Oysters are truly amazing creatures. One mature oyster can filter up to 60 gallons of water a day and oyster reefs provide vital habitat for hundreds of bay critters.
For the same amount of space, oyster reefs can have 50 times the surface area of a flat bottom. These reefs build up, just like coral reefs, to provide nooks and crannies for worms, snails, sea squirts, sponges, small crabs, fish and even baby oysters to live in.
So the oyster reef ecosystem makes the perfect local subject to teach your students about topics like biodiversity, food webs, adaptations and predator-prey relationships.
A great starting point to study oyster reefs is to use the Amazing Oysters educational activity. In this lesson, your students will construct their very own miniature ecosystem reef.
They will learn about the critters that make the reef their home and why reefs are such a vital habitat. Students will also discover the threats to oyster reefs including disease (MSX and Dermo), pollution and over harvesting (waterman used to call oysters Chesapeake Gold).
To complete this activity you will need the following materials:
- Copies of the reef diagram
- Construction paper
- Pencils or pens
- Crayons, markers or colored pencils
Get started teaching about the Amazing Oyster by downloading a copy of Amazing Oysters (pdf) or for hard copy call (804) 698-4320 or e-mail Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov.
Once you complete this activity with your class let us know how it went or how you would improve the lesson by leaving a comment below.