Billion Oyster Project

Set Up an Experimental Tank Based on Questions


Oyster Tank Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



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.


  • Design an experiment based on a question.

Materials and Resources


  • See the Oyster Tank Guide for details on supplies and where to purchase them.

Before you get started

Tips for Teachers

One important purpose of this lesson is for the class to come to some sort of an educated agreement as to the one question on which their experimental tank should be focused.  Feel free to use a different method to come to this same conclusion.


  • From the list of Student Questions as of (today’s date), choose as many as possible that could become good experimental tank questions.

  • Write each question on a small piece of paper. Make sure there is one piece of paper for each student in the class plus a handful of extras, even if some questions need to be repeated.

  • Fold the pieces of paper and put in a hat so each student can choose one piece of paper out of the hat.

  • Set up the second tank as a baseline before class begins.  This includes water that is 15ppt, has an aerator and 10 oyster spat-on-shell substrates.

Instruction Plan


  1. Walk around the classroom and allow each student to pick one question out of the hat.  Make sure there are more questions than students, so the last student doesn’t feel stuck with the last question.

  2. Consider whether you want students to be able to read the question and exchange it.


  1. Each student receives the Design an Experiment Handout and completes it for his/her question.

  2. Students get into small groups. Ideally each group member should have a different question.

  3. Students then take turns sharing their individual work with their group. Groups should spend time discussing each experimental question.

  4. Once all students have had a chance to share their work, the group works together to narrow it down to one question on which they want to pitch to the class.

  5. The group then discusses their chosen question in depth and prepares a short pitch for the rest of the class in order to convince the class that this is the experimental question they should focus on with the second tank.

  6. Class should choose (teacher can consider how democratic to make the process) which experiment they would like to do as a class.


  1. NOW, it is time to complete the setup of the second tank.

  2. In this demo, the teacher will finish setting up the the tank and engage the students in discussion along the way.

  3. Gather the class around the tank so everyone can see.  

  4. Note: The only things that must be placed in this second, experimental tank are water, oysters and the aerator. Other than that, what is put in the second tank is based on the experimental question the class decided upon.


  1. Students devise a method for collecting the data. This may be done back in their groups or as a whole class.

  2. Students should include in their description how often the data should be taken, what units it should be, who will take it, and how the class will keep track of it. They should also decide on a length of time for their experiment.

  3. Post the experimental question above the tank and assign class responsibilities for data collection, monitoring, cage maintenance, etc.