In January and February 2017, students at two elementary schools in Pinellas County learned about coral reef biodiversity and climate by engaging in a new four-week series of activities developed by Chris Simoniello, MBON GCOOS outreach lead. Using a “Waters of the World” theme, she pilot tested the lessons, drawing information and resources from the MBON project and a NOAA Climate Stewards Program grant.
Simoniello used a multi-level approach to leverage resources and actively engage educators. She taught one class each week to gifted fifth grade students at Bay Point Elementary. The teacher observed the sessions and how the children responded to the information and activities.Then, Simoniello and the teacher adapted the content for grades K-4. The teacher also shared the program with the gifted lead at Gulf Beaches Elementary School. Combined, approximately 150 students participated in the lessons.
The Coral Reef project included multiple hands-on activities starting with a “sweet” ice-breaker in which the students created a coral reef made from cake. In the second week the focus was on coral taxonomy. Students learned about the differences among large taxonomic groups and how healthy reef systems protect the coast. In Week 3, she reviewed habitats, biodiversity and resources linked to coral reef habitats, and developed an invasive species game. In Week 4, the students learned about how the impacts of global change are effecting deep water and shallow reef systems, and other natural and human-caused stressors. The materials will be uploaded to MBON and GCOOS websites in April.