Category Archives: coral reefs


An elementary school student’s burgeoning interest in science inspired some awesome art making. The book Coral Reef: A City that Never Sleeps, by Mary M. Cerullo, motivated us to learn about reefs.

Coral reef book

With a long piece of paper for a mural (taped up on a window wall), father and daughter went to work at creating a reef of their own. We needed a large space since the reef had such a variety of aquatic life. We couldn’t fit a whole reef into a small space!

Drawing coralDrawing Reef

Together, we noticed that coral came in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The father/daughter team of artists started with branch coral and tube coral.

Scuba diver and fishDad's coral and fish

The wide variety of beautiful fish reminded us of the seldom-visited world on the ocean floor. In her red and black wet suit, a young scuba diver is going to take a closer look at the brightly colored fish. There are only a few of each kind of fish on a reef, so their neon colors are meant to help them attract mates, (With too many of the same species in one spot, competition for food would diminish their chances for survival.) The brilliant colors help the fish find each other.   Once the fish pair up, their sparkling colors make it easier for them to defend their territory.


There’s lots more to do before we’re finished with our reef mural, but this framework was a good start.

Next time we’re going to take a look at Christopher Still’s painting, Beyond the Seven Mile Bridge (, which is a wonderful and well researched mural currently hanging in the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives .

Still, Christopher - beyond the seven mile bridge

Christopher Still said that the coral reefs in the Florida Keys were a resource to be protected, and no doubt the presence of this detailed underwater scene reminds legislators every day of our state’s treasure. Still paints from direct observation, so he engineered special equipment to use for his underwater sketching.

Still’s painting is another rich example of life on the sea floor. Using a variety of resources builds depth in children’s thinking about a subject. Talking about the overall underwater scene as well as the detail observed will enhance the artwork created.

Turn up the impact of your ocean reef by adding music. Choose music that helps to take artists and viewers into the image. Listen to music in order to decide on a “fit” for this image. Sometimes composers create music specifically to describe a person, place or feeling. French composer Camille Saint-Saens wrote a collection of short pieces, The Carnival of Animals. These pieces describe particular animals and scenes.   While viewing the coral reef mural, we love playing “Aquarium” to help to create the feeling of underwater life. This music is readily available at online resources and elsewhere. In addition, there are many children’s books about The Carnival of Animals suite. Two choices that include a CD of the music are: The Carnival of the Animals by Jack Prelutsky, United States Children’s Poet Laureate; and Carnival of The Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Sue Williams.


Whether at home or in a classroom, mural making can be a great time for collaborative planning and doing.  In addition to learning more about coral reefs, the experience of art-making helps to open eyes.  It’s surprising how many murals you’ll suddenly see around your town once you delve into mural making!

We hope that you’ll dive in to an ocean reef. The water’s fine – and so are the sites and sounds!!

Susan and Mary