Build a Coral Polyp

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In this activity, learners build one or more edible coral polyps and place them together to form a colony. Learners will review the differences between plants and animals, learn about the unique symbiotic relationship between corals and zooxanthellae, and discuss human impact on coral reefs. This detailed lesson guide includes key vocabulary, background information for educators, and wrap-up suggestions.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • paper towels/rag for clean-up
  • plates
  • toothpicks
  • plastic straws
  • sections of large bananas
  • sour candy straws or twizzlers cut into 1 inch pieces
  • sugar sprinkles (same color as the sour candy straws or twizzlers)
  • jam
  • round crackers
  • oyster crackers
  • transparency of coral polyp illustration
  • coral polyp worksheets
  • colored pencils, crayons, or markers


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
      • Human Impact
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Food and Cooking
  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • taste
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, California Academy of Sciences, 2008