ESL Advanced Lesson Plan – The Secrets of the Coral
Lesson Plan Contents
Can we prevent skin cancer and sunburn by imitating the lifeforms of the corals? Find out with this superb ESL lesson plan about the The Secrets of the Coral.
- Warm up
- Reading text
- Comprehension questions
- Vocabulary match
- Gap fill
- Discussion questions
Levels: Upper-intermediate and advanced
Time: 60 minutes
ESL Advanced Lesson Plan - The Secrets of the Coral
Lesson Plan Warm Up
- Do you use sunblock? What factor?
- Have you ever been badly sunburned? If so, describe what happened.
- If you could take a pill to prevent cancer, would you do it?
The Secrets of the Coral
A secret from the corals could give us a new weapon in the fight against skin cancer. Researchers are now developing the most powerful sun protection yet - pills that protects the skin and eyes by mimicking nature.
The concept of this wonder pill was inspired by the marine life that inhabits the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The scientists studied the coral and discovered that it was able to protect itself from the effects of the ferocious sun. Corals are usually found in quite shallow water, but are seemingly undamaged by the sun’s harmful UV rays. Dr Paul Long, researcher at King’s College London, explains that it is a compound made by the algae in the coral that offers the blanket protection from the sun. The scientists conducted the experiments on site. They collected coral from the parts of the reef where there was very little sunlight getting through to see if they could kick-start them into producing the compound. They then exposed them to the sun and were able to watch the compound at work. They expect to start testing a lotion version on discarded skin from tummy tucks and a pill variety could be widely available for humans in a few more years.
So How Does It Work?
The waters of the tropics are not rich in nutrients, so for a coral to survive it needs a food source. That’s where the algae come into play. The algae live in the tissue of the coral and use the sun’s rays for energy. To add to the food chain, you have the fish that feed on the coral. What the scientists noticed was that the fish that fed on the algae seemed to be receiving the benefits of the compound too. Even fish that ate the algae-eating fish were also protected. That’s why they believe they can replicate the compound and deliver it to us synthetically in a pill form. Not only will it protect your skin, but your eyes too. They also believe the pill could give you protection for weeks rather than hours. The only downside is that you’ll remain a pasty white colour.
Issues that may arise
We need a certain amount of exposure to the sun for our bodies to produce vitamin D. We need this particular vitamin for general health and bone development. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with many diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, psoriasis ...etc. So perhaps this drug would have to be on prescription to prevent any overdosing.
Other innovations leading from this
Even more exciting than pill popping sunblock is what other innovations they have in mind for the new technology. Long and his team are planning to make some high-value crops more resistant to sunlight, especially in developing countries where environmental conditions are leading to famines.
As well as protecting our skin and our crops from the harmful effects of UV rays, Long and his colleagues are studying how climate change is leading to coral bleaching. Rising sea temperatures causes the algae to produce toxins which force the coral to expel them. The coral turns white and eventually dies, hence the ‘bleaching’. Other threats to the reefs are ocean acidification, sewage and oil spills, hurricanes, careless human swimmers and even petroleum-based sunscreen. It is believed that analysing this information will eventually help conserve the coral reefs from the threat of global warming.
ESL/EFL Discussion Questions
- Would you take a pill like this?
- Many people in the Western world believe that tanned skin is healthy looking. Do you agree?
- It is common in many countries in Asia to use creams that have bleach in them to whiten the skin because white skin is considered beautiful. What do you think about this?
- What do you think about GM foods?
- Discuss the benefits and negatives of using genetically modified crops.
- Can you think of any other medication that comes from nature?
- What are some practical ways that beach goers can help the reefs survive?
Where are the experiments conducted?
What does 'come into play' mean?
Why do scientists believe they can replicate the compound?
According to the article what are the disadvantages to taking the pill?
What other areas are the scientists hoping to use their research in?
What is coral bleaching?
Vocabulary Match - Underline the words in the article
Find these words
to become white.
something unwanted is thrown away.
to throw out.
not very deep.
simple plants that live in water.
a surgical operation to remove fat from the stomach.
a cereal, plant, vegetable or fruit grown to be sold.
Choose a suitable word from the vocabulary section and put it into the correct form.
- When he was a child he was very good at _________ other people.
- He put all the clothes he had __________ into a recycling point.
- The magazine article featured the _________ of the movie industry.
- Why don't you serve the soup in bowl that's not so ___________?
- I usually get a _________ headache about once a month.
- The pharmaceutical industry uses a lot of liquorice because it cannot be made __________.
More articles by the author
Are your learners confused by some words in English?
Why not give them this activity ESL Easily Confused Words activity. It will help reinforce the difference between words such as 'accept' and 'except.'
Pair Work Activity – Interview Role-play
Student A should choose one of the items listed below and think about what product he/she would like to research and develop.
Student B is a journalist for an online magazine and should prepare some interview questions about the new product.
- Old socks
- VHS videos
- Snail slime
- Dry markers
- Unused bread from bakeries
ESL/EFL Lesson Plan Answers
Answers to Comprehension Questions
On site – in the water.
Become effective or active.
Because the fish that fed on the algae seemed to receiving the benefits of the compound too. Even fish that ate the algae-eating fish were also protected. It has a knock-on effect.
Pasty white skin, overdosing, not receiving enough vitamin D.
Drought-resistant crops and conservation of the reefs.
Higher temperatures causes the algae to release toxins and this in turn forces the coral to expel them.
Answers to Vocabulary Match
mimicking – to copy
Shallow- not very deep
kick-start – to start
algae - simple plants that live in water.
discarded -something that is unwanted is thrown away.
tummy tucks - a surgical operation to remove fat from the stomach.
Expel - to throw out.
Synthetically – artifically
downside – disadvantage
popping pill – taking tablets
crops - a cereal, plant, vegetable or fruit grown to be sold.
Bleaching - to become white.
Answers to Gap Fill
Adapted from the article: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/aug/31/sunscreen-pill-coral-five-years
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