The Chesapeake Bay Oyster Population



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]


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.)


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)
Some Watermen Quit After Massive Oyster Die-Off (1:34)
Md. Oyster Population, Reproduction Up For Second Year (1:54)
Other videos from WJZ TV in Baltimore may be found at
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!



"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

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.  
The student will modify or affirm scientific ideas according to accumulated evidence.
The student will critique arguments that are based on faulty, misleading data or on the incomplete use of numbers.
The student will explain factors that produce biased data (incomplete data, using data inappropriately, conflicts of interest, etc.).
The student will identify meaningful, answerable scientific questions.
The student will pose meaningful, answerable scientific questions. (NTB)
The student will formulate a working hypothesis.
The student will identify appropriate methods for conducting an investigation (independent and dependent variables, proper controls, repeat trials, appropriate sample size, etc.).
The student will use relationships discovered in the lab to explain phenomena observed outside the laboratory.
The student will learn the use of new instruments and equipment by following instructions in a manual or from oral direction. (NTB)
The student will organize data appropriately using techniques such as tables, graphs, and webs (for graphs: axes labeled with appropriate quantities, appropriate units on axes, axes labeled with appropriate intervals, independent and dependent variables on correct axes, appropriate title).
The student will analyze data to make predictions or decisions or to draw conclusions.
The student will determine the relationships between quantities and develop the mathematical model that describes these relationships.
The student will describe trends revealed by data.
The student will determine the sources of error that limit the accuracy or precision of experimental results.
The student will demonstrate the ability to summarize data (measurements/observations).
The student will explain scientific concepts and processes through drawing, writing, and/or oral communication.
The student will create and/or interpret graphics (scale drawings, photographs, digital images, field of view, etc.).
The student will use, explain, and/or construct various classification systems.
The student will communicate conclusions derived through a synthesis of ideas.
The student will recognize mathematics as an integral part of the scientific process. (NTB)
The student will explain processes and the function of related structures found in unicellular and multicellular organisms.
The student will analyze the interrelationships and interdependencies among different organisms and explain how these relationships contribute to the stability of the ecosystem.
The student will investigate how natural and man-made changes in environmental conditions will affect individual organisms and the dynamics of populations.
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.
Interpret the findings to draw conclusions and make recommendations to help resolve the issue.

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