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Coral Ecosystems
Symposium participants display their models of corals.

The NOAA/NSTA Symposium: Coral Ecosystems took place at the Clarion Hotel Anaheim Resort in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 7, 2006. Seventy-four educators were in attendance, including over twenty-five NASA Explorer School teachers. Four speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gave presentations to the group: Dr. Mark Eakin, Patty Miller, Kelly Drinnen, and Bruce Moravchik. The presentations focused on coral ecosystems, the biology of corals, their feeding habits, and shapes, and the tools scientists use to study and protect them. NSTA would like to thank all the participants and presenters for a job well done.

After an introductory administrative session during which Flavio Mendez, Symposia and Web Seminars Program Manager at NSTA, familiarized participants with the contents of their folders (including the agenda, college credit forms, talent release form, and pre-assessment), Kelly Drinnen and Patty Miller facilitated an activity titled the Symbiotic Shuffle. In this activity participants had to find their symbiotic partner and meet each other at the same time. The activity required the teachers to stand-up, walk around, and meet other participants, while learning something new about symbiotic relationships at the same time.

Symposium participants build corals using LEGO pieces.

Dr. Mark Eakin followed the symbiotic shuffle activity with an introduction to corals and coral reef ecosystems. Using PowerPoint slides, Dr. Eakin showed beautiful images of corals from around the world, highlighting their different biological features, feeding habits, and shapes. Participants had many questions regarding news articles indicating recent coral reef deaths. Mark was able to respond to all questions since he is directly involved in research pertaining the health and protection of coral reef populations around the world.

Patty Miller and Kelly Drinnen followed Dr. Eakin's presentation with two activities about coral reef ecosystems. The first activity had to do with the biology of corals. Using different materials, like gloves, stickers, and a paper bag, participants transformed one of their hands into a coral. Also, simulating the idea that corals do not live in isolation but in communities, all participants' hands within a table had to be arranged together. Finally, teachers learned how corals eat adding adhesive to the tip of the fingers to simulate food collection. In the second activity the participants used LEGO pieces to assemble a coral reef. After that, and using a towel to simulate wave action, participants learned about different coral ecosystems shapes.

Participants use satellite data to monitor the health of corals.

After a break in the symposium, Dr. Eakin returned to talk about the tools scientists use to monitor the health of coral ecosystems around the world. He mentioned the use of satellites located at polar orbits and at geostationary orbits to observe corals throughout the planet. Mark also talked about the importance of boats, buoys, and other in-sea instruments, used to calibrate the observations from space. After showing the teachers several slides with recent data collected from satellites, he facilitated an activity where teachers had to use satellite collected data to answer several questions about different coral reef populations. In this activity teachers were able to see the value of satellite data, as well as the importance of surface data collection since satellites alone do not provide all the answers.

The symposium concluded with a sneak peak of an upcoming NSTA SciGuide featuring NOAA's Coral Ecosystems resources on the Internet. Bruce Moravchik from NOAA and Mark Bosveld from NSTA answered teachers' questions about the purpose of the SciGuides and when and where these resources will be available.

Symposium Presentation:
Presentation by Alissa Barron and Liza Johnson

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Underwritten in part by: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration