Oh Shuck!: Lesson Plan

Determine the value of oysters as a marine resource and food source, and learn how researchers are studying Vibrio (a type of bacteria found in some raw oysters) to help determine if there are certain times of year that are safer to harvest and eat the oysters found in coastal North Carolina.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.E.1.2 — Summarize evidence that Earth’s oceans are a reservoir of nutrients, minerals, dissolved gases and life forms: 
    • Estuaries 
    • Marine ecosystems 
    • Upwelling 
    • Behavior of gases in the marine environment 
    • Value and sustainability of marine resources 
    • Deep ocean technology and understandings gained

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

  • Students will identify oysters as an important marine resource.
  • Students will explain why bacteria can contaminate oysters. 
  • Students will describe how scientists are developing biotechnology to help identify oysters that are safe to eat.

Essential Questions

  1. Why are oysters an important North Carolina marine resource? 
  2. How does water quality and salinity affect oysters? 
  3. How can a technology solution help identify bacteria in oysters, and reduce the risk of eating contaminated oysters?

Essential Vocabulary

  • DNA sequencing
  • Environment
  • Filter-feeder
  • Oyster
  • Pollution
  • Resource
  • Salinity
  • Vibrio


Ask students about how they or their families choose which food to buy for family meals. Encourage students to discuss the properties of the foods their families eat, such as good taste, nutritional value, and variety. Then point out how people often do not think about food safety first. Spoiled foods are filled with bacteria, and can make people sick when they are eaten. Discuss how markets and restaurants generally store food safely so that the food is safe to eat.


Students will research and report on the importance of oysters and other seafood in North Carolina. Useful research sources include the North Carolina Oyster Festival, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, and the North Carolina Fisheries Association. Have students share the information they learn with one another in oral reports.


Students will work independently to gather information about oysters as an important marine resource, and information about food safety. Students should take notes to document their research, citing the website at which they obtained the information.



Students will view the NC Science NOW video Oh Shuck! After viewing the videos, students should answer the following questions. They can then discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.

  1. What do oysters eat?
  2. Why are oysters an important marine resource in North Carolina?
  3. Diagram the body parts of an oyster.
  4. How long does it take an oyster to filter a gallon of water? 
  5. How do oysters get the particles from the water into their stomachs? 
  6. What distinguishes Vibrio vulnificus from other forms of Vibrio?


Students will collaborate to write and stage short skits about oysters and oyster safety. Divide the class into small groups, and invite each group to write and act out a skit. Assign the following topics to the small groups, or have the class suggest topics of their own. 

  • The life cycle of an oyster 
  • The importance of oysters and other seafood to North Carolina 
  • How oysters can be contaminated with bacteria 
  • The danger of eating contaminated oysters 
  • How scientists are working to identify contaminated oysters 

Encourage students to research their skit topics, and then to prepare a script. Provide students a chance to practice and rehearse their skits, and then present them to the class.

Evaluation Rubric