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Oil Spill

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Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
Main Image
Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
Activity Language
Grade
Time Needed for Activity

Students learn about animals in water, human impacts, and are given materials to attempt to clean up a cooking oil spill.

What You Need

Materials if dropping off at a school:

  • Tablecloths (you will need 3)
  • PowerPoint photos of duck with oil and being cleaned.
  • 2 aluminum pie plates per student (one for the oil spill and one to put the oil in as they do the clean up of their spill)
  • Cotton balls (~3 per student)
  • Dish detergent (a couple of drops per student)
  • Paper towels or napkins (1 per student)
  • Sponge pieces (1 or 2 per student, roughly 1 inch square pieces)
  • String (one 8 inch piece per student)
  • Wooden stir stick (1 per student)
  • 1 bottle of vegetable oil (to make the spill in each pie plate)
  • 2 feathers per student

Materials if NOT dropping off at a school:

  • PowerPoint photos of duck with oil and being cleaned.
  • 2 small bowls (one for the oil spill and one to put the oil in as they do the clean up of their spill)
  • Cotton balls (3 per student)
  • Dish detergent (a couple of drops)
  • Coffee filter or any other absorbant materials (even paper, tissue paper, make up remover pad)
  • Sponge pieces (1 or 2 roughly 1 inch square pieces)
  • String (one 8 inch piece per student)
  • Wooden stir stick (1 per student)
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 feathers (optional)

PowerPoint with photos:

Guide:

Safety Notes

As a Let’s Talk Science volunteer, safety must be foremost in our minds during all activities. As STEM role models, volunteers must always also model safe science practices.

Always keep in mind the following precautions: 

  • Emphasize and demonstrate appropriate safety procedures throughout the presentation.
  • Be professional but have fun.
  • Keep workspaces clean to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Allergens should have been checked before reserving the kit (e.g. allergies to latex).

What To Do

During the introduction, ask the educator to fill the student's pie plates.

  • Pie plate 1: 1/2 filled with water
  • Pie plate 2: Add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil.

Have the educator place tablecloths on the desk of students and then distribute 2 feathers and the pie plates to each student/pair.

Give the students a few minutes to test out how the feather is in oil versus how the feather is in water. Once they have tested this out, show them the photo of the duck covered in oil. 

Next we will get the students to clean up the oil spill. Ask the educator to distribute the materials. Get the students to start cleaning up the spill and give them a couple of minutes to try the best method.

After a few minutes, get the educator to add some dish soap to the pie plate and give the students a couple of minutes to attempt to clean the spill. After a few minutes, show the students the slide of the duck being cleaned. 

Discovery

Investigate Further

If students are curious about oil spills that happen in the real world, you can discuss some methods of cleaning up these spills.

  • Skimmers
  • Collection Booms
  • Burning oil 

Investigate Further

If students are curious about oil spills that happen in the real world, you can discuss some methods of cleaning up these spills.

  • Skimmers
  • Collection Booms
  • Burning oil 

Resources