Environmental Learning Outside the Classroom (ELOC)

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1 Environmental Learning Outside the Classroom (ELOC) This guidebook provides lesson ideas and activities to get students engaged with outdoor learning. Created by the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS), an extension arm of the University of Puerto Rico s Sea Grant College Program. For more information, contact: Howard Forbes Jr. (VIMAS Coordinator) ph: / Website: vimas.uvi.edu

2 References Assessment Activity Information VIMAS Lesson Plan Topic: Marine Invertebrates / Coral Reefs / Marine Protected Areas Grade level: 5 th to 12 th Estimated time for activity: Lecture: Interactive 30 minutes, Activity: 30 minutes Purpose: To teach students about marine invertebrates and how they differ from vertebrates. To educate students on how to identify various marine species. Procedure: Students will have an opportunity to interact with marine life both in a water table as well as in their natural environment via snorkeling. Students will be actively engaged in discussion about the various marine invertebrates. After exposure students should be able to identify at least 3 marine invertebrates and name something special about each. By dispelling myths associated with some of the marine invertebrates, students should be more comfortable with snorkeling and handling of marine invertebrates. Google was used for all images. NOAA s Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program (TCRMP) _this_lp.pdf

3 Marine Invertebrates What are invertebrates? An invertebrate is a species that does not possess a backbone. There are vertebrates in the marine environment, namely most fish. Some marine invertebrates pictured on the right include: Coral banded shrimp, Sea cucumber, West-Indian Sea egg, and Brittle Star.

4 Invert Facts Important facts about marine organisms Most urchins are not venomous or poisonous. Urchins help to keep reefs clean. Brittle stars don t have eyes and move via a sense of chemical detection. The sea cucumber will spit out its intestines or a stringy web when stressed. Safety and handling All marine organisms should be handled with care. They need water to breathe so be sure to keep them in the water. Most organisms produce a slime coating to help protect them from parasites which is why they feel slimy. Holding the organisms stresses them out so try to be very brief.

5 Touch Tank Outdoor learning activity A touch tank is an aquarium that allows its observers to interact with the marine organisms within. Each organism within the tank plays an important role to maintaining the ecosystem balance, much like a natural environment. Some organisms provide habitat for others while some help clean off parasites.

6 Species Identification Can you identify each species? Brittle star Pencil urchin Sea cucumber Sun anemone Long-spined urchin Feather duster worm Lettuce sea slug West-Indian sea egg Decorator crab Cleaner shrimp Arrow crab Coralimorph

7 Species Scavenger Hunt Team activity In groups, your snorkel guide instructor will facilitate a guided tour around Brewers Bay. Along this trail, you will encounter colored markers to point out locations on the trail that have a significant amount of life. Group Discussion Topic: How do you think an oil spill could negatively impact all of these organisms?

8 Precaution Notice A C B D E When you enter the marine ecosystem, just like any other ecosystem, caution should always be exercised. Fire coral (A), Long spine sea urchins (C), and Fire worms (E) should not be touched. Rockfish (B) have venomous spines and look very much like a rock. They can often be found on the ocean floor camouflaging with rocks and sand. Just like the barracuda (D), if you encounter one, don t panic. Just freeze and back away slowly. These creatures will not pursue you unless you have food in your pockets!

9 Coral Reefs Do you know what a coral is? Which of these objects are corals? A C D B Corals are marine organisms that provide a number of ecosystem services such as serving as important habitat for fish, shoreline protection from waves, and even medicine. However, our reefs are being threatened by increased water temperatures, coral diseases, and coastal pollution. What are some things you can do to help protect our coral reefs?

10 Threats to Coral Reefs Healthy coral reefs, pictured on the left. However, threats from sediment and coral disease are causing a significant decline in coral reef populations. Researchers at UVI are working diligently to understand what is influencing this decline.

11 Non-sustainable Fishing Practices Many ecosystems are dependent on the services provided by their inhabitants. Overfishing is one such problem that has negatively affected coral reefs. By using trawl nets, fish that aren t intended to be caught are netted in the process.

12 Commercially Important Fish Nassau grouper Stoplight parrotfish Red snapper Spiny lobster Queen conch These marine organisms are all commercially important species; humans utilize these species as food sources. However, due to nonsustainable fishing practices, many of these fish populations have been significantly decreased. These organisms such as the parrotfish, serve ecological roles such as consuming algae that could otherwise smother and kill coral as well as producing the beautiful sand on the beach.

13 Marine Protected Areas Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of seas, oceans, or large lakes. MPAs restrict human activity for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources. Discussion topic: How do you think MPAs help the environment? They increase biodiversity (the number of different species found within an ecosystem. They also allow for juvenile (young) fish to grow up to maturity and reproduce.

14 One Fish, Two Fish What you ll need: Large playing area (beach) Hoola hoops To play, have 2 students volunteer to be trawlers which collect fish; all other students will be fish. The object is for the trawlers to capture all of the fish and the fish can only walk, not run. Any fish caught becomes a trawler and all trawlers must be connected at all times. This usually ends after 2-3 minutes. When the students reconvene, discuss with them ways we can better protect the fish; i.e. introduce the hoola hoop as a marine protected area that fish can be protected in for approximately x seconds. See how many other solutions the students can come up with.

15 Coral Reef Snorkel Students will be provided with snorkel gear. Once all students are suited, beginning from the MSC dock, students will near the coral reefs close to the shoreline/dock. Be on the lookout for any fish and observe everything in its natural habitat.

16 Precaution Notice A C B D E When you enter the marine ecosystem, just like any other ecosystem, caution should always be exercised. Fire coral (A), Long spine sea urchins (C), and Fire worms (E) should not be touched. Rockfish (B) have venomous spines and look very much like a rock. They can often be found on the ocean floor camouflaging with rocks and sand. Just like the barracuda (D), if you encounter one, don t panic. Just freeze and back away slowly. These creatures will not pursue you unless you have food in your pockets!

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