A field trip to the oyster barge

Published on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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On April 22, fifth grade students from Blaine Elementary School headed out for a trip on the Plover to visit the Drayton Harbor Community Shellfish Farm (DHCSF) to learn firsthand about how oysters are grown and what impacts changes in the environment can have on the mollusks.

The field trip is part of the Garden of the Salish Sea curriculum, an environmental science program that uses shellfish such as the oysters grown in Drayton Harbor as a vehicle to teach pollution prevention.

The curriculum, which is part of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, is hands-on and uses videos, demonstrations and the field trip to help students gain an understanding of the many processes that play a part in marine life. Students learn about the watershed, the lifecycle of the oyster and its biology. 

The students have been working on the curriculum for two weeks.“I thought it was cool how they filter the water,” said Brinn Dick, a fifth grader at Blaine elementary. “It’s really, really cool.”

For some students the experiments have hit home. “We’re really learning how changes in the water can affect the animals, and get us sick as well,” said Milanna Fredericks, another Blaine student. “We put strips of paper in different liquids like vinegar and lemon juice to find out how acidic or basic they are. It was cool.”

Fredericks said they were then showed the effects of those same liquids on oyster shells, and the effect the acid had on those oysters. 

On the barge, DHCSF owner Steve Seymour explained how the oysters are grown, and then awed the kids with what he hopes will turn out to be the largest oyster on record. “This is Hank,” he said. “He’s 15 inches long, and, as far as we know, the biggest oyster around. We’ve called the Guinness Book of World Records and have an application in to verify it.” 

Seymour said he thinks Hank is one of the oysters he planted when he first started the farm in 1980.