Week Sixty-Five: Oil Spill Pollution Science

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November 20, 2017 by WittyLibrarian

PollutionScienceProgram Title: Oil Spill Pollution Science

Target Age Range: Grades 4-6

Program Length: 90 minutes

Brief Description: Learn what happens about oil spills and methods for cleaning it up.

Dawn Dish Soap
Joy Dish Soap (or alternate brand of dish soap)
Toothbrushes (one for each child); alternately, Q-tips could be used.
Optional: Sponges, paper towels, Q-tips (if toothbrushes are used) as alternate tools to scrub oil off of feathers)
Vegetable Oil
Feathers soaked in oil, at least one per child, but ideally 4 per child.
Containers to hold water
Rubber duck
Various items to clean up oil from water (suggestions: peices of sponge, cotton balls, spoons)
Optional: Blue food coloring, to color all the water used.
Observation Sheets


Program Outline:

1. Introduction. What is pollution? Theworldcounts.com’s article What is Pollution for Kids is a good source for information.

2. Play a guessing game to determine how long debris takes to deteriorate in water, based off the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s How Long Until It’s Gone? infograph.

3. Have a discussion regarding water pollution. Eyeopening.info’s An Ocean of Garbage – “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” infograph is a good source of information and facts to use as a starting place for the discussion.

4. Alum/Dirty Water Demonstration, with an explanation of the public water filtration process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s article on Community Water Treatment is a good source of information on the process.

5. Rubber duckie and oil demonstration

6. Feather clean up experiment.

7. Oil Spill Cleanup experiment


AlumAlum/Dirty Water Demonstration
While explaining how water filtration systems work, we set up a demonstration jar. We mixed dirt and water together, and then poured in Alum. We let it sit out on display during the course of the program, for kids to look at and see the progress throughout the program.


Rubber duckie and oil demonstration
We demonstrated how a bird could be covered with oil by using a rubber duck as an example.RubberDuckieCleanup

Feather Clean Up
FeatherCleanUpChildren sat a tables, and shared jars filled with water, dawn dish soap and water, vinegar, and water and Joy dish soap. They were each given 4 oil-soaked feathers, a toothbrush, and shared a supply of sponges, cotton balls, and paper towels. They were also given an observation sheet to record their findings. Each child attempted to clean their feathers with the various cleaners and tools on hand, and observe which method worked best. We based this experiment off of several examples: Populationeducation.org’s Like Oil and Water Student Activity, Education.com’s Activity: How Do Oil Spills Harm Wildlife?Kitchenpantryscientist.com’s Oil Spill Experiment, and Learning-center.homesciencetools.com’s Oil Spills: Effect on Wildlife and Clean Up.

Oil Spill Clean Up
Children worked in groups to clean up oil spilled in water. Each group was given a contained filled with a shallow amount of water (dyed blue), and then the librarians poured a little oil into each container of water. Kids then used straws to blow across the water, and observed how the oil moved. Once the oil had spread throughout the container of water, kids attempted to clean the oil from water using a variety of items including spoons, sponges, paper towels, and cotton balls. The kids then recorded what the best method of cleanup is. Weirdsciencekids.com’s Oil Spill Experiment provides excellent information on the science behind this experiment. OilCleanUpinProgress

Resources Used:

Theworldcounts.com’s article What is Pollution for Kids
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s How Long Until It’s Gone? infograph
Eyeopening.info’s An Ocean of Garbage – “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” infograph
Onetimethrough.com’s Water Pollution for Kids: Fun Science Activities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s article on Community Water Treatment
Explorable.com’s Oil Spill Experiment
Populationeducation.org’s Like Oil and Water Student Activity
Education.com’s Activity: How Do Oil Spills Harm Wildlife?
Kitchenpantryscientist.com’s Oil Spill Experiment
Learning-center.homesciencetools.com’s Oil Spills: Effect on Wildlife and Clean Up
Weirdsciencekids.com’s Oil Spill Experiment

Additional Resources:

Teachengineering.org’s Hands-on Activity: Oil Spill Cleanup
Nationalgeographic.org’s Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup
Learning-center.homesciencetools.com’s Oil Spill Cleanup Experiments

What we would do differently:
The program work exceptionally well. The kids were very engaged, and intrigued by all the experiments. The only thing we would do differently is to set up a second Dirty Water demo jar several hours earlier, so that kids could see a more immediate effect than what was accomplished by the end of the program. Otherwise, we would do this program again exactly as planned.

Adaption for older/younger audience:

This program is flexible enough to be accommodated for multiple age ranges. For children in grades 1-3, we recommend using either the feather clean up or the oil spill cleanup activity, but not both in the same program.

Additionally, all activities would be good for a STEAM storytime for younger children, especially with parents in attendance. It might be messy, but it would be fun. We recommend lots of tarps on the floor, or perhaps doing it outside if you opt to do the experiments as part of a STEAM storytime.

For teens, all activities would work as planned, but we advice adding in an element of discussion, asking teens to brainstorm additional ways and means that might be used to clean up- or better yet, prevent- oil spills.

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