Oil Spill Cleanup

Oil Spill Cleanup

60 Minutes | 4th – 8th Grades

oilspillThe Oil Spill activity is a simulation similar to the “Who Polluted the Charles” demo in which small groups of students get an opportunity to examine the effects of an oil spill in a water body. In a simulated “ocean” (a pan of water), students will drop a small amount of motor oil into the water and see the effects and interaction. In an introduction to the workshop, students discuss sources of pollution and oil contamination in water bodies – from point sources (tanker spills) and non-point sources (vehicle run-off). A brief discussion on preventing and cleaning up oil contamination will lead into the activity, in which the students will use a variety of materials to see what method works best for recovering the most oil from the water. The effects of dispersants are addressed in the form of soap droplets added to the water in the second phase of the activity, allowing students to examine the effects of such chemical dispersant that are commonly used in oil spill recoveries. Note: This activity is usually paired with the Who Polluted/Water Filters activities.

Lesson Plan:
Lesson Plan – Oil Spill Cleanup

Oil Spill Teacher Fact Sheet
Oil Spill Activity Checklist
Oil Spill Activity Handout

Who Polluted the Charles + Water Filters + Oil Spill Prezi


  • 6.MS-ETS2-2(MA). Given a design task, select appropriate materials based on specific properties needed in the construction of a solution
  • 7.MS-LS2-4. Analyze data to provide evidence that disruptions (natural or human-made) to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.
  • 7.MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for protecting an ecosystem. Discuss benefits and limitations of each design.

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