How does carpooling relate to coral reefs? Around the world, many coral reefs are in hot water, and it’s getting even hotter. What can we do to preserve these important and diverse ecosystems?

About This Video

Grade level: 6-10
Length: 6 minutes
Next Generation Science Standards: MS-ESS3-3. MS-ESS3-4, MS-LS2-5 (PEs); MS-ESS3.C, MS-ESS3.D, MS-LS2.A, MS-LS4.D (DCIs); Cause and Effect, Systems, Stability and Change (CCCs)
Ocean Literacy Principles: 5c, 5d, 5f, 6b, 6d, 6e, 6g

Video Discussion Questions

  1. How are human activities like burning coal, oil, and natural gas for energy affecting the environment, including the marine environment?
  2. What is coral bleaching, and what causes it?
  3. What is ocean acidification, and what causes it? What impacts does ocean acidification have on coral reefs?
  4. Do/How do coral reefs benefit people?
  5. What can we do to reduce our impact on coral reefs and other important ecosystems?

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Download student vocabulary


Post-Viewing Classroom Activities (grades 6-10):


Math and Computational Challenges

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How has the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changed over time? Why do we attribute the most recent (since the 19th century) increase in COto human activities?

  • Give each student or pair of students a graph of atmospheric CO2 over time, such as this one from the U.S. National Climate Assessment (2014).  Challenge them to figure out what the average rate of change of CO2 in the atmosphere over time was between 1000-1650, 1650-1750, 1750-1800, 1800-1900, and 1900-2000. CCSS MS Math: Ratios & Proportional Relationships, Functions
    • Compare the rates between the different time periods—are they similar or different? Why do you think this is? What kinds of things have happened in the world during these different time periods that could explain any differences?
  • There are digital tools your students can use to analyze graphical data.  Import this graph into Desmos (click on the '+' sign, and add as an image), and have students try to figure out the equations for tangent lines to the CO2 graph that can be used to determine rates of change.

Download and print a student worksheet



Carrying Out Investigations and Analyzing Data

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Were your students excited about the prospect of becoming a volunteer SCUBA diver on coral reefs after watching this video? Bring them one step closer to this with the XL Catlin Seaview Survey coral reef transect data and virtual dives!

  • Choose a region of the globe you'd like to explore. Clicking on 'View Details' of that region will take you to a page where you can select a coral reef transect that can be viewed in various image formats, from quadrats to 360 stills. Or completely immerse yourself in a Virtual Survey in places like the Philippines, Belize, and the Galapagos. Your students can collect data and carry out investigations looking at the different species that are present in reefs around the world, just like Reef Check divers do!
  • XL Catlin Seaview Survey Reef Response expeditions have captured some incredible imagery of coral bleaching events in places like New Caledonia, Okinawa, and the Maldives. Your students can conduct an investigation looking at how a bleaching event can impact a reef by analyzing photos before, during, and after an event.

Designing Solutions

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Think about some of the solutions introduced in the video that people have come up with to help protect and preserve coral reefs.

  • Choose one of these solutions, and create a plan for how you would go about testing the solution to see how effective it is.  What scientific principles and ideas would you use in your test? Draw and label a diagram of your plan. Identify any potential weaknesses in your plan.  

Connections to Standards

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.

NGSS Performance Expectations (Grades 6-8)
​MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
​MS-ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
​MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (Grades 6-8)
MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
MS-LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
MS-LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts (Grades 6-8)
Cause and Effect
Systems and System Models
Stability and Change

Ocean Literacy Principles
#5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
#6: The oceans and humans are inextricably interconnected.


Healthy Oceans: Browse all materials

The ocean affects everyone. It provides important resources and recreational enjoyment to people around the world and is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth: coral reefs. But the ocean's resources and biodiversity are under threat from human impacts. What are some local actions we can take to protect our global ocean?


Additional Resources

Demystifying Ocean Acidification
Why are the oceans becoming more acidic, and how does this threaten biodiversity? Dive deeper into the chemistry behind ocean acidification in this short video from the California Academy of Sciences' Biodiversity Course.

Reef Check Foundation's Global Reef Tracker
Reef Check works to protect tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs through education, research and conservation. Explore the data collected during Reef Check surveys using their Global Reef Tracker.

Coral Resiliency
Could corals be resilient to climate change impacts? The California Academy of Sciences' Science News Team takes a closer look at how corals recover from bleaching events.

Corals and Climate Change: Part 1 and Part 2
The California Academy of Sciences' Science News Team brings you this two-part report on scientists studying the impacts of warming temperatures on corals and how some corals might be able to survive and adapt to these changes.

Climate Action for the Ocean | Monterey Bay Aquarium
Climate change and ocean acidification are affecting ocean health—and our own survival—in profound ways. What can you do?

Lesson: Ocean Acidification Mock Conference (grades 7-12) What is ocean acidification, and who is affected by it? In this ocean acidification mock conference, your students will practice arguing a stance on the issue from a particular stakeholder's perspective.