Billion Oyster Project

Decline of Shad in the Hudson River Estuary


NY Harbor Populations Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



Students use a variety of resources about shad to create their own timeline about shad’s decline in the region.


Enumerate several ways that human actions impact an iconic local species, shad.

Before you get started


  • Read through the Shad Resource and Note Taking handout.

  • Decide which resource you would like to highlight at the beginning of the lesson in order to orient the students to the story of shad’s decline.

Instruction Plan


  1. Each student gets a Shad Resources and Note Taking handout.

  2. Point the students towards your chosen resource (see “Preparation” above).

  3. Each student individually makes observations and inferences about the resource looking for possible clues about the cause of shad decline.


  1. Students get into small groups with their Shad Resources and Note Taking handouts.

  2. Explain: Your goal is to create your own timeline based your inferences about and the information within the Shad Resources.

  3. Students study the resources, looking for clues and information about when and how shad declined.

  4. Students take notes in the space provided.  


  1. Looking back at their notes, groups decide which years their timeline should cover and on which points of information they will include on their timeline.

  2. Groups decide how they are going to convey their chosen information (e.g. text and/or illustration).

  3. Each group gets graph paper and rulers, so students may draw out their timeline.  (Be sure to give each group several pieces of graph paper, so they can make drafts or they may decide they want to cut out images from the Shad Resources handout to illustrate their timeline.

  4. Note: Even if you want students to eventually put their timelines on a powerpoint or presentation software, we suggest that they begin with graph paper so students may practice their scaling skills.


  1. Groups share their timelines with the class.

  2. Allow time for other groups to respond and ask questions.


NGSS - Cross-Cutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect

    • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.
    • Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.
    • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems.
    • Relationships can be classified as causal or correlational, and correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
  • Energy and Matter

    • The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system
    • The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a natural system.
  • Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

    • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.
  • Patterns

    • Graphs and charts can be used to identify patterns in data.
    • Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.
  • Stability and Change

    • Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.
  • Systems and System Models

    • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions.
    • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy and matter flows within systems.

NGSS - Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • LS1.A: Structure and Function

    • Within cells, special structures are responsible for particular functions, and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell.
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

    • Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.
    • Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.
  • LS2.B: Cycle of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

    • Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem. Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level. Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.
  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

    • Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.

NGSS - Science and Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    • Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict phenomena.
  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence

    • Construct and present oral and written arguments supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

NYC Science Scope & Sequence - Units

  • Grade 6, Unit 4

    • Interdependence