Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math - PRISM


A Hands-on Guide to Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Purpose: This curriculum is designed to communicate:

  • What is coral: overview coral anatomy, distribution, physical properties, and why it is important to conserve coral reefs.
  • Coral morphology: coral growth form and function
  • Coral reef as a habitat: food chain, plants and animal relationship.
Kindergarten class

Rationale: Corals consist of small, colonial, plankton-eating invertebrate animals called polyps, which are anemone-like. Although corals are mistaken for non-living material, they are live animals. Corals are living animals because they fit the five criteria of the definition of an animal (1. Multicellular; 2. Consumes other organisms for food; 3. Has an internal digestive system; and 4. Embryonic development; 5. Motile, or can move independently). Corals feed on plankton, which includes tiny crustaceans, mollusks, and larvae of reef animals. Corals use their tentacles, or arms to sting and capture plankton that drift by on currents. Shallow-water corals grow the fastest and are called reef-building corals because they secrete skeletons of calcium carbonate, which construct large structures called coral reefs.

The reef-building corals that form coral reefs in Hawaiʻi are made up of several types of coral such as finger coral, lobe coral, rice coral, and cauliflower coral. Each coral growth form is adapted to live in a different type of habitat where light levels, currents, water temperature and salinity may vary. The adapted coral forms provide a prime habitat to marine organisms by providing protection and food resources. In Hawai’i coral reefs are home to some of the highest numbers of endemic marine species in the world. Coral reefs are important to conserve in Hawai’i for the preservation of the corals themselves and especially for the conservation of the marine organisms that depend on coral reefs to survive.

Downloadable Lessons

This unit was created and piloted by Jackie Gaudioso, Bobby Hsu & Diane Duke