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Coral Bleaching: A White Hot Problem

Laura Rose, Lisa Ayers Lawrence, Bridge Project - NOAA Sea Grant and National Marine Educators Association

This teaching activity addresses environmental stresses on corals. Students assess coral bleaching using water temperature data from the NOAA National Data Buoy Center. Students learn about the habitat of corals, the stresses on coral populations, and the impact of increased sea surface temperatures on coral reefs. In a discussion section, the connection between coral bleaching and global warming is drawn.

Activity takes about 60 minutes

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Climate Literacy
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Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
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Climate impacts ecosystems and past species extinctions
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Evidence shows that human-caused global warming have impacted ecosystem resulting in reduced biodiversity and ecological resilience
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
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A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
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C) Systems and connections.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Solutions and suggestions of how each student can make a difference is offered.
  • Activity needs a hook to get students interested - ideally, a powerpoint presentation or some beautiful pictures of coral reefs.

About the Science

  • Well referenced activity with links to NOAA animations and other very useful resources for educators and students about the use of real data.
  • Activity asks students to build a trend from only 4 years of data - that is not scientific best practice - the discussion addresses this issue but nevertheless, it would be better to ask students to use more data points.
  • Comment from scientist: The influence of acidity of the ocean on the coral populations should be introduced by the educator. I think this is a good activity for students to learn about coral reefs, and also practice skills including interpreting graphical data. I really like that the activity uses real data. There are good links to other websites with more detailed information and references.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity uses real data to draw conclusions about coral bleaching. The graphs are clear and easy to read. A clear path to accomplish objectives.
  • Well designed guiding questions to interpret the graphs and think through the scientific process, and very interesting guiding questions for the discussion.
  • Additional materials in the activity offer opportunities for students to learn the concepts in different ways.
  • Students are given the data and then answer questions; no real inquiry - it could be hard to engage students in reading graphs and answering questions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All material is readily available for educators. Activity is ready to use.

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