Billion Oyster Project

How do you make an oyster reef? Part 2


Oysters & Organisms Lessons



Class Periods




Subject Areas


Students revisit underwater oyster reef photographs, looking for clues that particular reefs are thriving. In small groups, they propose experiments that compare multiple oyster reefs.   The next day, students compare their oyster reef experimental designs with one conducted in New York City’s waters in 2010-2011 by the Oyster Restoration Research Project.

Materials and Resources


You’ll need a good way for the class to view the Oyster Reef Photographs. Ideally, project the images onto a large screen

Instruction Plan


Revisit the underwater reef images from Day One, one of which shows other fish and organisms visibly inhabiting it and one that does not.

Ask your students:

Do you get the impression that one of these reefs is thriving more than the other?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Take a vote on which reef that is “healthiest.”

Note: there is no right or wrong answer to the above questions!  There are good cases to be made for all positions!

Just to get a few ideas out there, before they tackle this in small groups, ask your students:

What experiment do you think we could do on these reefs to collect evidence that would test whether one reef is thriving more than the other?  


In small groups, give students the Handout, “Design an experiment comparing oyster reefs”

Students swap experiments with another group. They examine the other group’s questions and method. Then they come up with a list of questions they have for the other group.

Then you can lead a discussion in which students pose their questions to other groups, hear the answers, and are encouraged to ask follow-up questions.


It works best to teach the remainder of this lesson the following day.

Re-create the small groups, and distribute the Resource: description of ORRP Experimental Reefs.  Also distribute the Handout: What was the ORRP experimental design comparing oyster reefs?  

One option is to ask each group to read each section of the text and complete each section of the Handout.  Another option is to “jigsaw” this text by assigning different parts to different groups, who then share their responses orally.  Once you’ve heard groups’ summaries of their portion of the text, you can decide whether you want to jigsaw the Handout as well, or to ask each group to complete all parts of the Handout.


Still in their small groups, have students compare and discuss their groups’ experimental design and ORRP’s experimental design.

Meanwhile, move through the room, eavesdropping, and write notes for yourself about which issues the students are most interested in.


Lead a discussion in which you ask your students:

    What are the pros and cons of particular choices that ORRP made?

    What are the pros and cons of particular choices that our groups made?

Focus this discussion on the issues of interest to your students that you overheard in the small group conversations.