Billion Oyster Project

Oyster Decline in NY Harbor


NY Harbor Populations Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas

Science, Social Studies


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


Enumerate 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?


  • Create one folder for each small group.  Look through all the resources in New York City and Oyster Decline and put a variety in each folder.

  • Consider if you want the same or different resources in each folder.

Instruction Plan


  1. Students get into small groups.

  2. Each student gets What Happened to Our Oysters?

  3. Groups read over the quotes, discussing and taking notes on each quote.

  4. Class discusses students’ observations of and questions about the quotes.


  1. Students get into small groups.

  2. Each group gets a folder with several resources in it.

  3. Each student gets a Notes on Oyster Decline Images

  4. 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.  

  5. Students complete their Notes on Oyster Decline Images worksheet and are given additional worksheets if necessary.  

  6. Students complete the "Notes/Connections" section of their worksheet in order summarize their analysis of all their resources.

  7. Groups share their findings with the rest of the class.


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