CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Through a partnership with local aquatic science teachers, the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is connecting school children with our local environment, specifically with oyster reefs found in area waters. Dr. Jennifer Pollack, Assistant Professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Gail Sutton, Assistant Director at the HRI, created the program, called Oysters in the Classroom.
The program provides live oysters harvested off of a local man-made reef to classrooms. These oysters are cared for by the students as a unique class pet, and they feed the oysters thick mixtures of phytoplankton, watching as the filter feeders slowly clear the water in their aquariums. They also learn basic science with the aid of the oysters.
“Each class is provided with the materials: aquaria, salt water mix, water quality test kits, oyster larvae and phytoplankton to grow, observe, and perform experiments on oysters in their classrooms,” said Sutton. “Students then observe the development and growth of oysters from larvae to adults, measure water quality, and design and perform numerous experiments.”
Oysters in the Classroom reaches out to local students each spring. This year, the program visited the Fulton Learning Center and worked with fifth graders there. The students monitored and cared for the oysters during their science lab. At the end of the school year, the oysters are placed back into their originating reef.
Oysters in the Classroom is associated with the “Sink your Shucks” Oyster Recycling Program founded in 2009 by HRI.
“Oysters in the Classroom generates meaningful education experiences for students and create stronger connections to their local environment,” said Sutton. “The activities and materials assist teachers in better utilizing the local environment as a teaching and learning tool.”
This program is funded through a grant provided by the Texas General Land Office’s Coastal Management Program.