Art, Seas and Oceans

DIY Twig Coral Reef

The underwater world is one of the most child-friendly topics ever. That’s why teachers in arts & crafts classes and art schools like to explore it so much. This time, however, we will approach this subject in a different way. We’re going to make a DIY coral reef from twigs and branches.

Have you ever noticed that branches can take on strange shapes that resemble corals? The subdued colour of the tree bark cannot be compared to the incredible combinations of colours in corals – but this can be fixed. Again, we will use this opportunity to explain to your children that the corals are currently in a crisis – due to global warming they are dying at a rapid pace and as a result the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching, i.e. losing its magnificent colours.

People produce more and more goods thus increasing the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This in turn results in global warming, including ocean warming. Warm ocean water kills the algae that give colours to the corals, leading to the corals’ death. Coral death reduces the diversity of fish species though other factors are also dependant on coral reef health. Coastal erosion due to wave action, has increased because the natural function of coral to act as seawalls can no longer be sustained.

In our world everything has a cause and effect; and the coral reefs are a very clear example of humans’ negative impact on the environment – even if the populations in question live in a completely different part of the world and have never seen the coral reef.

patyczkowa rafa koralowa - narzędzia


  • Sticks / twigs / branches
  • Acrylic paints
  • Brushes of various thickness
  • Cup filled with water
  • Palette
  • Cloth to clean brushes
  • Foil / newspapers to cover tables

Step 1

Collect some dry sticks in a park, green space, or your backyard. Preferably, choose ones without the bark because these will be easier to paint and give an authentic appearance.

Apply the first layer of paint evenly on the sticks. You can paint the sticks with one colour only or you can choose to divide them into zones using two or three colours. Before you begin get your child acquainted with the colour wheels’ basic rules of how to combine colours. Contrasting a matte paint with a glossy one or with a gold / silver one will give a stunning effect. These paints are available at art supply stores, and with a wide choice at affordable prices your selection will not be a problem.

Step 2

patyczkowa rafa koralowa - efekt końcowy

After the sticks have dried, you can start applying the patterns. You will need a thinner brush and your imagination! Start making your coral reef when the sticks are dry, and if possible stick the twigs in the ground of a backyard or use a big flowerpot. If not, you will need Styrofoam as an alternative. You can either finish your work now or – if your child has got absorbed in the creative process – you can carry on and suggest creating an underwater world from colourful paper; you can cut out fish, octopuses, starfish and fasten them to the sticks. You will then create an amazing 3D structure.

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