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Growing reefs


Shipwrecks have both naturally grown into reefs and are often sunk purposefully to seed new reef development. Simulate this experience in Minecraft.

SKU: 1221 Category:


Shipwrecks have both naturally grown into reefs and are often sunk purposefully to seed new reef development. Simulate this experience in Minecraft. Game/Play NGSS courses Project-Based Minecraft  Online

Learning Objectives

  • Students will identify causes for coral reef decline
  • Students will debate whether man-made structures are helpful for ocean ecosystems
  • Students will investigate varying strategies to “seed” new reef development
  • Students will use Minecraft to model a time lapse of a shipwreck becoming a coral reef
  • Students will use Paint 3D to model the parts of their shipwreck reef

New Generation Standards

  • MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

Guiding Ideas

  • How does a structure like a shipwreck evolve over time to become a coral reef?
  • Is purposeful sinking of shipwrecks good or bad for the ocean habitat in their development of reefs?
  • What other strategies are being employed by conservationists to aid growth of coral reef habitats?

Student Activities

1) In certain locations, shipwrecks settled on the ocean floor have, in certain cases, been transformed into coral reefs. Coral grows over time and evolves into an ecosystem that flourishes with marine life. In some situations, structures have been purposefully placed underwater or ships have been sunk in specific locations to support the development of reefs. However, there is not complete support for this behaviour, and some groups have grown concerned at the sudden influx of man-made reef development.

2) Students will split the class into two groups, and run a debate on the following question: Are man-made reef developments good for the ocean? Debate teams need to bring research on the topic from a variety of sources and convince the judges whether shipwrecks should continue to be used in this way or whether there should be a moratorium. Reach out to local experts for volunteer judges for this activity.

3) To bring Computer Science into the discussion, students can simulate the transition from a man-made structure to a coral reef. Using “Fill” and “Replace” commands, structures built in Minecraft from stained glass can be replaced with different types of coral blocks to complete the conversion. For an additional challenge, students can also create their own underwater sculptures and use similar code to create their own reef seeds.

Performance Expectations

1) Students will debate on the practice of using shipwrecks to develop coral reefs and whether it is harmful or helpful to the ocean ecosystem.

2) Students will use repeat loops, fill commands, and replace commands to transform underwater glass structures into coral reefs.

3) Students will create their own underwater sculptures to be used as seeds for reef development.

4) Students will use the Minecraft Structure Block to export a 3d model of their sculpture as a before and after approach and submit the .glb files for assessment.


  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Project Based Learning

External References


The Wild World of Shipwrecks resource from BBC Nature

SS Yongala

An overview of the SS Yongala from Dive Zone

USNS Vandenberg

USNS Vandenberg off Key West from Key West Dive Center

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