Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

The Chesapeake Bay Oyster Population

Exploration

Students investigate the present state of the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay through current news articles and reports. From the readings, students realize that the once-dominant oyster population has completely collapsed. Students begin to speculate why this has happened. [Minimum lesson time 25 to 35 minutes]

Objectives: 

1. Synthesize various informational sources to understand the current state of the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population (reading for information.)
2. Explore the causes for the collapse of the Bay's oyster population (eg., disease, sedimentation, poor water quality, and overharvesting.) EXTENSION: Higher Level Objectives
3. Explain the consequences of the decline of oyster populations (e.g., economic loss, decreased water-filtering capacity, and an overall decline in biodiversity.)
4. Identify possible solutions.

Lesson Materials: 

Base Article, "The Oysters and the Oystermen Are Dwindling." by Washington Post reporter Susan Kinzie.

Teacher Notes on article resources

Series of articles for greater depth or higher level classes or students:
Governor Ehrlich Moves Aggressively to Study Introducing Asian Oysters Into The Chesapeake Bay
Crisis and Controversy
Saving the Chesapeake

Optional supplemental activities: computer lab (for independent student research or Web Quest navigation.)

Computer video projector (for showing brief video news clip.)

Procedures: 

1.  Provide students with The Washington Post article, "The Oysters and the Oystermen Are Dwindling," by Susan Kinzie.
2.  Use this, or a similar article, to establish the recent collapse of the Chesapeake Bay oyster population. (Download "Teacher Notes about the Base Article" from Lesson Materials, below.)
3.  Lesson time for reading and discussion of the base article is about 25 minutes. Recommended for middle school or basic-level students. Implement instruction in your preferred manner. For example, students could read the article individually and then discuss it as a class. (You could require students to take notes while reading to help with the subsequent discussion.) Or you might want to employ the "Think (Read)-Pair-Share" model.
4.  Remember that the basic objective of this part of the unit is for students to realize that the oyster population has collapsed and to begin to speculate about why this has happened. If you have access to a video projector, you might supplement readings with brief video news clips from television news station WJZ TV in Baltimore:
Maryland Watermen Find Booming Oyster Harvest (1:34)
http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=8061316
Some Watermen Quit After Massive Oyster Die-Off (1:34)
http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=6427966
Md. Oyster Population, Reproduction Up For Second Year (1:54)
http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=8765453
Other videos from WJZ TV in Baltimore may be found at http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/tag/oysters/
5.  For high-school or more advanced students, use multiple articles from a variety of sources in the manner described above. (Download the additional articles from the References cited below; scanned versions are also available in the Lesson Resources.)
6.  Expand (or replace) this component by having students conduct independent research or navigate a web quest you develop. After summarizing the current situation, explore possible solutions for restoring the oyster population.
7.  Discuss the positives and negatives ... but arrive at the conclusion that the issue requires more study!

 

References: 

"Crisis and Controversy." Chesapeake Quarterly online vol.1, no.3., 2002.

Kinzie, Susan. "The Oysters and the Oystermen Are Dwindling." The Washington Post, 25 April 2004

Woodward, Colin. "Saving the Chesapeake--Effort and Money Needed if Bay's Ecology to Recover." E: The Environmental Magazine, Nov/Dec 2001.

Maryland State Standards: 

1.1.1

The student will recognize that real problems have more than one solution and decisions to accept one solution over another are made on the basis of many issues.

1.4.6

The student will describe trends revealed by data.

1.5.9

The student will communicate conclusions derived through a synthesis of ideas.

3.5.2

The student will analyze the interrelationships and interdependencies among different organisms and explain how these relationships contribute to the stability of the ecosystem.

6.4.1

Identify an environmental issue and formulate related research questions. Methods of gathering information may include writing letters, performing a literature search using the Internet, and interviewing experts.

6.4.3

Interpret the findings to draw conclusions and make recommendations to help resolve the issue.