Billion Oyster Project

NY Harbor Oyster Population Decline Part 1/2


Teacher-Authored Lessons



Class Periods




Subject Areas

Science, Social Studies


Students will be make conclusions on the oyster population decline in NY Harbor by analyzing photographs.

 This modified lesson includes re-formatted handouts. The reading was given for homework. Upon entering class, students compared and contrasted  the oyster population 150 years ago compared to more recent years. Since this was the first time my students were introduced to this curriculum, or oysters, I discussed why oysters were important to a marine habitat. From this discussion, students are able to make connections between water quality, ecosystems,  and habitats for other marine organisms.  Students are asked to predict why the oyster population declined and the effect that had on the rest of the ecosystem. Students than charted this prediction on a group poster. A suggestion would be to also chart this on the board so students can compare predictions  

I re-worked the photo packets so that students could organize their notes and make specific observations for each photo rather than compiling a list of observations on three sets of photos. Attached are three separate worksheets I made- oyster harvesting, sewage, and industrial pollution. I would suggest breaking students into six groups. Half the room will receive one copy of each work sheet as will the other half (therefore your six group actually break into three groups with three different worksheets.)



Students will analyze historical photos, maps and other resources that point at some of the causes of oyster decline in New York by enumerating several ways that human actions impact an iconic local species.

Before you get started

Tips for Teachers

  • Consider whether you want to take time to discuss photographs, maps and other resources as historical or primary resources.  What could be strengths or flaws of these resources as we try to learn more about the past?

    • Students can write a DSET (CER) for their conclusions. This will help them practice writing a scientific explanation. 
    • If you want students to glue their worksheets onto their poster for the next lesson (gallery walk), print the worksheets single sided so that they can paste their work onto the paper. 
    • Prepare students present their chart paper orally for the next lesson to show true mastery of content. If not, prepare them for a gallery walk next class.


    • Print readings and give for homework
    • Worksheets printed(10 of each for a class of 30) 
    • Chart paper for every table
    • Markers
    • Glue


    Students were given the reading for homework. Upon entering the class, they are asked to refer to their reading at their tables.  This lesson is going to be broken into two parts. The first portion of this lesson is solely used to introduce the topics, make predictions, and start to gather evidence using observations and inferences- see lesson summary for more details.

    The next section of this lesson would be to present their work. Prepare students to put their worksheets onto their prediction paper. In the next lesson, students will do a gallery walk of the other two groups posters and answer questions on a worksheet about what they observe from their peers work (or you can have the students present to the other two groups to work on oral explanations of content.)  

    Instruction Plan


    1. Do Now: According to your reading “What Happened to Our Oysters?” write a few sentences comparing and contrasting the oyster population 150 years ago (front)  compared to the 1900’s(back)    

                                - Class discusses students’ observations of and questions about the quotes

    2. Class discusses the reasons oysters are important to the environment.

        - Oysters filter water

        - Filtered water benefits other organisms

        - Oyster reefs provide a habitat for small organisms

        - Small organisms act as prey for larger predators thus creating a diverse ecosystem.

     3. Class makes predictions as to why the oyster population declined and how that effects the ecosystem

        -Students will chart their predictions on a poster

        -Predictions are also displayed on the board so students can make comparisons between their thoughts 



    1. 1. Students split into six groups- Each set of worksheets is given to two groups.

      · Explain: Based on the quotes we read earlier, we know that oysters declined in New York City and all over the country.  Now we are going to use these resources to observe some of the reasons why.

      -Discuss the difference between an observation and inference.

      2. Students work with their groups to complete the worksheets.

      3. For the conclusion, students are expected to write a CESR (Claim, Evidence, Scientific Concept, and Reasoning...this is commonly known as a DSET)


    Please see part 2 of this lesson.


    Please see part 2 of this lesson.


    Please see part 2 of this lesson.


    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