Ocean Conservation

This workshop explores how human activities threaten the health of our oceans with a focus on ocean acidification and oil pollution.

These topics are demonstrated through two hands-on activities using household materials. 

This virtual outreach activity is split into a pre-activity document - i.e., workshop overview and list of materials with preparation instructions for both the volunteer and educator, a post-activity document - i.e., extra information and resources for the educator after the activity, and a PowerPoint presentation with presenter notes to help lead the workshop virtually. Also included is a Resources document with background information for the workshop. 

What You Need

Activity 1: Ocean Acidification Demo*

  • Clear glass of water (1/4 cup)
  • Baking Soda (1 tbsp)
  • Phenolphthalein Indicator (10-20 drops)
  • Alka Seltzer Tablet (or a straw)
  • 2 pH strips (optional) 

*Please note that only the volunteer will need these materials, not the youth. 

Activity 2: Testing pH of Sediment**

  • 2 bowls or dishes
  • Sediment: sand, soil, dirt (1/4 cup)
  • Vinegar (1 tbsp.) or lemon juice as an alternative
  • Baking soda (1 tbsp.)
  • Water (2-3 tbsp.)

**Please note that volunteers may need double the materials for this activity.

Activity 3: Environmental Crisis

  • Plastic container (medium-sized)
  • Cooking oil (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Scissors
  • Cleaning materials: straws, paper towel, cotton balls (1-2 of each item)
  • Cocoa powder or oil colouring (optional)

PowerPoint:

Pre-Activity Document:

 

Safety Notes

Ensure you are familiar with Let's Talk Science's precautions with respect to safe delivery of virtual outreach to youth. These precautions can be found in the manual for this activity. 

What To Do

Activity 1: Ocean Acidification Demo

  1. Take your cup of water and a small amount of baking soda and phenolphthalein indicator (Add about half a teaspoon of baking soda and enough phenolphthalein to turn the solution light pink).
  2. Take your straw and blow in the cup for 30-60 seconds. ALTERNATIVE: If you don't feel comfortable blowing into the cup, add an Alka Seltzer tablet into the solution. Test out the pH using a pH strip.

Activity 2: Testing pH of Sediment

The volunteer should try to have two different sediment samples. One that is basic and one that is acidic. 

  1. Place two tablespoons of your sand or soil in dish 1, and two tablespoons of your sand or soil in dish 2. 
  2. Add a tablespoon or less of vinegar to dish 1. Conclude if it bubbles or fizzes.
  3. If bubbles are not formed, add some water to dish 2 to create mud. 
  4. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to dish 2. Conclude if it bubbles or fizzes.

Activity 3: Environmental Crisis

  1. Fill up plastic tub/tupperware with water.
  2. Optional: mix oil with oil colouring or cocoa to make oil more visible. 
  3. Pour oil into the water.
  4. Try to remove the oil using a spoon, paper towel, cotton balls, etc.

Discovery

What's Happening?

Activity 1: Ocean Acidification

What is pH? pH lets us know about the acidity/basicity of solutions. The pH scale runs between 1-14 and tells us whether a substance is acidic (0-6), neutral (7), or basic (8-14). 

Why do we use the phenolphthalein indicator? The indicator will show if a solution has a basic pH (between 8-14) by turning magenta in colour. At any pH outside this range, the solution will remain clear. 

When we added the baking soda to the water, it gave us a basic solution with a pH > 8. What happened when we blew into the solution/added Alka Seltzer? The solution turned from pink to clean, meaning that it went from a basic pH to an acidic pH. 

Why did this happen? The carbon dioxide we exhaled reacted with the basic solution to produce an acidic reaction. The carbon dioxide in the water will breakdown to form bicarbonate and hydrogen ions. These hydrogen ions increase the acidity of the water. This can be harmful in our oceans. As the amount of carbon dioxide increases in our atmosphere, the pH of the ocean may rise as carbon dioxide will dissolve from the atmosphere into the ocean. 

Activity 2: Testing pH of Sediment

What substance did your sediment bubble or fizz with?

  • If your soil fizzed when mixed with vinegar, then you have alkaline/basic soil. 
  • If your soil fizzed when mixed with baking soda, then you have acidic soil.
  • If you couldn’t see any reaction then your soil is neutral. 

Basic soil or sand could contain calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate makes up the shells of many marine animals. Marine animals may be exposed to increased acidity from increases in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere or acid rain, causing their shelves to dissolve. In this reaction, calcium carbonate (basic) reacts with the vinegar (acidic) to form a neutralization reaction. This reaction causes the release of Carbon dioxide, which results in bubbling. The resulting compound, calcium acetate, is soluble in water, which is what causes the shells of marine animals to crumble away. 

Soil that reacted with baking soda is acidic. Acidic soil can prevent plants from uptaking proper nutrients. Hydrogen ions bind the nutrients and carry them deeper into the soil. This can increase the solubility of toxic metals. Less plants lead to more runoff of toxins into water. 

Activity 3: Environmental Crisis

What are some ways that we came up with to contain the oil spill? In real oil spills, the oil is contained by booms that encircle the spill. This keeps the oil from spreading while it is cleaned up. Workers use a combination of materials to clean oil spills. Absorbents are used to help soak up the oil (like cotton balls). Vacuums are used to skim oil off of the surface and get into cracks. There are other methods like dispersants or burning the oil which can be done, but these may also harm the environment. 

What's Happening?

Activity 1: Ocean Acidification

What is pH? pH lets us know about the acidity/basicity of solutions. The pH scale runs between 1-14 and tells us whether a substance is acidic (0-6), neutral (7), or basic (8-14). 

Why do we use the phenolphthalein indicator? The indicator will show if a solution has a basic pH (between 8-14) by turning magenta in colour. At any pH outside this range, the solution will remain clear. 

When we added the baking soda to the water, it gave us a basic solution with a pH > 8. What happened when we blew into the solution/added Alka Seltzer? The solution turned from pink to clean, meaning that it went from a basic pH to an acidic pH. 

Why did this happen? The carbon dioxide we exhaled reacted with the basic solution to produce an acidic reaction. The carbon dioxide in the water will breakdown to form bicarbonate and hydrogen ions. These hydrogen ions increase the acidity of the water. This can be harmful in our oceans. As the amount of carbon dioxide increases in our atmosphere, the pH of the ocean may rise as carbon dioxide will dissolve from the atmosphere into the ocean. 

Activity 2: Testing pH of Sediment

What substance did your sediment bubble or fizz with?

  • If your soil fizzed when mixed with vinegar, then you have alkaline/basic soil. 
  • If your soil fizzed when mixed with baking soda, then you have acidic soil.
  • If you couldn’t see any reaction then your soil is neutral. 

Basic soil or sand could contain calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate makes up the shells of many marine animals. Marine animals may be exposed to increased acidity from increases in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere or acid rain, causing their shelves to dissolve. In this reaction, calcium carbonate (basic) reacts with the vinegar (acidic) to form a neutralization reaction. This reaction causes the release of Carbon dioxide, which results in bubbling. The resulting compound, calcium acetate, is soluble in water, which is what causes the shells of marine animals to crumble away. 

Soil that reacted with baking soda is acidic. Acidic soil can prevent plants from uptaking proper nutrients. Hydrogen ions bind the nutrients and carry them deeper into the soil. This can increase the solubility of toxic metals. Less plants lead to more runoff of toxins into water. 

Activity 3: Environmental Crisis

What are some ways that we came up with to contain the oil spill? In real oil spills, the oil is contained by booms that encircle the spill. This keeps the oil from spreading while it is cleaned up. Workers use a combination of materials to clean oil spills. Absorbents are used to help soak up the oil (like cotton balls). Vacuums are used to skim oil off of the surface and get into cracks. There are other methods like dispersants or burning the oil which can be done, but these may also harm the environment. 

Investigate Further

If you enjoyed these activities then you might be interested in a career as a: 

Marine Scientist: Marine scientists can study various aspects of ocean environments. 

Environmental Technician: An environmental technician may work in the field, collecting data on environmental conditions to help with managing the environment. 

Environmental Engineer: Environmental engineers may design or create solutions for handling aspects of the environment. 

Hydrologist: A hydrologist studies water.
 

Investigate Further

If you enjoyed these activities then you might be interested in a career as a: 

Marine Scientist: Marine scientists can study various aspects of ocean environments. 

Environmental Technician: An environmental technician may work in the field, collecting data on environmental conditions to help with managing the environment. 

Environmental Engineer: Environmental engineers may design or create solutions for handling aspects of the environment. 

Hydrologist: A hydrologist studies water.
 

Resources

PowerPoint:

Pre-Activity Document:

Post-Activity Document:

Resources:

Check out additional resources (articles, career profiles and more) on these topics from Let’s Talk Science: