Spotlight on

Seeding the Future

Promoting Oyster Restoration Through Schools: Project PORTS
Photo: Lisa Calvo and student helper wait for tide to fall so shell bags containing newly set oysters can be transported to an oyster sanctuary.
Lisa Calvo and student helper wait for tide to fall so shell bags containing newly set oysters can be transported to an oyster sanctuary.

Lisa Calvo is passionate about teaching children to appreciate our marine resources. Through Project PORTS (Promoting Oyster Restoration Through Schools), Calvo, a visiting scientist at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station's Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, is getting school children and teachers alike excited about marine science.

Calvo launched Project PORTS in early 2006 as a community-based restoration and education program focusing on the importance of oyster populations in the Delaware Bay ecosystem. Through teacher workshops, in-school enrichment programs, curriculum materials, and an intensive oyster habitat restoration project, Project PORTS has inspired teachers and students alike to get involved in restoring and maintaining the bay.

"My goals for the program are to restore oyster habitat, increase the awareness and understanding of the oyster as a significant natural resource of the bay, and to promote a basic understanding of important scientific concepts and stewardship values," Calvo said.

Photo:Friends School Mullica Hill 6th graders assist with shell bag deployment at lower Delaware Bay site.
Friends School Mullica Hill 6th graders assist with shell bag deployment at lower Delaware Bay site.

Project PORTS mainly serves elementary and middle school children and educators and offers a wide variety of activities that cross curricula and grade level, providing the possibility for a learning approach wherein the entire school population celebrates and learns about the oyster. Project PORTS enrichment activities provide experiential learning opportunities. The curriculum is most appropriate for grades 3 to 8, but can be extended to higher and lower levels. All activities are designed to promote New Jersey Department of Education's Core Curriculum Content Standards.

In the classroom, Project PORTS uses the oyster as a vehicle to teach basic math and science concepts as well as history and language arts. By incorporating science with locally relevant historical and social perspectives, students are better able to appreciate and understand the complexity of an important local environmental problem--the decline of the eastern oyster.

"The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is one of--if not the most--important species of the Delaware Estuary," Calvo explained. "Dating back thousands of years, the oyster has served as a keystone organism in the estuary, positively influencing water quality and providing food, habitat, and refuge to many organisms. Challenged by disease, habitat deterioration, and historical overfishing, the resource is presently a fraction of what it once was."

Photo:Durand School, Vineland, 5th grader examines microscope slides of oysters.
Durand School, Vineland, 5th grader examines microscope slides of oysters.

Greatly enriching the educational value of Project PORTS classroom lessons is directly involving students in an oyster habitat restoration project. Students participate in the construction of shell bags, which are deployed in the bay to become a settlement surface and home to millions of young oysters. Such efforts lend a sense of ownership to the student's academic studies and cultivate an appreciation of the value and necessity of stewardship. The restoration project in itself is invaluable, as fringe oyster habitat areas of the Delaware Bay Shore will be enhanced for the purpose of conservation.

In 2006-2007, more than 1,500 students from nine schools participated in Project PORTS, and 1,200 shell bags were constructed and deployed in the lower Delaware Bay. More than 2 million oyster larvae settled on the shell. In late August 2007, a team of nearly 50 volunteers assisted in transplanting the seed oysters to a conservation area located in the upper bay where they will help maintain a healthy bay. As a follow-up, students participated in the scientific assessment of the oysters. In 2008, Project PORTS continued to offer enrichment programming in Delaware Bayshore schools and expanded upon previous oyster habitat enhancement efforts. Ten schools participated and student volunteers constructed 2,000 shell bags. Calvo hopes to expand this project each year by teaching more communities about New Jersey's remarkable marine resources.

For information on supporting this program, please contact the Development Office.

Project Sponsors


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences