check out the latest


National Science Foundation Funds BOP Schools Program!

By admin
October 28, 2014

We are pleased to announce the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) model of environmental restoration education in New York City public schools has been awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for implementation and evaluation of the model in NYC middle schools to commence October 1, 2014. The project, entitled “Curriculum and Community Enterprise for New York Harbor Restoration in New York City Public Schools,” will be led by Pace University’s School of Education and implemented by a consortium of partners including New York Harbor Foundation, New York City Department of Education, Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, New York Academy of Sciences, University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, Good Shepherd Services, New York Aquarium, The River Project, SmartStart ECS, and others. Building on the partners collective expertise in marine science education and restoration ecology, the grant will significantly expand the Billion Oyster Project’s existing middle school program by creating an accredited math and science teacher training program at Pace University, an interdisciplinary Harbor Literacy and marine STEM-C curriculum for NYC schools, a wrap-around model of afterschool STEM mentoring through the New York Academy of Sciences, museum and aquarium based programming, and a state of the art digital platform to support field science teaching and learning.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.04.52 PM

This award is a critical investment in the tools and processes needed for urban public schools to meaningfully connect curriculum and student learning experiences to the study of their local environment, the practice of restoration ecology, and the principles of scientific inquiry and stewardship. The project will provide teachers and afterschool educators equipment and resources to conduct oyster restoration research and environmental monitoring projects on and around the New York Harbor-Estuary. It will provide BOP focused classroom activities and curricula for teaching grades 6-8 math and science, as well as an interdisciplinary “Harbor Literacy” guide to enable grade level team teaching, out-of-school-time (OST) activities and wraparound programming.

This award advances the Billion Oyster Project’s vision for authentic environmental science, stewardship, and restoration of New York Harbor in New York City public schools by:

  • Leveraging a unique partnership of secondary school educators, university scientists, education researchers, and industry experts to assist in development of middle school classroom curricula and standardized protocols for field research by and for middle school students
  • Creating an accredited teacher training and curriculum development program in environmental science at Pace University’s School of Education and Seidenberg School of Computer Science. As the largest research grant in the history of Pace University, the project will enable advanced educational research on innovative methods of teaching STEM-C in urban public schools.
  • Building on the New York Academy of Sciences’ Afterschool STEM Mentoring program to create a wrap-around model of BOP focused hands-on afterschool curriculum and connect classroom teachers with their OST counterparts
  • Leveraging the world-class expertise of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science in science communication, environmental monitoring, oyster restoration, and estuarine studies.  The project will create a comprehensive, student-centered digital platform for BOP teaching and learning which will support a toolkit for field based environmental research, Harbor Literacy studies, and a network for teachers and OST educators to share, critique and refine curriculum.
  • Bringing together local environmental education providers, waterfront parks and property owners, museums and aquariums to create destination sites and exhibits in all five boroughs that feature oyster restoration, Harbor ecology, and hands-on learning opportunities for students.

This award will make the Billion Oyster Project accessible to 40 to 60 additional schools, 80 to 120 additional teachers, and at least 8,640 additional students over the coming three years. The project will create five distinct resource pillars that when combined in practice will foster direct collaboration between teachers and STEM-C professionals, innovative methods for teaching STEM-C in schools, complementary afterschool curriculum, and aquarium based programing. The model is fully scalable, transferable, and adaptable to other school districts across the country and the world. Leveraging the evaluative research and open-source technology platform generated by the three-year project, we offer these resources to all public schools in New York City over the coming decade and hope eventually to expand to other geographies, school systems, and environmental restoration projects around the world.

The current program exclusively engages public schools in neighborhoods with persistent poverty and low socio-economic indicators. The BOP model of combined curriculum and community enterprise demonstrates that by engaging disadvantaged students in comprehensive placed-based learning and authentic restoration research projects, schools can make substantial progress in overcoming systematic inequities and equalizing educational outcomes for student groups currently under-represented in the STEM professions.

1 Pillars


The Billion Oyster Project (BOP) is a long-term initiative to restore one billion live oysters to the New York Harbor over a 20 year period, and in the process, educate thousands of young people in New York City about the ecology and economy of their local marine environment. This project is driven by public and private partnerships that engage public school students, restaurants and the general public throughout all aspects of its implementation. BOP is both a green jobs training program for NYC youth and a habitat-restoration project with benefits for the entire region.  Since its inception in 2009, the project has spawned, reared or planted more than 11 million oysters in NYC waters, helped restore 1.25 acres of shoreline and submerged bottom, and in so doing involved more than 4,600 NYC public school students in the hands-on science and technology of restoration.

The NSF-funded Billion Oyster Project Curriculum and Community Enterprise (BOPCCE) is a 3-year, 5 million dollar project to engage New York City teachers and students in restoring New York Harbor. The premise of BOP CCE is that secondary school students can and should play a direct, authentic role in restoring their local environment, and that the practice of teaching and learning is enhanced – school becomes less isolating and abstract, more meaningful and motivating – as the work and study of keystone species and habit restoration is integrated into curricula and school-based activities. This vision is particularly relevant for high density urban school districts where the student population is largely confined to the traditional classroom, learning takes place in fragmented 45-minute blocks, the surrounding natural environment is severely degraded and there exist both social and physical barriers to accessing non-human ecologies. By enabling urban students materially, logistically, and intellectually to participate in restoration and environmental monitoring projects during their regular school day and linking those experiences to a broader curricular focus on place, stewardship, and inquiry, schools fundamentally improve the quality of the education they offer to their students. These improvements will, we strongly believe, translate to demonstrable improvements in long-term academic outcomes.

The Billion Oyster Project (BOP) model of curriculum and community enterprise has been developed and piloted at Harbor School over the past ten years and successfully exported to more than 15 NYC DoE middle schools and six environmental education service providers over the past two years. The current BOP middle school curriculum is a compilation of dozens of lesson plans, afterschool activities, technical procedures and a 110-page manual that have been developed and tailored by Harbor School faculty, Harbor Foundation staff, and our partners collaboratively over the past ten years.

Since its inception in 2003, Harbor School has implemented effective systems for field-based teaching, learning, and student-led research. The foundation for this approach is the “Introduction to New York Harbor” field course, a yearlong science and social studies credit-bearing course taken by all Harbor School ninth graders. The course includes 18 unique destination sites and organizations, each of which hosts or helps facilitate a full day of inquiry based science curriculum for each of the five sections of ninth grade. The unique lesson plans, field resources, and laboratory procedures of this course have been developed in partnership with educational organizations, host sites, and government agencies, almost all of which continue to serve today as partners or advisors with a direct role in BOP for middle schools.

In addition since 2010, Harbor School has operated six Career and Technical Education (CTE) certificated programs of study. These include: Aquaculture, Marine Biology Research, Ocean Engineering, Marine Systems Technology, Vessel Operations, and Professional Diving. Each of the six programs has a customized three-year curriculum developed using industry standards and direct input from Harbor School’s more than 75 Professional Advisory Committee members. Much of the six CTE programs take place in laboratory or field settings. The unifying practical focus for all six CTE programs is environmental restoration. Each program contributes unique facilities and efforts to the project of restoring oysters as well as other keystone species and habit to New York Harbor.

Since 2013 Harbor School and Harbor School Foundation have partnered with Verizon Wireless and several private sector marine technology firms to develop a $250,000 dollar state-of-the-art underwater research platform for monitoring oyster and estuary restoration, providing real-time data and video feeds over the internet.  The digital tools and underwater instrumentation resulting from this partnership will play a central role in implementing and expanding BOP, substantively engaging public school students through the BOP curriculum.

The BOPCCE also leverages 10 years of research-based education at Lamont-Doherty’s Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP).  The SSFRP engages students and science teachers from predominantly poor and working class NYC public schools in environmental and ecological research.  Its projects are sited in New York City wetlands, Columbia University’s laboratories, and in New York Harbor.  Success of its graduates has demonstrated that authentic environmental research and restoration curriculum can significantly narrow the educational achievement gap and broaden access to careers in science and engineering for under-represented populations.



Project Leadership Team:

Lauren Birney (Principal Investigator), Pace University School of Education
Jonathan Hill (Co-Principal Investigator), Pace University, Seidenberg Center of Computer Science

Robert Newton (Co-Principal Investigator), Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Denise McNamara (Co-Principal Investigator), NYC Department of Education
Meghan Groome (Co-Principal Investigator), New York Academy of Sciences

Samuel Janis (Project Manager), New York Harbor Foundation



For more information:

Award abstract:

Billion Oyster Project:

Pace University STEM Center Collaboratory:

New York Harbor School:

NYAS Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program:

Lamont Doherty’s Secondary School Field Research Program:

University of Maryland:,