Eastern Oyster Education


Adam Frederick and Jackie Takacs


Maryland Sea Grant College

Lesson Summary:

The Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is an iconic species in the Chesapeake Bay, an integral part of the history of the Bay and of Maryland.

During the Triassic Period, approximately 190 million years ago, Crassostrea virginica, the Eastern oyster, first appeared and has remained relatively unchanged since that time. In the past, this mollusk was found throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay in water depths up to 100 feet.

Now, they are rarely found below 30 feet and their numbers have been greatly reduced. The adaptive nature of the oyster in a changing estuarine environment allowed it to survive and flourish, but environmental pressures are taking a toll and many scientists are concerned about the decline in the number of oysters in the Bay. Efforts are currently underway to replenish oysters at various sites in the Bay.

Through these interactive lessons, students will study or observe:

  • oyster biology
  • external and internal anatomy - structure and function
  • immune system function
  • the suspension-feeding mechanism

NOTE:  Three exploration activities use live oysters.  These activities are best preformed with 2 live oysters per group of students (1 oyster for the internal anatomy activity and 1 oyster for the particulate matters and hunting for hemocytes activities).  If restricted to 1 oyster per group of students, the suggested sequences of activities is a follows:  particulate matters, hunting for hemocytes, internal anatomy (recognizing that students will have to be given information about the oyster’s internal anatomy ahead of time to complete this sequence appropriately.

Driving Questions:

How do environmental, ecosystem and anthrogenic impacts influence or interact with the anatomical structures and functions of the Eastern Oyster and related conservation and restoration efforts of this keystone species?

5E For This Lesson Plan


In this section students are given time to think, plan, investigate, collect and organize information.

Internal Anatomy


Students will study and observe:

  • the structure and function of the internal anatomy of the Eastern oyster

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