Billion Oyster Project

Observe Small Invertebrates


NY Harbor Populations Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



In small groups, students become stewards of a number of the small animals their class gathered from the Oyster Research Station (ORS).  Students observe and ask questions about these animals.


  • Make close observations.
  • Identify similarities and differences between organisms.

Materials and Resources


For each group:
  • a set of small invertebrates in a small tank with an aerator
  • several Petri dishes
  • white paper (taped to desk so animals in petri dish can be seen more easily)
  • tweezers
  • pipettes
  • hand lenses
  • sieves or screens

Instruction Plan


  1. Note: This activity is a rich source of student questions.  Be sure to record your students' questions and add them to your running list.  You'll need this list for the students to propose large-scale studies in the upcoming lesson, Propose a NY Harbor Population Study.  
  2. Each group get a tank of small invertebrates and their supplies.
  3. Groups have access to BOP Species ID Cards and Food Web Cards, but they are not required to use them at this time.  As students raise relevant questions, consider directing them toward those resources.
  4. Students place their invertebrates into the petri dishes in order to observe them closely.  
  5. Students observe, sketch and raise questions about their invertebrates.
    • Don't forget to collect student questions!
    • Make sure students observe and sketch at least one amphipod!  They may observe other invertebrates as well, but don't let them skip over the smallest ones.
  6. Students put invertebrates into the aerated tank for safekeeping.
  7. Groups prepare to report back to the whole class about what they observed and what questions they had.
  8. Explain: As you report back, try not to repeat things that your classmates have said.  See if you can add an observation or a question that has not already been said."
  9. Students respond to each other's presentations with follow-up questions and related observations.
During this discussion:
    • Post student observations and questions.
    • If possible, project images of relevant organisms as students talk.