GIF of craft clownfish moving through a paper sea anemone
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Many of the ocean’s critters grow up on coral reefs, so it’s the perfect place for mini marine biologists ages 4–8 to get their fins wet.

Coral reefs are home to all the colors of the rainbow—and 25% of all fish species in the sea. From microscopic baby corals to mega-sized sea turtles, there’s room for everyone on the reef. Enjoy a week under the waves with science crafts, activities, coloring, and more.

Please note: While Science @ Home activities are designed to be conducted by kids, some little ones might need adult help with reading instructions and preparing crafts.

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Cownose ray with one fin "waving" out of the water in Reef Lagoon exhibit

Day 1: Welcome to the reef!

Water you waiting for? The reef is ready to explore! Today you’ll get to know these incredible marine ecosystems through five hands-on activities. (30-45 minutes)

The world of coral reefs (video)
Blue felt play button

Academy educator Aya takes you on a wild, whimsical tour of a coral reef, where you’ll zap up a plankton snack with your stinging nematocyst and learn about the important work that coral reefs do in our ocean.

A colorful, coral-ful community (coloring)
Felt icons of crayons

Here’s your chance to use ALL the crayons as you bring a colorful coral reef habitat to life. Can you find any animals hiding among the coral?

Coral shapes (video)
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Just like other animals, corals come in all different shapes and sizes, from flat plates to branching arms to mushroom-like orbs. Learn more about the surprising shapes of coral with Academy educator Cassie.

Coral shapes match-up (activity)
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Ever see shapes in clouds when you look up at the sky? In this activity, use your imagination to match different corals to other objects that look similar.

Listen to instructions

Coral up close (specimen)
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Well, now you know why they call it “brain coral”! Take a closer look at this 3D coral specimen by zooming, spinning, and rotating it with your mouse or your fingers. The skeleton of a once-living coral, this specimen is now part of the Academy’s natural history collections, serving as a resource for scientists and students all over the world.

As you investigate the specimen, think about the four questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. What do you notice about the coral skeleton?
  2. How do you think the coral might look different if it were alive?
  3. Do you think coral is an animal, plant, rock, or something else?
  4. Below the specimen is information about it. Can you figure out where or when it was collected?

Listen to guiding questions

Aerial shot over Reef Lagoon exhibit with colorful coral reef fish and coral under the surface

Day 2: Home on the reef

Home is where the anemone is…at least for a clownfish. Today you’ll visit a variety of ocean habitats and learn why there’s no place like home—especially for residents of coral reefs. (45-60 minutes)

Reef life with Ray! (video)
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Visit some of Steinhart Aquarium’s “a-ray-zing” coral reef creatures with Ray, the talking stingray tour guide.

 

Hide and sea-k anemone (craft)
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Clownfish and sea anemones are coral reefs’ cutest roommates. They also help each other out: Anemones provide shelter to clownfish, and clownfish provide nutrients for anemones. Make your own dynamic undersea duo using paper tubes and coffee filters.

Listen to instructions
Download instructions

Escucha las instrucciones
Descargar las instrucciones

Peek-a-boo clownfish (coloring)
Felt icon of crayons

Clownfish are safe from the sting of anemone tentacles thanks to a protective mucus coating on their bodies. How will you color the clownfish and its cozy anemone home?

Busy coral reef (coloring)
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So many cool creatures cruise the reef. Print out and color this coral reef scene. What animals do you see?

Ocean habitat matchup (activity)
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The ocean is home to many different animals, partly because there are so many unique habitats within the sea. In this activity, discover what part of the ocean different animals call home: the open ocean, coral reefs, or the sandy bottom.

Listen to instructions
Download instructions

Escucha las instrucciones
Descargar las instrucciones

Extreme close-up of yellow tang fish

Day 3: Meet the neighbors

Say hello to a captivating cast of coral reef characters—and craft a few of your own to keep you company above the surface. (45-90 minutes)

Coral reef adventure puppet show (video)
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Adventure through the coral reef with Octopus as he makes friends on his way to school in this interactive puppet show.

While you watch this video, think about the four questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. Who was your favorite animal that Octopus met?
  2. Were any of the animals different than you expected?
  3. Have you ever been to school? What are some of the things you enjoy doing at school?
  4. What is something you can do to help ocean animals?

Listen to guiding questions

Paper plate sea turtle (craft)
Felt craft icon with scissors and glue

Sea turtles spend almost their entire lives underwater, even though they breathe air. As you create your turtle, imagine paddling through the colorful coral reef. What would it be like to carry your home on your back?

Listen to instructions

Paper plate butterflyfish (craft)
Felt craft icon with scissors and glue

Butterflyfish are a group of fish that live in coral reefs. Like real butterflies, they are often brightly colored, with yellow, orange, black, and white patterns. Many butterflyfish also have an eyespot near their tail to distract predators.

Listen to instructions

Majestic Moorish idol (coloring)
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Moorish idols are striking-looking fish that live in coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Color them yellow, black, and white—or use your imagination!

Swimming sea turtle (coloring)
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Seven species of sea turtles paddle through the world’s oceans. Color this one, along with some of its coral reef neighbors.

Blue tang surfaces in Reef Lagoon exhibit

Day 4: All in a day’s dive

Imagine gracefully gliding through thousands of swirling, colorful fish. Now imagine you get to do it every day! Find out what it’s like to be a SCUBA diver at the Academy and why it's such an important job. (30-45 minutes)

Behind the scenes: Diving with Dave (video)
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Scuba divers don’t just dive in the ocean—they also dive in the Academy! Go behind the scenes with Academy diver Dave to see what it takes to dive safely inside some of our largest exhibits.

While you watch this video, think about the four questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. What is inside of a scuba diver’s tank?
  2. Why do you think it is important to always dive with help from other people?
  3. Do you ever want to go diving? Where would you go?
  4. What is a pony bottle?

Listen to guiding questions

Diver’s-eye view (video)
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At 25 feet deep and 212,000 gallons, the Academy’s Philippine Coral Reef habitat is the largest living indoor coral reef on Earth. In this video, see what our divers see as they glide through the warm, crystal-clear water to check up on the reef’s residents.

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. Do all fish look the same? What are some differences you can see?
  2. How many colors and patterns can you find?
  3. Think about the body of water nearest to you. Do you think you would see the same kinds of fish?

Listen to guiding questions

Divers on duty (video)
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It’s hard work keeping our Phillipine Coral Reef in tip-top shape, but Academy divers rise to the challenge every day, completing important tasks like cleaning windows and introducing new fish into the habitat. (You’ll notice that the divers and fish are moving very fast in the beginning of the video—that’s because we sped the video up to show how long it takes to clean the habitat!)

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. What do you think it’s like to swim with the fish at the Academy?
  2. Can you guess how many fish are in the Philippine Coral Reef habitat?
  3. We sped up the cleaning because it took a really long time! What do you think it’s like to be underwater for a long time?

Listen to guiding questions

Make-believe mask (craft)
Felt craft icon with scissors and glue

Get ready to explore the coral reef with your own craft snorkel and mask. What might you see underwater? Fish? Coral? A sea turtle? An ocean of adventure awaits!

Listen to instructions

2 clownish cozy up in sea anemone tentacles

Kid & caregiver extension activities

Finished Day 4 and still hungry for more? Plunge into these extension activities to get even closer to coral reefs.

Diver in a bottle (activity)
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Maintaining neutral buoyancy is an important skill that every Twilight Zone diver must master. Get a head start with this at-home experiment.

Listen to instructions

Diver in a bottle (video)
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Watch as Academy educator Louise demonstrates the “diver in a bottle” experiment using a plastic bottle and an eyedropper.

Relationships on the reef (video)
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Dive beneath the ocean waves and explore the unique and diverse relationships found on a coral reef. Some of these relationships, like clownfish and sea anemones, are symbiotic, meaning both animals benefit from being together.

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. Do you ever cooperate with other humans? What about with a different kind of animal, like a pet?
  2. Think about someone who has helped you. Have you ever helped them in return?
  3. Have you ever encountered a parasite on land?

Listen to guiding questions

Watch the reef right now! (video)
Felt icon of video play button

Our Philippine Coral Reef webcam is always streaming, meaning you can watch the underwater action anytime you like!

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  1. What do you see inside the coral reef exhibit? Are there animals? What kind?
  2. What do you see the animals doing?
  3. What do you think the human animals are doing in the tank, if you see any?

Listen to guiding questions

Academy @ Home

Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages.

Tell us what you think!
Science @ Home is always evolving. Drop us a line to let us know what you like, what you don't, and what you'd like to see more (or less!) of. Completed a craft that you're proud of? Send us a pic of that, too!