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"Heads Up"in July 2022 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


This project was made possible by a grant from the National Park Trust and USDA Forest Service.

Almost everyone on the team at Coral Restoration Foundation™ has a vivid memory of time spent in nature which inspired them to become an ocean conservation scientist. Some remember their first family camping trip in the Smoky Mountains, others recall a snorkeling field trip in the Florida Keys, and still others say their love of watching tadpoles in ponds pointed them toward a career in this field. These experiences and opportunities are the reason so many of our team are now working as reef conservationists. It is central to our mission at CRF™ to empower communities to take action and improve the health of the world’s coral reefs - using our coral reef restoration programs as inspiration to fuel their own choices.

CRF™ staff share pictures of moments in their childhood spent in nature, below Key Largo School 4th Graders snorkel at the coral reef with the CRF™ team! ©Katherine Prandi/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Through the Every Kid Outdoors initiative, our team hosted over thirty-five 4th graders from Key Largo School for a week-long experience teaching them about the fundamentals of coral ecology, the importance of the Florida's Coral Reef, the anthropogenic factors causing reef decline, and the latest in coral reef restoration methods and strategies.

The immediate goal of Every Kid Outdoors, an initiative funded by the National Park Trust and USDA Forest Service, is to ensure every child in the United States has the opportunity to visit public lands and waters by the time they are 11 years old, thereby establishing a lifelong connection to enjoy and protect nature. Aside from funding programs like the one we hosted, the Every Kid Outdoors initiative also provides provides free access to national parks across the country. Beginning September 1, every year, all kids in the fourth grade have access to their own Every Kid Outdoors pass. Information on obtaining the pass is available by visiting

Thanks to the funding we received from this grant, CRF™ was able to host a unique experience for the 4th graders of Key Largo school to bring them snorkeling in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and teach them about coral reefs! Our Education Team used our curriculum of 6 educational activities guided by Ocean Literacy Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and CPalms state standards. This curriculum is highly interactive and hands-on and introduces the concept of coral reef conservation. All of the 4th grade students at Key Largo School had the chance to participate and their lessons culminated in an in-water snorkel day to drive the message of reef restoration and ocean conservation home.

Key Largo School students learn about coral reefs with hands-on activities and experiments! ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Using edutainment activities, we can break down the intricacies of coral reefs like the anatomy of a coral polyp or the relationship between limestone, corals, and ocean acidification. Equipping the students with this knowledge before they snorkeled on the reef made their excursion that much more impactful. They would see a coral and know that it wasn't just a colorful rock but a living animal with a limestone skeleton! They would see fish eating the reef and know that they were actually scraping algae off the limestone with their teeth, and better yet the students would listen for the noise the fish make while snacking. These lessons we taught in the classroom were coming to life before their eyes.

Key Largo School 4th Grade Students are ready to snorkel! Thank you, Rainbow Reef Dive Center for the ride out to the reef! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

After their day snorkeling on the reef the students shared with us the different ways they appreciate the ocean. They were shocked to learn what has been happening to the coral reef in their backyard. They even asked the question “Why have people let the coral get this bad?” Even with a full understanding of the dire situation reefs are facing, the students still were able to look toward the future with hope.

“It was encouraging to hear the students answering questions with confidence, while also asking some important ones of their own.” - Katherine Prandi, CRF™ Intern

Through the Every Kid Outdoors initiative it is a major goal that the participants will become inspired by what they've felt from seeing a coral reef in real life and build upon it. But wether they become the next Jane Goodall or simply have an exciting story to tell their friends, the value of creating those core memories should not be understated. Remember for every scientist you meet there is a story of a young mind playing in nature.

This project was made possible by a grant from the National Park Trust and USDA Forest Service and the amazing 4th grade students at Key Largo School! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


Written by:

Head's Up Editorial Intern

Thomas Ressa is a longtime saltwater aquarium hobbyist turned coral reef conservationist, Thomas completed his Masters of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation from UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography after a 10-year career working in tech at both Apple and Amazon. His transformation was fueled by a childhood vacation to the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, where he recalls first falling in love with the abundance of life, colors, and the myriad of life-changing experiences interacting with a coral reef can provide. Thomas hopes that his experience at the Coral Restoration Foundation will not only advance his knowledge of coral reef ecology but support him in becoming a more profound voice for the community and the preservation of nature.

Coral Chronicles Editor

Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. Madalen comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, and communications.

Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.

Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.

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