Active investigation of students engaging in problem solving in natural settings has consistently been shown to greatly benefit their learning process. They gain skills and knowledge, while increasing their interest, aspirations, and motivation to learn more. But how can we provide these rich opportunities in densely populated urban areas where resources and access to natural environments are limited? The Curriculum + Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) project has developed and begun testing an educational model of curriculum and community enterprise to address that issue within the nation’s largest urban school system. Middle school students study the New York Harbor estuary and the extensive watershed that empties into it, while conducting field research in support of restoring native oyster habitats. This project builds on the existing Billion Oyster Project, and is being implemented across different settings by a broad partnership of institutions and community stakeholders, including Pace University, the New York City Department of Education, the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Academy of Sciences, the New York Harbor Foundation, the New York Aquarium, the River Project, the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, and Good Shepherd Services.