Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math - PRISM

Hawaiʻi’s Coral Reefs

A Hands-on Guide to Hawaiʻi’s Coral Reef Ecosystem

Download curriculum in individual sections using the links at the bottom of this page. Also see some more examples of student work. Some of the files are large. Read on for a description of the coral reef unit or download the unit introduction for a complete description of the lesson format, assessment, and content. Also on this page, you will find video clips that can be used to support the curriculum.

mural closeupMural close-up Grade Level: 4th Grade

Purpose: This curriculum is designed to communicate:

  • Corals as Organisms
  • How the coral reefs of Hawaiʻi are physically and biologically structured.
  • Fish Adaptation
  • What the major natural and human induced impacts to the coral reef habitat are and how our actions directly tie into the survival of Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs

class picMrs. Ho's 4th grade class and the first guinea pigs

muralCoral reef mural designed by the class

Hawaiʻi Content and Performance Standards Addressed (HCPS III): 4.1 Scientific Investigation, 4.2 Nature of Science, 4.3 Organisms and the Environment, 4.4 Structure and Function in Organisms

Rationale: Coral reefs in the Hawaiian archipelago comprise over 80% of U.S. coral reefs and span over 2,000km. Hawaiian reefs posses some of the most abundant levels of marine endemic species in the world as well as sheltering over 700 species of fish, 400 species of algae and over 2000 species of invertebrates. Our coral reefs are not only important to protecting our shoreline from storms and wave damage but also provide economic benefits to our local communities through marine tourism and nearshore fisheries. Reef-building corals are the keystone framework organisms in coral reefs and a decline in coral health will have direct and immediate effect to the entire coral reef ecosystem thereby threatening endemic species. For this reason it is important for our youth to understand that corals are not colorful rocks but living organisms which in itself is an ecosystem. This curriculum uses hands-on activities to promote interactive learning about Hawaiʻi’s coral as organisms and the coral reef ecosystem.

Unit Concept Map

Concept Map

Lesson Plans

Materials needed for this curriculum are minimal, however there are some expendable materials that may have to be purchased.  Prior to teaching this unit, the instructor should browse the lesson plans and catalog which materials may have to be obtained. 

Taught as an entire unit the lessons flows together, however many of the lessons may be taken out of context to deliver a particular concept or standard. The unit as a whole may take longer than a quarter to complete but can be done if excluding certain sections.   Each lesson plan includes a summary of the lesson and primary objectives so you can pick and choose what lessons you would like to cover. The lesson plans also include background information for the instructor. See pictures of these lessons in action!

Video Clips

Introduction to Coral Reefs

Coral Spawning (Reproduction)

Downloadable Lessons