Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mathematical Earth Day Project

We've been in school only 3 days this week due to a PD day on Monday and a holiday tomorrow (yay) for our Annual Exhibition (sort of like a State Fair for any US readers :) ) Plus today was Alumni Day - with a traditional ceremony in the morning and Spirit Day all afternoon - so very little formal teaching was done this week.

Instead my class embarked on an open-ended Math project with an Earth Day-ish theme. I am so proud of my kiddies - they are becoming experts at cooperative group work and are able to take a project, read the directions and get going with very little help from me now. I just wander around taking photos and listening to their discussions.

Since we live on an island, with the most northern coral reefs in the Atlantic, I decided to discuss the threats to the coral reefs. We looked at pollution, the warming of the ocean, coral bleaching and discussed ways that we could protect the reefs. We agreed that we could practice reef-friendly behaviors when snorkeling and diving, pick up trash etc. and then we looked at artificial reefs.

We actually have some artificial reefs here - some purposely sunk ships have been designated as dive sites and are becoming encrusted with coral - so this was a good topic for us. We specifically looked at the materials used to make artificial reefs - reef balls, limestone boulders and concrete block - and then we started our project.

The girls worked on several Math concepts - finding area, fractions, percentage, multiplication and money - as they put together their bid for an Artificial Reef Project for the Reef Committee (aka me :) ) No limit on spending but I was looking for an attractive design, good cover of the site, cost effectiveness and an appropriate habitat for sea life.

Check out their work!

The project begins...

Lots of discussion about how many of each particular reef material to buy:

"How many Ultra reef balls should we get?" "Well, how much do they cost?" "I think we should get a Pallet reef ball!"

Onto the planning... They had to cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the dive site (which was 100 square meters) so they had to work out the area of each reef ball/material individually and then plan their design on a  grid. (I provided templates for them so they could move material around - my girls are very visual!!)

"So far we've covered 35 square meters. We need... how many more?"
"Should we layer them like this so we have highways for the fish?"

Costing it out... I loved these conversations! 

"We've spent $5000 already!"
"We still need to know how much we're spending!" (budding accountant here!)

Side View plans and Models...

Once their grid plan was completed each group drew a Side View of their reef design and then created an "artists' drawing".


Every single group opted to do the 3-D model :)

Drawing the grid
Sponge painting reef balls made
from egg cartons

Starting to place the reef balls
A finished reef - complete with giant
squid and 3 meter long fish! They couldn't
quite get the idea of scale with their
sea creatures :)

And here's a finished display - booklet bid ready for the Reef Committee, models and... an extra "Save the Reefs" poster with sea life facts! Above and beyond what was asked!! I am SO proud!

And finally this was my favorite comment overheard when we stopped for lunch yesterday:

"Ohhhh... do we have to stop? I love this project - let's eat fast so we can go back to it."

Music to my ears :)

So, in case anyone feels like tackling an artificial reef math project at some time in the future...
I've packaged all of this up with a set of word problems and have it available HERE.

Hope everyone has a great Friday :)


  1. Amazing project teach and great job kids!

    Kathy Kirbo, Executive Director of the Reef Ball Foundation

    1. Your website was the inspiration for this :) I showed the kids all around it and we looked at all the different designs and discussed how they would work and what we thought. It was an AWESOME project. I've also linked to the website in the project so more people will visit!!
      Thank you for commenting! I really appreciate your visit. :)