Billion Oyster Project

Will Our Oysters Do Better in the Classroom Tank or the ORS?


Oyster Tank Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



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!


  • Consider similarities and differences between tank ecosystem and harbor ecosystem.

  • Predict that their oysters will ‘do better’ in the classroom tank or the ORS.

  • Consider how to establish that one group of oysters is ‘doing better’ than another.

Materials and Resources


  • It’s helpful to have available all the equipment you use at your ORS.

  • It’s also helpful to have your oyster tank, and all the bottles of things that go into it.

Before you get started

Tips for Teachers

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


  • Ideally, provide your own typed-up notes of curiosity, excitement or interest from the students’ field expedition and the students’ experience setting up their classroom tank, perhaps with photographs.

  • If possible, list quotes of particular things students said on the above days.

Instruction Plan


  1. Explain: We’ve been talking about what we can and cannot control in the classroom.  Now let’s think about how the tank compares to the ORS in the harbor.

  2. Debrief with the class, to make sure people remember most of the key things that oysters need.  

    • You might ask your students: When we talk about “things oysters need” what are the things we do for the oysters’ health vs. what are the things we do mainly because we want to have information about the oysters and their environment?

  3. Ask your students: Is there anything we do to “take care of” our oysters in the ORS?

  4. If students get stuck on yes/no answer follow us with further questions: What happens to cages that are abandoned?  

    • Would they grow at all without us?

    • Would they do better without us?

    • Would this be true for the tank?

    • Why do you have to take care of the tank in ways you can’t even take care of the ORS?

    • Is the goal of the tank to replicate the ORS exactly or as closely as possible or is it to do something a little different?


    1. Each student gets a Will Our Oyster do Better in the Classroom Tank or in the ORS? handout.
    2. Students complete first section individually.
    3. Think about life from the oyster’s point of view.  Imagine you are living inside one of those shells, filtering the water and going about your business.  What are all the similarities and differences you can think of for the oysters between life in the tank and life in the ORS?


  1. Distribute the following handouts:

    • BOP ORS Field Manual

    • Oyster Tank Guide

    • Typed-up teacher notes (see “Preparation” above)

  2. Students will work with these handouts before tackling the second page of Will Our Oyster do Better in the Classroom Tank or in the ORS?

  3. Explain: Give your students a pep-talk about using these long documents!  

    • They’ve got this.  It’s just describing things they’ve done before with their own hands!

    • In addition, you could assign your students specific things to look for in the documents, such as “everything you can find about salt or salinity.”  It is best to do as little of this as you think your students can handle, to build their independence in sorting through information.

  4. Students get into small groups to discuss their lists of similarities and differences.

  5. Students write individual predictions and complete the handout.


  1. As a class, discuss: Where do you think the oysters will do better, in the classroom or in the ORS?  Why?  

    • How will you be able to tell?

    • What data will you need to take in order to convince other people that your conclusion is accurate?

  2. Post the classroom tally, possibly with students’ names.  Later in the year, you’ll want to check back and remember what people are predicting now.

  3. If there is any disagreement about where the oyster will do better, this is a wonderful opportunity for a thoughtful discussion!  Some clarifying questions might include:

    • What do you mean by “doing better,” and is that the same thing that other people are thinking?

    • Which parameters do you think are most important, and why?  Is that the same thing that other people are thinking?

    • We all have our predictions: are you very confident in your prediction?  If so, why?  If not, do you feel that there are many uncertainties in this situation?  Can you articulate some of those as questions?