Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Exploring (and Making) a Coral Reef

My son can’t get enough of Amanda Lumry’s Adventures of Riley books. I love them, too. 

These books talk about wildlife preservation and conservation of natural resources in a way that kids can connect to. Nine-year-old Riley takes excursions all over the world with his Uncle Max and Aunt Martha, who are scientists, with their daughter Alice (Riley’s cousin) in tow.

When our local library had a new one of Lumry’s Adventures, I nearly got tennis elbow grabbing it off the shelf.

Riddle of the Reef
provided an awesome lesson in the coral life cycle, how fragile their ecosystem is, and the dangers that threaten the Great Barrier Reef.

Once we’d read all about Riley’s adventure to the world’s largest reef, we made our own 3-D coral reef.

I cut some cardboard to build a standing frame. Then, my son painted a piece of cardstock ocean blue. Afterwards, I gave him a DIY rolling pin covered in a paper towel tube. (Once done with the project, I tore off the tube; now the rolling pin is ready for our next project!)

He used a Sharpie marker to draw undulating waves and bubbles on the cardboard tube. When done, I traced over his lines with a low-temp glue gun. Afterwards, we smeared some acrylic paint around on top of a piece of clingwrap and rolled the rolling pin through it. This became a giant rolling stamp that when rolled over the blue-painted paper, looked like the undulation of the water. We LOVED the effect it created!

While that dried, I gave my son some cut-outs I’d created. 

Download a 2-page PDF of these shapes here.
The marine life were printed on sticker paper. The coral was printed on heavyweight cardstock. He set about the task of coloring three of each.

When done, I glued his ocean background to the cardboard structure and we cut out what he’d colored. After peeling off the backing from the fish and ray, they were added to the water backdrop.

Next, we folded the bottoms of the coral cut-outs and using the low-temp glue, attached them to our sea floor. This project was so much fun and the 3-D effect is truly magical!


  1. These are AWESOME! I'm pinning it for when we get to coral reefs.

  2. You are the most awesome mom. I love this. I have never seen these books before, but I am sure my grandson would like them. Do you know if there is a list of the books anywhere? I couldn't find one on their website. Thanks again for have been pinned.

  3. Great idea to make a DIY rolling pin! and the hot glue prints. I guess wrapping silly bands/rubber bands on the rolling pin may also work!

    The 3D -Effect is so adorable!

  4. What a great rolling pin!!! How fun!

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  5. Jackie, I found a list by searching for "Adventures of Riley" on These books have layers of information. You can always read the story without adding lots of the other scientific facts, depending on your grandson's level. I hope our library continues to get more in the series. They combine animal science and geography in a way that's truly kid-appropriate.

  6. We are going to be studying Coral reefs later on and this will be great for my boys. Thank you.

  7. I LOVE THIS! Can't wait to try out that rolling pin technique. What a fun project!

  8. Your coral reef looks awesome. We read a couple of books from Riley series, but Anna was too young for them then. I think I'll try them again now - thanks for reminding me of them.

  9. Your rolling pin is genius! What a great way to transfer pictures!