Lessons


Investigations

Investigations are units that contain a sequence of lessons designed to be taught in order. We recommend teaching the entire unit. Investigations were explicitly designed with NYC science standards for middle school in mind, but many of these lessons can be aged up or down. Email [email protected] to get in touch with our curriculum specialists!

NY Harbor Populations Investigation


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will each play the role of an estuary organism and together the class will create an estuarine food web with string connecting the organisms to each other.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students expand on their food web by making connections to habitats that the organisms live in.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

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

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will analyze historical photos, maps and other resources that point at some of the causes of oyster decline in New York.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

In this activity students go out into the field to their Oyster Research Station (ORS) to collect as many small invertebrate animals as possible, in order to bring them back to the classroom for further study and experimentation.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

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.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

In this activity, students sort their invertebrates into difference categories based on close observations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

In this activity, students make predications about what the invertebrates in their small tank will eat.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

In small groups, students become stewards of a number of the small animals their class gathered from the Oyster Restoration Station (ORS) -- probably some combination of arthropods including amphipods, isopods, crabs, and/or shrimp.  Students develop a system for identifying and tracking their animal community, make decisions about how best to keep the animals, and develop their questions about these ORS animals.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

After collecting, analyzing, and discussing the data from the lesson Small Tanks for Small Arthropods, the class defines a consensus desired outcome (their definition of “best for the animals”).  The class then develops a consensus set of conditions for what will become the class control tank.  Finally, each group varies one parameter from the control tank, trying to do even better for the animals than the control tank, according to the consensus outcome.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

By the end of this multi-day lesson, students will propose a large-scale study about a population found in New York Harbor.  To inform this process, students will first sort their own questions about small estuarine arthropod, and then students will read and discuss ‘digests’ of four original scientific journal articles on small estuarine arthropods.

Nitrogen Cycle Investigation


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will go outdoors to observe and document the water cycle in motion where they live. Students will also discover how they and their community impact not only the movement of water through the cycle, but also the water quality.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students explore the water cycle within their classroom tank.  Then they compare their tank to the estuary.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students examine nitrogen test strip packaging, and practice measuring the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in various water samples.  This lesson should be followed by regular monitoring of the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate level in the classroom tank.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students examine multiple meanings of the word line.  Students then build molecular models of an ammonia molecule, a nitrite ion, a nitrate ion, and a nitrogen gas molecule.  They use their molecular models and their practice with multiple meanings to help them understand how the word nitrogen sometimes refers to one part of each of these molecules (nitrogen as a type of atom), and sometimes refers to a whole category of molecules (nitrogen as the category of all the different kinds of molecules that contain nitrogen atoms).

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students compare and evaluate the advice of several sources on how to protect their tank animals from ammonia or nitrite poisoning.  Based on that analysis, students collectively decide how they want to ‘cycle’ the classroom tank, and make predictions about the tank’s nitrogen and animal welfare in the weeks and months to come.  As an extension, students can aim to create the best possible conditions for developing a community of nitrifying bacteria in smaller containers such as spice jars.  Later, if they can persuade their classmates that they have succeeded, the class may decide to incorporate some jars + contents into the classroom tank.This lesson should be followed by daily monitoring of the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate level in the classroom tank.  

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students compare and contrast multiple diagrams that describe nitrogen transformations in tanks.  They evaluate the pros and cons of different diagrams, and use them to uncover information about how nitrogen enters a tank, gets transformed by the organisms in the tank, and ultimately leaves the tank.  Students consider whether there is a complete ‘cycle’ of nitrogen within a tank.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

Students use a library of resources in the classroom to determine what are some of the neighborhood’s sources of nitrogen that eventually ends up in the estuary.  Then they go outside to actually find and map these sources of nitrogen.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students access NYC ammonia and nitrates data from platform.bop.nyc, in order to explore their questions about nitrogen beyond the classroom tank and beyond their own ORS.  This lesson plan provides a simple example of how they might choose to do that.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students read “Your Chicken Nuggets Are Killing Your Crab Cakes,” an article about the connections between agriculture and nitrogen pollution in waterways.  Students map the movement of nitrogen across the United States via the food system, and discuss how (or whether) the nitrogen map would change if people stopped eating chicken nuggets.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students graph the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate data they have been collecting and compare their graphs to a professional aquarium graph.  After investigating these graphs the class decides whether their tank is ready for animals.

Oyster Tank Investigation


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students closely observe live spat-on-shell and record their observations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students work together to create brackish water with the correct salinity for their tank.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

The teacher demonstrates the set-up process for the oyster tank and discusses each step with students.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students measure the size of the oyster spat and water quality data for the classroom tank.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students experiment with different materials in 1 gallon tanks in order to come up with some ideas for an experimental question to use with their second tank.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

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.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students review the BOP ORS Field Manual and the Oyster Tank Guide, and use that information to make predictions about how their oysters will fare in the tank vs. in the ORS (Oyster Research Station).  Predictions are powerful motivators, because students often want to find out if they were right!

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students add new questions about oyster reef associate species to the class’ list, Student Questions as of (today’s date).  Students then sort this list of Student Questions as of (today’s date) of questions in a two ways.  The first sort is completely open-ended.  The second sort asks students to consider different ways of looking for answers to each question.  

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

The class decides on a single experimental question on which to focus their second oyster tank. This lesson begins with the students working individually, then in small groups and finally as a whole class in order to choose this one experimental question.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students are given a variety of materials in order to experiment and build a filter for their classroom oyster tank.

Steward-shed Investigation


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

To launch the Steward-shed Investigation, students examine NYC elevation maps to help them build a paper model of a neighborhood-as-watershed.  Meanwhile, students engage with the neighborhood map and propose a smaller part of it they would like to steward.  The teacher synthesizes student proposals to define a class steward-shed.  Students then predict how rain water and pollution travel over land from their steward-shed into nearby waterbodies.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students build an impermeable model of their steward-shed in order to explore how water moves through that area’s topography.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students conduct research on point and nonpoint sources of pollution in their steward-shed.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

Students go to a specific location within their class steward-shed to observe and document sources of pollution.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students take their research and observations from the field and synthesize them in order to experiment with how pollution moves through their steward-shed model.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students collect information about permeable and impermeable surfaces in their steward-shed, first from their own local knowledge, and then using map resources.  Finally, they devise methods for measuring permeability themselves, in the field.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

Students go to a specific location within their class steward-shed to observe, document and test permeable and impermeable surfaces.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students take their research and observations from the field and synthesis them in order to decide what kind of surfaces to add to their steward-shed model.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Where does our local land-based pollution go?  What other parts of the city contribute pollution to our waterfront? To understand what pollution reaches their waterfront, and where their steward-shed’s pollution travels on its way into our waterways, students will map CSOs along their waterfront and WPCPs that discharge effluent along their waterfront.  They will determine what kind(s) of Storm drainage exists their steward-shed -- Combined Sewer, MS4, Direct Drainage and/or Bluebelt -- and make educated guesses about where those pipes and overland routes most likely discharge.  Finally, they brainstorm different approaches to reducing different kinds of sewage pollution of the waterways that are relevant to their steward-shed.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

The class divides work on two different parts of a proposal for their steward-shed: 1. One way to reduce pollution 2. One place to reduce runoff.  Students identify and interview stakeholders in their community, evaluate multiple approaches, and ultimately present their proposals to local stakeholders and decision-makers.


Standalone Units

Standalone units contain one-part or two-part lessons designed to support oyster research activities that don't need to be taught in a particular sequence. Most of these lessons were originally developed for middle school students, but many of these lessons can be aged up or down.

Introductory Lessons


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will look at various objects to practice the skills of observation and inference.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

As a class you will review the written expectations for being in the field during ORS monitoring.  Students have an opportunity to reflect upon the expectations.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

Students should always be engaged when in the field.  Journaling is a useful tool when there is a gap in direct instruction or hands-on work and for groups that finish early.  Journaling allows students time to reflect on their experiences, make observations about their surroundings and think meta-cognitively.

New York’s Urban Ecosystem Lessons


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

As a class you will review the written expectations for being in the field during ORS monitoring.  Students have an opportunity to reflect upon the expectations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will go outdoors to observe and document the water cycle in motion where they live. Students will also discover how they and their community impact not only the movement of water through the cycle, but also the water quality.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson allows students to start with a map and explore it. As they do, they will look up whichever water and map words appear in one definition and look up those.  By the end, they should have a long list of words related to the harbor.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson takes place in the field - ideally at your Oyster Restoration Station (ORS) site. This lesson would work well after you have completed the monitoring of your ORS. This lesson could also be done at any convenient location outside your classroom. Students will explore the area and make predictions about what happens to the water when it rains. Students will test their predictions with the actual pouring of water.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will make a two paper models of watersheds to highlight the way water flows through a watershed.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will build a model of a watershed using a variety of materials in order to study the effects of runoff.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

The class creates a model of a sewershed, and in the process reviews the concepts of sewersheds, combined sewers, and combined sewer overflows. CSOs are one of the most significant sources of pollution in New York City’s waters.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This is the first in a series of four lessons on the permeability of surfaces in a watershed. These lessons can be done together or individually. If you plan on doing all the lessons in the permeability series, then you should consider doing them in the order suggested: Part 1, 2, 3, and then 4. This series works particularly well after the Watersheds series of lessons. In this lesson, students study satellite images of the location you have chosen, and draw inferences about the types of surfaces to be found in that location.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This is the second in a series of four lessons on the permeability of surfaces in a watershed. These lessons can be done together or individually. If you plan on doing all the lessons in the permeability series, then you should consider doing them in the order suggested: Part 1, 2, 3, and then 4. This series works particularly well after the Watersheds series of lessons. In this lesson, students will design, perform, report to each other, and provide feedback on their own original experiments to compare different types of sponges. Students will also consider the distinction between absorbancey and permeability. If you follow the Permeability lesson series, then your students will use these same sponges in a later lesson, Part 4, to create a model of the permeability of surfaces in a local watershed you chose to focus on. This provides motivation for needing to know how the different sponges interact with water.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This is the third in a series of four lessons on the permeability of surfaces in a watershed. These lessons can be done together or individually. If you plan on doing all the lessons in the permeability series, then you should consider doing them in the order suggested: Part 1, 2, 3, and then 4. This series works particularly well after the Watersheds series of lessons. In this lesson, students will visit the location you have chosen and pour water on different outdoor surfaces to identify and quantify the real permeable and impermeable surfaces in the field. Then they compare the field observations to their earlier interpretations of satellite imagery of the same location. If you are not following the Permeability lesson series, you may wish to omit the satellite imagery portion of the “Evaluate” section of this lesson.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This is the fourth in a series of four lessons on the permeability of surfaces in a watershed. These lessons can be done together or individually. If you plan on doing all the lessons in the permeability series, then you should consider doing them in the order suggested: Part 1, 2, 3, and then 4. This series works particularly well after the Watersheds series of lessons. In this lesson, students will create a model of the permeable and impermeable surfaces in a location that you have chosen and visited in previous lessons. They will use this model to make judgments about what they think the surfaces should be in that location. Optionally, they can also build a model of their proposed surfaces.

Field setting   |   6-8th grade

These short activities are designed to complement ORS (Oyster Restoration Station) monitoring expeditions.  

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will study a variety of maps and other resources so that they may begin to understand the features of their Oyster Restoration Station (ORS) site.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson provides an introduction to acids and bases. It begins with looking at the acid content of several items around the house. Then, there is a discussion of pH and what it means. After that, the students complete an experiment where they look at the effect of Carbon Dioxide in water. Finally, they watch a video on ocean acidification and oysters.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will graph precipitation data in NYC. They will then look at the connection between rainfall and salinity. Finally, they will consider the effect (if any) that rainfall has on oysters.

Oysters & Organisms Lessons


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will work in small groups to build a “filter” out of household materials and compete against other groups to see who can do the best job filtering the special mixture of “harbor estuary water” that the teacher creates for them.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will investigate the anatomy and morphology of an eastern oyster through observation and dissection.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will graph precipitation data in NYC. They will then look at the connection between rainfall and salinity. Finally, they will consider the effect (if any) that rainfall has on oysters.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will compare two graphs, one which includes only two pieces of information and one that includes four. The students will compare and discuss the difference. Then, students will examine a set of oyster data to determine which columns provide relevant data and why data is relevant or irrelevant. They will then create a graph showing the data over time.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will look at various objects to practice the skills of observation and inference.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

If you’ve taken your students to their Oyster Restoration Station multiple times this year, and in the process led them through a long-term original research process, this would be a good lesson for you. It’s designed as a debrief of the final visit to the ORS.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students examine photographs of existing oyster reefs, looking for clues about how to make a reef. Then they propose reef designs and share ideas about those proposals.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

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.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will take data using a series of different measurements. They will compare their results and determine if any of the data is meaningful, precise, reliable, or accurate.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will compare various substances and discuss the difference between mass and volume. This will lead them to a discussion of density. The class will then jigsaw and each group will find the density of one substance. Then, the teacher will do a demo in which she creates a density column, and the class can see how liquids of different densities behave.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will watch a video of oysters filtering a tank to motivate their work. They will then do a lab where they will investigate which objects float and which objects do not. They will use that demonstration to discuss how oysters filter water.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students closely observe live spat-on-shell and record their observations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will study a variety of maps and other resources so that they may begin to understand the features of their Oyster Restoration Station (ORS) site.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students start with a simulation of measuring spat-on-shell. They then find the central tendency measurements of their simulation. After that, students examine data from the Governor’s Island oyster docks. Students compare a set of discrete data (number of spat-on-shell) with a set of data that is continuous (length of oysters). They discuss which measure of central tendency: mean, median, or mode, is useful in which situation and why.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson allows students to investigate how scientists count quantities that are hard to measure exactly. They create their own method and compare it to BOP’s method.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will practice both identifying live versus dead oysters and measuring oyster spat in a series of competitive challenges.

Teacher-Authored Lessons


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson is a continuation of the previous lesson "NY Harbor Oyster Population Decline Part 1." The room has been split into 6 groups- 2 groups for each photoset (oyster harvesting, industrial pollution, and sewage.) In this lesson, students will become teacher assistants and present their posters to the two groups that did not see their photo set. During their presentations, students are required to take notes. 

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Explore anatomy in form and function while exploring NY Harbor Populations! Think about the advantages and disadvantages between shells, exoskeletons and endoskeletons.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson allows students to start with an outline map of the NYC Estuary and highlight all of the waterways. Students will generate observations and questions. They will then use a more detailed map to find "water words" they are unfamiliar with, look up the terms, right our definitions in notebook. Lastly, students will use the map to label the 8 major parts of the NYC Estuary.

Classroom & Field setting   |   9th-12th grade

Students will travel to and receive a tour of Sherman Creek led by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP).On site students will hear about the work undertaken by NYRP to restore Sherman Creek Park and NYRP's vision for the construction of an oyster reef.Back in the classroom NYRP (or the teacher) will present a brief recap of the tour and vision for the oyster reef and needs of Sherman Creek.

Classroom setting   |   9th-12th grade

Students will read the epilogue from the national bestseller, 'The Big Oyster' by Mark Kurlansky as well as participate in a socratic seminar discussion circle.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

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.)  

Water Quality Lessons


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This lesson opens with a hands-on lab demo about "parts per million." The students watch as food coloring gets more and more diluted until there is one part of food coloring per million parts of liquid. Then, the students learn a bit about fecal coliform. Finally, students do an activity where they determine whether or not water is safe to drink by using unit conversions and looking at actual situations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This pair of lessons can help you integrate reading into the process of inquiry. Students use concept maps to organize their ideas and questions about the complex relationships involving oysters and dissolved oxygen. Students then use a library of texts both to find information and to develop informed, follow-up questions that can be the basis for future investigations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This pair of lessons can help you integrate reading into the process of inquiry. Students use concept maps to organize their ideas and questions about the complex relationships involving oysters and dissolved oxygen. Students then use a library of texts both to find information and to develop informed, follow-up questions that can be the basis for future investigations.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will explore dissolving, saturation, and super saturation. They will then apply this concept to read and understand a dissolved oxygen graph. Finally, they will look at the acceptable parameters for oysters for dissolved oxygen.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

This is an inquiry-based lesson that asks students to play with a table of Celsius and Fahrenheit values and see what conclusions they can draw about the relationship between the two sets of numbers. They also have the opportunity to discuss their ideas of “hot” and “cold” and examine what values correspond to those concepts.

Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students will take data using a series of different measurements. They will compare their results and determine if any of the data is meaningful, precise, reliable, or accurate.

What are the Living Breakwaters for?


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students use maps, photographs, and primary and secondary texts as inspiration for a two-page illustrated fictional memoir about life for oystering families in Raritan Bay, before and shortly after the waters were closed for shellfishing - as they remain to this day. Then students consider what practical lessons we might learn from this story about the three layers of resilience: culture, ecosystems, and risk reduction.

What's Your Stake in Paerdegat Basin?


Classroom setting   |   6-8th grade

Students use several maps to begin their research on people's relationships with the land- and water-forms around Paerdegat Basin (and the creek that used to exist where the basin is now).  Based on the evidence they collect, they develop a provisional answer to the question: what is Paerdegat Basin designed for?