Coral reefs are incredibly important ecosystems that are home to about 25 percent of all marine life on Earth. With such a large variety of animals and plants living in the same area, many different types of ecological relationships have been observed in this ecosystem between different species. A famous example of one of these ecological relationships is called a cleaning station, where larger marine animals such as fish and turtles congregate in one area to be cleaned by smaller animals. This is just one example of the many different types of relationships that have been observed at coral reefs.
In this lesson plan, the coral reef ecosystem will be introduced along with the types of animals and plants that live there. Students will then be introduced to different types of relationships seen in coral reefs in relation to the animals they just learned about. This will be followed up by an activity where students will pretend to be an animal of their choice at a coral reef and write a story about attending school underwater as that animal and the different relationships they observe during their day. This will allow students to think critically about these ecological relationships and relate them to their own experiences in the classroom in a way that will cement long term memory about the material. Students will learn vocabulary such as predation, competition, mutualism, parasitism and commensalism, and apply that vocabulary to real world ecological relationships.