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Coral reef in a box

Activity Coral Reef Box Hero

This activity is a fun way to learn about the coral reef, by making your very own reef-in-a-box. You can use your model reef as a reference point for science learning, for instance exploring concepts such as food chains, adaptation, classification and human impacts on the environment.

Ages 7+

60 minutes

You can do this activity on your own or in a small group. The number of people you have working on the same reef-in-a-box depends on how much time you have to complete the activity. The more people you have, the faster it should be.

Activity steps

  1. If your box still has flaps attached to it, cut these off.
  2. Cut a piece of yellow or sandy-coloured backing paper to line the bottom of your box and stick it in place with glue.
  3. Cut pieces of blue backing paper to line the top and sides of the box to represent the sky, and stick these in place with glue.
  4. Now measure out a section of aluminium foil to go around the sides of your box. Cut a wave pattern along the top of the foil, and then stick it in place around the sides beneath the skyline.
  5. Choose at least two types of plants or algae and two corals from the coral life checklist (see What you'll need section), and the relevant pictures from the coral life templates.
  6. To help colour or decorate these, search for images in the Coral life gallery.
  7. Stick these examples of reef life to the bottom of the sides of your box.
  8. Select a range of other coral creatures for your reef. Try to have a selection of different types of invertebrates, fish, and other vertebrates.
  9. Use the coral life templates or search for images in the Coral life gallery.
  10. You can place the coral life on the coral, on the seafloor, or use thread to hang them from the top of the box (simply attach thread to for example a fish and make a hole through the top of the box and push the thread through. Use a matchstick or paper clip to keep it in place).

Safety guidance

  • Use child-safe scissors.
  • Use child-safe paper glue.
  • If holes need to be made in cardboard, this should be done by a supervising adult.

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Coral Oceans Science 7 11 Thumb

Science | Ages 7-11

Coral Oceans

These resources for ages 7-11 are based on the journeys undertaken by science teams taking part in the XL Catlin Seaview Survey expeditions. These resources present a complete scheme of work for the science classroom, covering core science and sustainability curriculum areas as well as enhancing students' creative and communications skills.