvae, and describe the importance of measurements to verify theoretical predictions.

A Tough Neighborhood (4 pages, 244k) (from The Charleston Bump 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Adaptations of benthic organisms to deep water, hard substrates, and strong currents (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to describe at least three attributes of the deep ocean physical environment that are radically different from ocean habitats near the sea surface and explain at least three morphological or physiological adaptations that allow organisms to survive in the physical environment of the deep ocean. Students will also be able to identify at least three organisms with adaptations to the deep ocean environment that are found (or may be found) on the Charleston Bump.

Keep It Complex! (5 pages, 272k) (from The Charleston Bump 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Effects of habitat complexity on biological diversity (Life Science)
In this activity, students will be able to describe the significance of complexity in benthic habitats to organisms that live in these habitats and will describe at least three attributes of benthic habitats that can increase the physical complexity of these habitats. Students will also be able to give examples of organisms that increase the structural complexity of their communities and infer and explain relationships between species diversity and habitat complexity in benthic communities.

Eddies, Gyres, and Drowning Machines (5 pages, 256k) (from The Charleston Bump 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Effects of bottom topography on currents (Physical Science/Earth Science)
In this activity, students will be able to describe at least three types of effects that physical obstructions may have on water flowing past the obstructions, explain at least three ways in which current flow can be significant to benthic organisms, and explain how physical obstructions to current flow can create hazardous swimming conditions.

Top to Bottom (7 pages, 348k) (from the North Atlantic Stepping Stones 2005 Expedition)
Focus (Earth Science/Life Science) - Impacts of climate change on biological communities of the deep ocean
In this activity, students will be able to describe thermohaline circulation, explain how climate change might affect thermohaline circulation, and identify the time scale over which such effects might take place. Students will also be able to explain how warmer temperatures might affect wind-driven surface currents and how these effects might impact biological communities of the deep ocean, and discuss at least three potential impacts on biological communities that might result from carbon dioxide sequestration in the deep ocean.

Designing Tools for Ocean Exploration (13 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Ocean Exploration
In this activity, students will understand the complexity of ocean exploration; students will understand the technological applications and capabilities required for ocean exploration; students will understand the importance of teamwork in scientific research projects; students will develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.

Living in Extreme Environments (12 pages, 1Mb) (from the Mountains in the Sea 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Biological Sampling Methods (Biological Science)
In this activity, students will understand the use of four methods commonly used by scientists to sample populations; students will understand how to gather, record, and analyze data from a scientific investigation; students will begin to think about what organisms need in order to survive; students will understand the concept of interdependence of organisms.

Mystery of the Alaskan Seamounts (9 pages, 132k) (from the Exploring Alaska’s Seamounts 2002 Expedition)
Focus: Earth Science - Formation of seamounts in the Axial-Cobb-Eikelberg-Patton chain, Gulf of Alaska
In this activity, students will be able to describe the processes that form seamounts, learn how isotope ratios can be used to determine the age of volcanic rock, and interpret basalt rock age data from seamounts in the Gulf of Alaska to investigate a hypothesis for the origin of these seamounts.

Are You Related? (11 pages, 465k) (from the Florida Coast Deep Corals 2005 Expedition)
Focus: Molecular genetics of deepwater corals (Life Science)
In this activity, students will define “microsatellite markers” and explain how they may be used to identify different populations and species, explain two definitions of “species,” and describe processes that result in speciation. Students will also use microsatellite data to make inferences about populations of deep sea corals.

Gellin (4 pages, 372k) (from the Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats 2003 Expedition)
Focus: DNA analysis
In this activity, students will explain and carry out a simple process for separating DNA from tissue samples, explain and carry out a simple process for separating complex mixtures, and explain the process of restriction enzyme analysis.

Breaking Away (Or Not . . .) (5 pages, 96k) (from the Exploring Alaska’s Seamounts 2002 Expedition)
Focus: Life Science - Reproductive/developmental strategies of some benthic seamount species
In this activity, students will be able to compare and contrast common reproductive strategies used by benthic invertebrates, describe the most common reproductive strategies among benthic invertebrates on a seamount and explain why these strategies are appropriate to seamount conditions, describe how certain reproductive strategies favor survival of species on seamounts and what changes on seamounts might favor other strategies, and discuss the implications of reproductive strategy to the conservation and protection of seamount communities.

How Does Your (Coral) Garden Grow? (6 pages, 456k) (from the Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats 2003 Expedition)
Focus: Growth rate estimates based on isotope ratios (Life Science/Chemistry)
In this activity, students will identify and briefly explain two methods for estimating the age of hard corals, learn how oxygen isotope ratios are related to water temperature, and interpret data on oxygen isotope ratios to make inferences about the growth rate of deep-sea corals.


 

For More Information

Contact Paula Keener-Chavis,
Director, Education Programs
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Other lesson plans developed for this Web site are available in the Education Section.