Gift The PBDA Difference
Lower Campus
Pre-K – 3rd Grade
Upper Campus
4th Grade – 9th Grade

Coral Project

Palm Beach Day Academy science students have joined the world-wide emergency rescue effort to save the planet’s coral reefs. PBDA’s biology teacher, Ashley Hollern, realized that she and her students were perfectly situated to become involved in solving a real problem that exists just steps from their classroom.  She contacted the Annette Urso Rickel Foundation to seek a grant to build a coral lab in her classroom and to create a documentary of her students’ work. The Rickel Foundation, a philanthropic organization, headed by Dr. Annette Rickel, who supports the advancement of math and science education, responded enthusiastically. When Dr. Rickel visited with the students in the newly installed coral lab she stated, “I’m delighted to be here and learn about the Coral Project, and to see young people so involved in making a difference.”

Dr. Charles Gregory, Marine Veterinarian and Director of Operations at the Reef Institute – a non-profit organization that is restoring damaged coral – also responded positively when asked to help guide PBDA’s efforts.  Dr. Gregory immediately recognized an opportunity to engage young students in important research and the PBDA Coral Project was born.

The first step was to prepare the future coral lab adjacent to the science lab. Student volunteers and alumni, under the direction of Mrs. Hollern and Dr. Gregory, aided with the installation of reef tanks and aquaria before joining a bucket brigade to deliver the hundreds of gallons of seawater required to fill the 9 new tanks.

Throughout the school year, students will learn how to care for coral and collect data for the ongoing research.  Ultimately, their goal is threefold: to provide growth-rate data about three species of stoney coral, to raise “assisted coral” that may one day be introduced to the Florida ocean, and to teach PBDA’s students that they can and must become involved in solving real problems.

Considering those goals, Ashley reminds us that, “Today, more than ever, it is imperative that our students see the powerful dynamic of interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems.  It is these real problems, with genuine consequences, that they will face in the future.”

Aside from participating in a real-world race against time to understand and rescue coral, PBDA will be part of an equally important effort to focus attention on the plight of reefs.  All that the students do – all the successes, failures, breakthroughs, frustrations and triumphs will become part of a documentary film produced by PBDA’s videographer, Jonathan Paine, and Ashley Hollern. Jonathan teaches history and video production at PBDA. His cameras are capturing the progress of the project and discoveries of the students.  “As an educator, it’s always gratifying to see students exhibit enthusiasm about a particular global issue and take action to resolve it,” Jonathan said.  “But when you can capture this passion on film, it’s magical.”

You can follow Palm Beach Day Academy’s Coral Project’s progress by visiting the project’s website at

Follow the Coral Project on Instagram.

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