Teaching overview

Learning points

  • Coral is made of lots of tiny individual animals called polyps.
  • The Great Barrier Reef provides a home and shelter to thousands of marine species.
  • Global warming and irresponsible tourism is responsible for much of the Great Barrier Reef dying off.

Curriculum keywords

  • Ecosystems
  • Habitat
  • Environment

5 things you didn't know

How big is the Great Barrier Reef?

1. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world – it’s so big that you can see it stretching its full 2,600 kilometres from space!


2. The coral on the reef is made up of countless tiny marine animals called polyps, which have no spines but instead form skeletons on their outsides.

Animals of the Reef

3. Whales, turtles, dolphins, sharks, stingrays, sea snakes and many birds call the Great Barrier Reef home along with thousands of other species.

Types of coral reef

4. Darwin classified three basic types of coral reef. Atoll reefs encircle lagoons, fringing reefs grow directly on the shore, and barrier reefs run parallel to the shore but are separated by lagoons.

Coral bleaching

5. Global warming and irresponsible tourism has damaged some coral in recent years, causing its brilliant colours to fade away in places – this is known as coral bleaching.

Spark a discussion

  • Is coral a plant or an animal?
  • Why is the Great Barrier Reef important for marine life?
  • How have humans affected the Great Barrier Reef?

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on the Great Barrier Reef from Tigtag.

Go to Tigtag

Discover free online CPD for primary science from Reach Out CPD.

Go to Reach Out CPD