Billion Oyster Project

What Do Oysters Need in Our Classroom Tank?


Oyster Tank Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



Students observe the classroom tank and start poking around the Oyster Tank Topic Library in order to generate inferences and questions about what oysters need in the classroom tank.  Then they identify parameters they can and can’t (and sort of can) control for the oysters, and use that process to generate even more questions with a sense of which questions are most urgent.  By the end of the lesson, the class has a good starting list of their own questions about what oysters need in the classroom tank.


  • Gather information about what oyster need to survive in a classroom tank.

  • Raise questions.

Materials and Resources


  • Functioning oyster tank

  • Package information from all items that you added to your tank (e.g. tank conditioning drops)

Before you get started

Tips for Teachers

  • This is a great lesson to use early in the year, around the first ORS (Oyster Restoration Station) visit.

  • It’s crucial that you hang onto your students’ questions. You will definitely need them later, and they are impossible to recreate!


You need to set up your classroom oyster tank with your students before doing this lesson.

Instruction Plan


  1. In this activity, one group observes the oyster tanks while the other groups dive into the Oyster Tank Topic Library.  Groups rotate until all groups have observed the tank.

  2. Explain: Our goal today is to figure out what we need to know in order to take good care of our oysters.  We’re going to start by observing our oysters and reading about them.

  3. Students get into groups of no more than four.

  4. Each student gets an Oyster Tank Observation Inference handout and the Oyster Tank Topic Library.

  5. One group at a time observes the classroom tank and each student in the group works on the Oyster Tank Observation/Inference handout.

  6. Groups that are not observing the classroom tank work to get get familiar with the Oyster Tank Topic Library.

  7. Consider wrapping up this activity with a class discussion:

Tank Observation Discussion Questions

  • Look at your classroom oyster tank.  How are the oysters doing?  How could you tell?  

  • How about the water and any other things living in the tank?  Can you observe clues about that?

  • What questions do you have about your oysters and their tank?  

  • Brainstorm a list of as many observations, ideas, and questions as you can.

Topic Library Discussion Questions

  • What's in it?

  • What strikes you first?

  • What different kinds of sources do you find there?

  • Which source has the most appealing layout?

  • Which source has the most appealing images?

  • Which sources seem like they were written for adults, and might take some time to decode?

  • Which title is the most confusing?

  • Can you tell which sources were written by experts in their field?  If so, how can you tell?

  • After you’ve observed the oyster tank and you have some observation and questions - which source would you read first?  Why?

  • In order to keep your oysters alive, which source would read first?  Why?


  1. In this activity, students begin to synthesize what they’ve learned so far as they’ve set up their tank, observed it and read about it.  

  2. Each student gets a What Can We Control? handout.

  3. Students complete the handout individually and then share their work with their small groups. Students ask each other questions and offer ideas to one another.

  4. Debrief with the whole class to review and check for understanding.   After one or two groups share their ideas, get the discussion going with questions like:

    • What do people think of that list?

    • Do some of you disagree with any items on that list?

    • How is your list different from this group’s list?

    • What do you suppose might be the thinking behind this item on this list?


  1. In this activity, students take their thinking and learning and raise questions about their oysters and oyster tank.

  2. Remind students: Our goal today is to figure out what we need to know in order to take good care of our oysters.  

  3. Students work in their small groups to compile a list of at least ten questions about their oysters, the oyster tank or how to take care of their oysters.  Students refer to the Oyster Tank Observation Inference and What Can We Control? Handouts.

  4. Lead a class discussion, solicit questions from the students and write the questions where they can be seen by the whole class.

  5. Students should ask each other clarifying questions about their questions.


  1. Allow groups a moment to re-word questions that could be clearer, in response to their classmates’ confusion.  Maybe one question could be rewritten as two different questions.
  2. Lead a discussion from these starting points:

    • Which questions seem most urgent -- things we have to know right away?  Why?

    • Which questions seem most exciting -- things we are really interested in knowing more about?  Why?

  3. Title this list, “Student Questions as of (today’s date).”