The Shellfish Project Over the School Year

The way that CSI-Maine fits into the school year strongly influenced by the clam lifecycle. Clams grow over the summer, which means that teachers and students set out their experiments in the spring and collect data in the fall. This is a nice fit to the school year in many ways. It provides an opportunity to get the new school year off to a strong start with a highly engaging outdoor activity and gives teachers and students the winter months to analyze data, prepare presentations to shellfish committees and others, and make plans for the next season’s work. But the seasonality and connection to nature also present challenges. For example, good low tides for getting out and doing the work rarely occur just when you want them to. This article discusses strategies for fitting CSI-Maine into the school year. 

The Big Picture

The core scientific work within CSI-Maine involves setting out plastic pots (we will call each pot an “experimental units” — or “EU”) in the spring (here are the details about how to do this), collecting them in the fall, and finding out what happened inside those EUs over the growing season. The cycle looks like this.

The annual cycle of scientific work in CSI-Maine

The annual cycle of scientific work in CSI-Maine

So, the things that MUST happen each school year — viewed in terms of the school year sequence — are:

  1. Collect the EUs and process the samples in the fall.  October is ideal for this because the clams have pretty much stopped growing by then.
  2. Record the data about clam growth, settlement, and fate. Because we can freeze the samples, this does NOT have to happen right after collection.
  3. Analyze the data, create graphs to explore the results, construct explanations and arguments based on the evidence.
  4. Prepare presentations to communicate the findings from the research.
  5. Present the findings to the adults who need the data.
  6. Working with the town shellfish committee, identify ongoing and new questions to be explored in the coming season. (For example, it might be that a shellfish committee wants data about different sites.)
  7. Design new research that builds on the last year’s findings to answer the new questions.
  8. Set out the new experiments.  Late April and early May are the best times for this since that is when new clams begin to settle and clams begin to grow again.

Resources on This Site

One of the primary purposes of this website is to provide teachers with support for each step in this process.  This is a work in progress … we are adding more information about what to do, how do it, and about our own experiences about what has worked for us and about where we have run into difficulty.  So … do check back, using the ideas on our home page about how to keep up with changes.

Here is a table that might help in finding the posts on this site that relate to each phase of the CSI-Maine work.

Topic List of Posts
Setting out the new experiments

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