Coral, Carbon Dioxide and Calcification

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In this group activity, learners act out key stages of the "ocean carbon cycle" (also known as the "carbonate buffer system") through motions, rearranging blocks and team tasks. Learners will also hypothesize the potential effects on the ocean and coral when variables are changed (e.g. the addition of massive amounts of CO2 and increased water temperature). At least 8 learners are needed to participate in the simulation. This detailed lesson plan includes an introduction, background information related to corals and the ocean carbon cycle, and adaptation suggestions for younger learners. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Interlocking blocks (e.g. LEGO® bricks)
  • Large opaque container
  • Large quantity of CO2 pieces (optional)
  • 12 plastic storage boxes or tennis ball containers (labeled)
  • 2 tables or desks
  • Heavy coat(s)
  • Tags/lanyards (labeled with role title and job summary)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Atmosphere
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Acids and Bases
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
      • Solutions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment
  • Performing Arts
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Anderson, Stephanie L.


  • All rights reserved, Pacific Science Center,

Funding Sources:

  • Tiffany & Co. Foundation
  • Unilever
  • Rockefeller Family