Mussels in the Classroom

Students learn about the importance of mussels to an ecosystem, their life cycle and their current status in the environment.

A first in the nation!

Introduced in fall 2017, our Mussels in the Classroom (MIC) program is open to grades K-12 in Greater Cincinnati, Columbus and Lexington. This is the first classroom-based mussel education program in the U.S. (maybe the world!). It originated because of the increasing interest and work repopulating rivers with native freshwater mussels. As agencies partnered with ORF in repatriating activities, there was interest in leveraging ORF’s education program expertise to involve students in a mussel education program.

Mussels in the Classroom strengthens real-world connections to science curricula and helps students better understand the complexity of aquatic environments. It’s also an important step in educating people about these overlooked species: People often know that fish species inhabit our rivers and streams, but they aren’t as aware of freshwater mussels’ presence.

Russell the Mussel Book

All participating students grades 4 – 6 will receive a free Russel the Mussel Book!

The MIC program kicks off with an in-classroom visit (learn about virtual options below) from an ORF educator, who brings freshwater mussels, shells and other items to deliver a 45-minute to 1-hour hands-on learning experience. Students learn about the importance of mussels to an ecosystem, their life cycle and their current status in the environment. The educator leaves behind an aquarium and the necessary equipment for students and teachers to care for and monitor mussels for two weeks.

We provide the teachers specific guidelines and protocols for the health and well-being of the mussels, as well as optional activities and lesson plans. Teachers and students may also create their own activities, which fosters creativity and scientific exploration.

While not a requirement, preferential consideration will be given to schools that have multiple classes participating in the program during the two-week period that the mussels are in the school.

All equipment (aquaria, filters, etc.), lesson plans, mussels, and supplies will be provided. Duration is two weeks. Availability is Sept. 1 through Dec. 15 and Jan. 15 through June 1. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Fees: Only $100 for the entire two-week program!

Virtual options available!

This option was designed for schools that aren’t allowing visitors, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
On an agreed-upon date and time, an ORF educator will arrive at your school and set up the freshwater mussel tank (10-gal) and mussels in your classroom. This can be scheduled outside of school hours, or during a time when students are not in the classroom. Teachers are provided with mussel care instructions, powdered algae, and optional educational materials and activities.
For the virtual presentation, teachers will receive a recorded version of the presentation that can be shown at any time and rewatched for different classes. Teachers also have the option to schedule a virtual Q&A session with an ORF educator.
After two weeks, an ORF educator will return to pick up the freshwater mussel tank. Pickup is scheduled at the teacher’s convenience, either outside of school hours or at a time when students are not in the classroom.


Let’s talk and find out how we can help you! Please contact us or call 513-460-3365.

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Support the Ohio River Foundation

We know how important water is to you. Reducing pollution, restoring habitat, educating and training the next generation of environmental stewards, and ensuring clean water for you and millions of fellow citizens, all keeps us working on your behalf.

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