Exploring Coral Reefs: A Virtual Dive in the Bermuda Triangle

Eric E. Hiatt and Holly M. Gertz, hiatt@uwosh.edu, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and complex ecosystems on Earth. Reefs face many stresses including those associated with climate change, pollution, over fishing, and damage caused by people. This introductory activity will allow students to explore the coral reef environment through a virtual dive. Students will discover how coral reefs are constructed, the amazing organisms that live in the reef environment, and where coral reefs are found today. This web page is designed for flexibility. Resources include a PowerPoint file that can be used as a group activity or can be viewed by individual students on computers. Students can answer a series of questions that will guide them during their exploration of reefs on the worksheet provided.

Learning Goals

Students will learn about the role of biodiversity, oceanography and other factors that lead to the development of the coral reef ecosystem through this guided lesson. Students will learn important terms, identify organisms, and learn what it takes to make a healthy coral reef and where reefs are found today.

Context for Use

This activity was designed for any introductory general science or earth science students, including introductory university oceanography courses. The focus of this lesson is to provide students with a broad knowledge base on coral reefs. This exercise does not presume detailed knowledge of marine animal biology. Lesson duration: approximately 60 minutes. This activity is recommended to take place in a computer lab, however it could be easily adapted into a classroom presentation with the aid of a projector, or it could even be used as a homework assignment as long as the students have access to a networked computer.

This activity addresses the following National Science Education Standards:

  • Content C (5-8) Life Science standards: "structure and function in living systems, populations and ecosystems, and diversity and adaptations of organisms."
  • Content D (5-8) Earth and Space Science standards: "structure of the earth system."
  • Content C (9-12) Life Science standards: "interdependence of organisms; matter, energy, and organization in living systems; and behavior of organisms."
  • Content D (9-12) Earth and Space science: "energy in the earth system."

Description and Teaching Materials

Activity description:


This activity creates a broad knowledge base for introductory students on coral reefs. The provided worksheet will help guide students through their investigation of coral reefs as a virtual dive presented in the PowerPoint presentation.

This activity would work best if each student had a computer allowing each student to explore coral reefs on their own. If individual computers are not available, this activity could be completed as a class by projecting the PowerPoint presentation.

Teaching Notes and Tips

It is beneficial to both teacher and students to have the worksheet printed out before the activity begins.

Although its volcano has long been extinct and eroded below today's sea level, Bermuda is a volcanic atoll. Here are links to other ERESE resources regaring atolls and sea mounts:


Teachers can require students to complete the provided worksheet for assessment, but are not limited to this as the only means of assessment. We include a quiz that can be used as a pre-quiz and/or post-quiz to check for comprehension. Other forms of assessment that are suggested for this activity include incorporating the materials into a test, quiz, group project, simulation, forum etc.

References and Resources