Oysters on the Move: Calculating Swimming Speed



Oysters are microscopic, free-swimming organisms during the first few weeks of life. Research is underway to determine how environmental factors, like water temperature and salinity level, affect the oyster's ability to change location in the water column during this critical stage of life. Students will determine the swimming speed and the effect, if any, of various environmental factors. [Lesson time: 90 minutes]


1. Make quantitative observations of larval behavior using metric units (mm, cm).
2. Calculate "swimming speed" of oyster larvae using the formula for velocity [V = d/t].
3. Identify patterns in data and the influence of variables.

Lesson Materials

Student Lab Handout: "Oysters on the Move... Calculating Swimming Speed"
Teacher Notes for swimming speed
Computer with Windows Media Player (or similar) software.

Video Clips of oyster larvae in motion:
Video Clip C
Video Clip D
Video Clip E
Video Clip F
Video Clip G
Video Clip H

"Transparency Ruler"
Wet-Erase marker
Masking tape
Stop watch


  1. Prepare "transparency rulers" before class, and make sure all computers are able to access the video clips.
  2. Assemble students into pairs and distribute a copy of the lab handout, "Oysters on the Move... Calculating Swimming Speed," to each student.
  3. Assign each pair of students one Video Clip FILE (from "FILE C" through "FILE H.")
  4. Students will follow the procedure on the lab handout.
  5. The objective is to calculate the swimming speed of an oyster larva by measuring the distance it moves in a certain amount of time.
  6. Students complete a total of six trials and may run the clip as many times as necessary.
  7. See "Teacher Notes" (download from Lesson Materials) for details about the procedure.


STUDENT HANDOUTS: The student handouts (available in the Lesson Materials section) are the property of Ben Schulman but may be modified or adapted as necessary for classroom use by the instructor.

VIDEO DATA CLIPS: The Oyster Larvae Video Clips are the exclusive property of The University of Maryland and Horn Point Laboratory and may only be used in the manner outlined in this educational lesson plan. Video clips may NOT be copied, transferred, nor used in any other manner without written permission from The University of Maryland and Horn Point Laboratory.

Maryland State Standards

The student will identify meaningful, answerable scientific questions.
The student will pose meaningful, answerable scientific questions. (NTB)
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 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 recognize mathematics as an integral part of the scientific process. (NTB)

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