Education Resources

Virginia's Oyster Reef Teaching EXperience (VORTEX)

Virginia's Oyster Reef Teaching EXperience or VORTEX was a multi-component training program focusing on the importance of oyster reef communities in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem designed specifically for science educators by the Virginia Insitute of Marine Science. Oyster reef communities are significant biological and ecological features in the tidal portion of Chesapeake Bay. Due to their historical prominence, oyster reef communities are an ideal model to integrate biological issues with water quality (chemistry), physical oceanography, economics, and regional history. The program included a series of Mini-Workshops, Summer Workshops, and curriculum materials including a multimedia CD ROM, instructional publications, and numerous Internet web sites. Developed with scientists from the VIMS Molluscan Ecology Program, all VORTEX components were designed to provide a basic biological and ecological background such that participants can integrate program curriculum materials into hands-on science and math lessons. The education resources developed for the program have been archived and are available below.

Rapa River Watch Activity Booklet for Educators
This booklet provides data-based exercises that integrate biological and environmental data to assess hypothetical estuarine habitats with regard to invasion potential by rapa whelks.

The Shell Detective
The hands-on exercises in this booklet encourage students to quantitatively compare the morphology of rapa whelks with native knobbed and channelled whelks and apply these observations to biological and mathematical concepts.

Predators in Action: Rapa Whelks vs. Hard Clams
This booklet gives information and data-based exercises describing ecological and economic connections between introduced rapa whelk Rapana venosa predators and local hard clams Mercenaria mercenaria in the lower Chesapeake Bay. The information is focused to answer the question: "How many hard clams could a rapa whelk eat in one year?"

Rundown on the Rapa
Explains what rapa whelks are, where they came from, and why they are of concern in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The booklet describes ways to identify rapa whelks in relation to local whelks, compares rapa whelk egg masses with those laid by local whelks, and examines life history traits of the rapa whelk that make it a successful invader.

Rundown on the Rapa Activity Booklet for Educators
This booklet provides hands-on classroom activities that can be used to reinforce concepts discussed in Rundown on the Rapa. All booklet activities are tied to middle and high school national science education standards as well as to specific Virginia Math, Life Science, and Biology SOL. The activities encourage problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Shellfish Stalkers: Threats to an Oyster
Describes some of the sources of mortality for Chesapeake Bay oysters. Common oyster predators, diseases, and habitat requirements are described with specific attention given to Virginia estuaries.

Shellfish Stalkers: Threats to an Oyster Activity Booklet for Educators
This booklet provides hands-on classroom activities that can be used to reinforce concepts presented in Shellfish Stalkers: Threats to an Oyster. The activities encourage problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Oyster Reef Communities in the Chesapeake Bay: A Brief Primer
This 10 page booklet describes oyster and oyster reef communities in the Chesapeake Bay in the context of the historic Chesapeake oyster fishery, the ecological connections between oyster reefs and numerous fish species (striped bass, bluefish and others) as well as blue crabs, and connections to water quality parameters including temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.

Shell Games
Shell Games is a collection of three classroom activities using Chesapeake Bay bivalve shells to illustrate ecological and biological concepts through hands-on-activities. All activities are related to Virginia's Life Science SOL; some relate to the Mathematics SOL as well.