Polaris Coral Restoration Project with Dr. Matt Strand


One year ago, Matt Strand, English teacher at Polaris Expeditionary Learning School, earned his scuba certification and volunteered with the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida. Matt’s goal was to create a research project on endangered ecosystems with his colleague Kevin Denton.  However, his experience inspired a student trip back to Florida in May to continue the conservation work he started.  During three one-week “intensives” throughout the year, Matt offered a scuba diving enrichment class and students who participated earned their Open Water Diver certification. Outside of class and above water, students worked odd jobs, hosted a school dance, and managed a crowdfunding campaign to fund the trip. A SPIE grant helped make the trip more financially feasible for students.

Once in Key Largo, the students of the “Colorado Coralition” worked in the Coral Restoration Foundation nursery, tagging staghorn coral fragments to identify genotypes, remove algae, and harvest healthy fragments.  Students then brought these fragments to an endangered reef and “planted” them using a special marine epoxy.  The student dive teams planted 100 healthy coral, more than any other volunteer group working with the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Anticipating their diving and coral restoration trip, a group of his students wrote an original song called Finding the Wrong in the Light.  Enjoy this short documentary, which Matt created from the Colorado Coralition’s underwater service learning project in Key Largo, set to his students’ song performance.