Help us design the reef-saving Coral Trees™ of the future and WIN a state-of-the-art aquarium for your school!


The Coral Restoration Foundation™ Plastic-Free Tree Design Challenge is a design competition open to all students in Florida, from elementary through high school, to design an environmentally-friendly version of the Coral Restoration Foundation's™ Coral Trees™.


The winning class will be awarded a cutting-edge educational aquarium for their school!




We will be announcing the winners of the Plastic-Free Tree design Challenge on March 22nd. 




Our Coral Tree™ design is the best there is for growing huge numbers of corals. 


With our 500 Coral Trees ™, across seven nurseries, in one year, we can grow and outplant more than 20,000 corals back onto the endangered Florida Reef Tract.


But, our trees are made of plastic. And if we are going to have a chance of saving the world’s coral reefs, one of the things we need to do is keep plastic out of the ocean.


At the Coral Restoration Foundation™, we work hard to ensure that our practices are as environmentally friendly as possible. We reuse and recycle as many of our materials as we can, including our monofilament line, and we strive to source the most eco-friendly products that we can find. 


We are now working on trying to develop plastic-free versions of the Coral Trees™, but we know that more heads are always better than one and that young minds have incredibly creative (often surprising!) ways of solving problems.


So, we are throwing open a design challenge to Florida’s students to help us design a better, plastic-free tree.


We have developed an activity-packed curriculum to help them do it.


Students will learn the scientific principles behind our world-leading reef restoration methodologies. Using these principles, they will they be able to use their ingenuity and unique perspectives to create a design that could be used to help rescue our planet’s coral reefs from extinction.


The winning design will be built and installed in one of our coral tree nurseries for further testing. And the winning class will be given an educational aquarium, with a curriculum that will allow them to learn from and maintain this state-of-the-art tank. 


Help us design a "Plastic-Free Tree", and get a deeper connection with the ocean.


Are you ready...?







The Coral Restoration Foundation™ Plastic-Free Tree Design Challenge is to design a coral nursery tree that uses environmentally-friendly materials (i.e. no plastics or toxic substances) but has the same benefits as the Coral Tree™ design.


The benefits of our current design include:


  • Corals having 360-degree access to nutrients, which helps accelerate their growth

  • The ability to support at least 50lbs (roughly 23 kgs) of coral

  • Corals are free from sedimentation, suspended in the water column, away from the seafloor

  • Structures are capable of withstanding a high degree of water movement such as that generated by storm event – i.e. the structure's components are both hardy and flexible, and the tree is not likely to be "uprooted" or displaced

  • Trees can be raised or lowered depending on the temperature of the water at various depths - corals need an optimal temperature to survive

  • Lower risk of predation, as the corals are less accessible to predators 

  • Reasonable cost per tree 





The challenge is presented to students through interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities. These Learning Labs encourage students to think outside the box when solving problems and help them to better understand the concepts involved in applied design and technology including buoyancy, ecology, and ecological stewardship.


These labs can be adapted to a single day, or extend for an entire term through around 30 additional extension-labs that cover a variety of topics. 


Through this curriculum, students have the ability to have a long-term impact on both coral nurseries and plastic use at large, giving them ownership of their design and a chance to have a very real role in helping save our coral reefs.




We will start accepting entries in August 2018. The competition begins at the start of the 2018-19 school year, and designs need to be submitted here, below, by midnight on National Inventors Day, on February 11th, 2019. The winning design will be announced on World Water Day, March 22st, 2019. 


Entries should be submitted through the form at the bottom of this page. 






The winning design will be decided by the restoration scientists at the Coral Restoration Foundation™, based on how well they meet the guidelines above. Please also check the Coral Restoration Foundation™ Plastic-Free Tree Design Challenge terms and conditions here. 





The winning class will have their design built and installed in Coral Restoration Foundation™ Tavernier Nursery for further testing.


The winning class will also be awarded a state-of-the-art, educational aquarium, the "Think Tank", donated to the school by Titan Aquatic Exhibits in association with Titan Composites, Reef Brite, Neptune Systems, and ESHOPPS, along with a curriculum designed by Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute, to enable the students to maintain the tank.



The Think Tank has been custom designed and built by the aquarium experts at Titan Aquatics. It is composed of three rimless acrylic aquariums of different sizes, each of which gives students insight into different aspects of the marine environment. 


The life support system will include a reef sump that can be seen through the stand with bio media, a heater, a protein skimmer, a return pump, and a Neptune Apex Control System.





The 24" tall fish tank might have two shallow piles of rock featuring St. Thomas mushroom corals, condylactis anemones, and photosynthetic gorgonians.

balloonfish, queen angelfish, royal gramma, and two neon gobies could also inhabit this area.




The middle 30" tall coral tank will house a mini version of the winning Plastic-Free Tree that the students have designed! It will be hung with fragments of Acropora (staghorn) coral.


It will also include staghorn coral mother colonies on live rock pillars, along with trochus snails, blue-legged hermit crabs, fighting conch, coral banded shrimp, and a Caribbean blue tang will inhabit this area.



The 12" tall touch tank would house aquatic life such as a walking batfish, oyster toadfish, sea biscuit, sand sifting starfish, conical starfish, purple variegated urchin, brittle starfish, and lined hermit crabs.

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Florida is home to one of the most unique ecosystems in the world

and the Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute can’t wait to highlight this through their curriculum that will accompany the Think Tank.


Students will not only learn how to care for the tanks but also how coral reef systems work with the marine life that lives therein. The lessons will have a 5 E-learning perspective and follow NOAA educational initiatives.  The system will act as an educational springboard for students to move from becoming aware of  Florida marine life to grasping what it means to be

better stewards of the oceans at large.


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Coral Restoration Foundation™ LEARNING LABS

Download the Project-Based Learning Labs that support the Plastic-Free Tree Design Challenge.


Just click the pages below!

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5 Gyres is a non-profit whose mission is to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and adventure. Their vision is a world free of plastic pollution! 


  Catch the Wave is their educational curriculum designed to scientifically engage middle and high school students in their communities through the lens of plastic pollution. Whether by the ocean or in the middle of the country, our single-use plastic trash ends up polluting our waterways, at great expense to our environment and ourselves.


Aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, the lessons cover a variety of science subjects through the lens of plastic pollution, including: plastic pollution sources and solutions, food chains, body systems, waste management, cause and effect, human impact, identifying plastics, watersheds, the water cycle, understanding currents, and packaging engineering solutions.  Each lesson helps students understand the scope of the plastic pollution problem, and encourages them to work together to critically think about and execute viable solutions to help us realize our vision of a world free of plastic pollution! 


They have created a presentation that introduces the issue with powerful visuals and shocking statistics, and provides some empowering options for taking action!


Click HERE to download the presentation.

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Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute is a nonprofit on a mission of coral reef conservation through education, research, and restoration. Healthy Aquatics recognizes the necessity of developing knowledge, critical thinking, and decision-making skills for the next generation of action-driven stewards.


Through 5E cross-curriculum developed by marine biologists and educators, the next generation will be ready to restore our Florida Reef Tract to a healthy coral reef. With educational offerings and internships that promote awareness from kindergarten to graduate level, they are advancing stewards at every continuum.


Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute seeks to promote awareness and advance stewardship for our oceans in a variety of ways.  They partner with schools offering marine science programming to supplement learning from kindergarten through high school. Their traveling education programs will visit both youth and adult sites to offer a variety of marine interactions, often highlighting an onsite touch tank. In their West Palm Beach-based facility HAMI they offer field trips, birthday parties, and will schedule Eco-Experiences snorkeling, or kayaking with marine biologists to become better educated with coral systems and the life that thrives there. 

Click HERE to find out more about the Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute's educational programs. 




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Coral Restoration Foundation™!


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