} CAS: Teachers - Coral Reef Habitat Match

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Post-Visit Activity: Coral Reef Habitat Match


In this activity, students will learn that different marine animals inhabit different environments and discuss characteristics of animals that help them survive in their environment.


In this activity, students will:
  1. learn that different marine animals inhabit different environments.
  2. discuss characteristics of animals that help them survive in their environment


  • 11x17 habitat worksheets (1 per group plus 1 for wrap-up)
  • habitat worksheet made into 8x11 overhead transparency)
  • animal pictures 1 and animal pictures 2 (1 set of 6 pictures per group plus 1 extra set)
  • markers, colored pencils, or crayons (blue, yellow, red, and orange)
  • tape


  • habitat: home of an animal or plant



  1. Make 8x11 transparency of habitat worksheet.
  2. Cut along the dotted lines on the animal picture sheets so that you have individual animals to pass out to your students. Keep the animals from each sheet together as a pack.


  1. Show the overhead transparency.
  2. Remind students that they saw a lot of different kinds of ocean animals in the coral reef exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Although all of these animals live on or near the coral reef, they have slightly different habitats or homes.
  3. Discuss each of the three habitats (sandy bottom, coral, and open ocean).
  4. Discuss the questions below with your students to get them thinking about why animals live in different habitats and how animals’ characteristics fit with their habitats.
    • Why do some animals live in the sandy bottom? (Animals that need to hide from predators might try to blend in with the sand. Maybe they eat animals that live in the sand like worms, snails, or crabs.)
    • Do animals that live on the sandy bottom look different from animals that live in the open ocean? (Yes, animals that live on the sandy bottom are often flat to blend in with their habitat. They also often have their mouths on the bottom of their bodies in order to feed on critters in the sand.)
    • Why might animals live in open water? (Some animals are too big to hide in the coral reef. Animals that need to move around and hunt for food might live in the open water. Also, animals that are less likely to be preyed upon, like sharks for example, might be able to safely live in the open water.)
    • Why do some animals live on top of the coral? (Animals that stay in one place need to anchor to something hard like coral. Many animals find shelter and protection in the cracks and holes of coral reefs.)


  1. Divide students into groups of 3.
  2. Distribute one 11x17 habitat worksheet to each group.
  3. Assign each student one habitat (sandy bottom, coral, or open water) to color on their group’s worksheet. Model coloring the sand yellow, the open water blue, and the coral reef red or orange on the overhead transparency.
  4. Distribute 2 animal pictures to each student. (Giving each table one set of 6 animals will ensure that students within the same group do not have the same animals.)
  5. Instruct students to color their animal pictures (optional).
  6. Ask students to take turns placing (or taping) their animals on the habitat where that animal lives. Explain to the students that it’s okay for each habitat to have multiple animals.
  7. Encourage students to explain to their group why they chose to put their animals in the habitat they did and what characteristics make the animal suited to that environment.


  1. Gather the students as a group and post the extra 11x17 habitat worksheet on the board.
  2. One at a time, take each animal picture and ask the students which habitat they placed it in.
  3. Discuss their answers and then model placing each animal in the appropriate habitat. Make sure to emphasize what enables these animals to survive in their specific environment.
  4. Between the discussions for each animal, you can give students the option to re-examine their choices and change their animal placements.

California Content Standards

Grade One

Life Sciences

  • 2a. Students know different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments and have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places.
  • 2c. Students know animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants or even other animals for shelter and nesting.

Grade Two

Life Sciences

  • 2c. Students know many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents. Some characteristics are caused or influenced by the environment.



In order to guide your students through this activity, you can use the reference table below. Many of these animals can and do live in multiple habitats. Sometimes specific species of these creatures live in one habitat while other species live in a different habitat. This table simplifies the relationship between these organisms and their habitats for teaching purposes.

  Coral Reef Open Ocean Sandy Bottom
Sea Anemone YES NO Sometimes
Sea Urchin YES NO YES
Eel YES Sometimes migrate YES, some eels
Clownfish YES NO NO
Butterflyfish YES NO NO
Blue Tang YES NO NO
Jellyfish NO YES Upside down jellyfish
Shark YES, search for food YES Some kinds of sharks
Sea Turtle YES, for protection YES NO
Stingray NO NO YES
Sea Cucumber YES NO YES


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