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Oil Spill as Teachable Moment!

By Linda C. Joseph - Posted May 1, 2010
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For May 1, 2010: The huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a news maker that can be turned into a quick inquiry lesson for students. Try the lesson below that Cyberbee has used with teachers and students to think about the best way to clean-up an oil spill. Then, visit NOAA's National Ocean Service website page "Inspiring Teachers and Students," which features "information and activities for students and teachers who'd like to learn more about oil spills or hazardous chemical accidents." Elementary students will be amazed by the Making Mousse experiment, while older students will use graphing and observation skills to discover underlying factors that influence oil spills. Use the Gulf Oil Spill as a teachable moment!

Oil Spill!

Develop a method for cleaning up an oil spill using the materials provided.

Student Jobs:
Reporter  What did you find out?
Recorder  How well did it work?
Runner  What materials were used?
Referee  How much time did it take for the plan to work?

Coffee Filters              Cotton
Sand                          Straws
Styrofoam                   Pipettes
String                         Baby Powder
Dish Soap                   Matches
Vegetable Oil

1.      Provide students with a tin pie pan.
2.      Pour water into the pan
3.      Put drops of oil on top of the water
4.      Devise a plan(s) to clean-up an oil spill
5.      Write down your observations for each plan
6.      Keep a record of the time for the plan to work
7.      Write a summary describing the method that worked best

Fly over to CyberBee at for more great websites, lessons, and activities to use with students.

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