This article chronicles the increase in bleaching which is occurring to coral reefs around the world and outlines the seriousness of these events on the myriad of species which rely so heavily on the reefs.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

World issues, environmental studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What is bleaching?
  • Why are these events so important?
  • Of what value are the coral reefs?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students. Access to the Internet for research.

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Recently there has been a series of extreme weather events which have resulted in many headlines and discussions about climate change. For example, there have been the extreme forest fire situations in western North America, extreme cold spells in eastern North America, faster than anticipated melting of the polar ice cap, and major devastating hurricanes, cyclones and droughts around the world. These are but a few of the events taking place around the world which highlight the need for immediate action to address climate change. Yet there are some who would deny that these events are related to climate change (major American politicians and former Canadian leaders among them) and so pursue policies that exacerbate the situation. They even mock the recent extreme cold by saying that the world is supposed to be warming, not freezing.

Concerns about such things as the highly-documented plight of the polar bear have drawn great attention, yet public concern about this problem appears to be abating as it comes to be viewed as old news. Yet there are other less high-profile but equally significant events that underline the immediacy of the problem. The bleaching of the world’s coral reefs is one such development. This lesson will draw this development to the attention of the students and lead to an exploration of other examples of how climate change is impacting our environment and requiring our continued, urgent vigilance to address this challenge.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Period One:

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to identify two recent extreme weather events.
  • Once they have done this ask them if they believe that these events are related to climate change.
  • Ask them if they can identify any other situations or circumstances that indicate the effect climate change is having on our environment.
  • With this as a brief introduction to environmental changes brought about by climate change, indicate to the students that studies are showing that coral reefs are “being pummelled” by climate change.
  • Hand out the article and allow the students time to read it.
  • Debrief their reactions to what they have just read.
  • Inform the students that the focus of the lesson will be on examining what other environmental changes are occurring and the degree and rapidity of those changes.
  • Provide the following list and ask the students to consider which one they would be interested in researching:
    • Polar Ice Caps
    • Species Decline
    • Oceans
    • Extreme Weather
    • Global Warming

(add any other topic you would like to see researched)

  • While ensuring that the groups remain approximately the same size, have the students form groups based on the topic they have chosen.
  • Ask the groups to research their chosen topic and prepare a report for the class on its current state, rapidity of change and urgency of need.
  • Allow the remainder of class time for the groups to do their research and prepare their reports.

Consolidation of Learning:

Period Two

  • Have the groups, in turn, present their findings and answer any questions or comments from the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Explain what is happening to the coral reefs
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of other climatic events which demonstrate the effects of climate change
  • Suggest things the average person can do to help address the issue.

Confirming Activity:

  • Once the groups have completed their reports and discussions, hold a plenary session addressing the topic of what the average person can do to help in the fight against climate change.
  • Once they have completed this discussion ask the students to indicate what they will do.