By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s not every school project that gets dropped overboard.

The ride was a little rough Wednesday off Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore, but the cargo — 140 reef balls made by Maryland and Virginia school kids — was built to last.

“First we had to put the mold together and then we had to make the concrete and put it into the mold,” said Carroll County student Stella Schoberg.

“They thought it was awesome,” says Bethany Baer, a teacher. “Best day ever because they were outside doing something cool they knew would help the Chesapeake Bay.”

The balls are being used to expand a man-made oyster reef. A hard, three-dimensional structure is needed, because oysters need to be above the bay’s muddy bottom.

“And that’s important for the health of the oyster, they stay away from the sediment, they have access to clean water with plenty of food, with algae in it,” says David Sikorski, of the Coastal Construction Association.

Tiny baby oysters prefer to attach to other oyster shells, but a new reef has no shells, so the ball were placed in tanks of water and young oysters were introduced and attached to the concrete. Up to 2,000 per ball.

“It’s a living reef, because we’re actually deploying it with life, with oysters on it,” says Sikorski.

And where there are oyster reefs, other life takes hold.

“Because if we don’t have any more oysters, we can’t eat oysters,” Stella says. “Also they filter the water in the Chesapeake Bay.”

Up to 50 gallons per day, per oyster, in fact.

The additional reef balls now make the living reef off Tilghman Island one of the largest in that part of the bay.

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