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Coral Bleaching in the Caribbean

Rex Roettger, NASA - My NASA Data

In this activity, students examine NASA satellite data to determine if sea surface temperature has reached a point that would cause coral bleaching in the Caribbean.

Activity takes about one 50-minute class period. Computer access is necessary.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • It may be helpful to extend the scope of this activity and allow students to explore coral bleaching worldwide.
  • Suggestion to start the lesson: Let students explore where coral reefs are as an introduction. The activity assumes that students know where coral reefs are in the Caribbean.
  • The educator will have to help students draw the connection between coral bleaching,sea surface temperature, and global warming; this is only addressed in the extension activity but should definitely be addressed in the lesson.

About the Science

  • Students use real data, although it is from 2005. The links do not allow examination of more up-to-date data. Educator might have to supplement the activity with more recent data.
  • Activity shows a simplistic relationship between coral bleaching and sea surface temperatures.
  • Suggested additional resources for background info for students - http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.html. This will help to expand a more accurate understanding of the relationship between coral bleaching and sea surface temperature.
  • The activity uses a general case for temperature threshold for coral bleaching (30 degrees) rather than the more accurate degree heating weeks. This term should also be introduced by the educator.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students can choose the location to study.
  • Students analyze their own graphs to draw conclusions about coral bleaching.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All necessary materials are included and easily accessible.

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