How to make a coral reef science project

Written by charong chow
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How to make a coral reef science project
A coral reef is made of up thousands of tiny coral polyps. (coral reef image by Christian Schoettler from

Coral reefs are complex ecosystems underwater and are made up of mineral deposits from tiny organisms, called coral polyps, living in colonies. The colonies can be made up of thousands of coral polyps and over time their houses of calcium carbonate create large undersea mountains we call coral reefs. Coral polyps use tentacles to eat plankton, which float in the ocean. Plants may live in coral reefs, and fish and other sea creatures call coral reefs home. To make your own coral reef science project, you can construct a diorama with an old shoebox.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shoebox
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Light pink Play Dough
  • Plastic knife
  • Purple Play Dough
  • Coloured pencils

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  1. 1

    Cut up blue construction paper and glue it down on the inside of an old shoebox. This will be the base of your diorama, and the blue paper will give the feel that the viewer is looking underwater.

  2. 2

    Stand your shoebox on its side, so it stands tall. You will be constructing coral reef elements and placing them inside your shoebox.

  3. 3

    Roll light pink Play Dough into a round ball about 4 inches across. Use a plastic knife to carve curving ridges all over its surface. This will be your brain coral, and place it into the bottom of your diorama.

  4. 4

    Roll purple Play Dough into three 4-inch tall cylindrical shapes; these will be your tube sponges. Place them next to your brain coral inside the diorama.

  5. 5

    Draw tropical fish, such as parrot fish and angel fish, on a piece of white construction paper. Colour them in with coloured pencils.

  6. 6

    Cut out your fish, leaving one small tab on the side that can be used to glue your fish into place in your diorama. Glue them into place above your coral on the side of the shoebox.

Tips and warnings

  • Add more fish and different types of coral to your science project. You can also add sea fans and other sea creatures that live in coral reef systems.
  • Adult supervision is needed for young children while using scissors.

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