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Title: Oil Spill!

Subject Area: Science

Integrated Subject Areas: Social Studies, ELA
Grade Level: Fourth
Summary: Students will conduct an experiment about oil spills and how they affect wildlife.
Standards (from PA Core unless otherwise noted):

 4.1.4.D: Explain how specific adaptations can help organisms survive in their environment.
 3.1.4.A9: Distinguish between scientific fact and opinion. Ask questions about objects, organisms, and
events. Understand that all scientific investigations involve asking and answering questions and
comparing the answer with what is already known. Plan and conduct a simple investigation and
understand that different questions require different kinds of investigations.
 6.1.4.D - Explain what influences the choices people make
 NCSS #3 - People, Places, & Environments
 NCSS#8 - Science, Technology, & Society
Essential Questions: How does an oil spill affect the environment?
Objectives: Students will be able to:

 Identify types of pollution.

 Explain the causes and effects of oil spills.
 Investigate how oil spills change an ecosystem.
 Apply concepts observed in an experiment to make inferences about oil spills.

 Oil spill
Estimated Time: 60 minutes
Materials Required:

 Clear plastic cups  Craft feathers

 Water  Pipe cleaners
 Cooking oil  Oil Spill! By Melvin Berger
 Droppers
1) Ask students what they know about oil spills. Pair-share. Give hints like: Where do they occur? Why do
they occur? And What happens after they occur?
2) Explain that an oil spill is when liquid petroleum hydrocarbon is released into the environment on land
or in water. Say that this is a fancy way of saying that oil spills into the natural environment. It is most
common in coastal water because of offshore drilling. Oil spills occur because of explosions, storms,
accidents, or even as an act of war.
3) One way to clean up an oil spill is to put a floating barrier around it and to light the oil on fire. Ask
students if they think this is a good way to clean it up. Why? Pair-share.
4) Tell students that the people that worked to clean up the 2010 oil spill reported having many health
problems including vomiting, nausea, respiratory issues, skin problems, and more. Tell students that
when people clean up oil spills, they wear protective gear. What do you think happened with the wildlife
that were exposed to the oil spill that didn’t have protective gear?
Today we are going to do an experiment to learn more about how oil spills affect the environment.
- Have students respond to questions in their science notebook between steps in the procedure. Questions
will be in italics.
5) Give each child a cup of clean water and a craft feather.
6) What do you predict will happen if you dip the feather in the water?
7) Dip the feather in the water. What happened? Was your prediction correct?
8) What do you predict the water will look like if some oil is added to the cup?
9) With the dropper put five drops of oil into the water. What happened? Draw a labeled picture of what
happened. Was your prediction correct? What do you think will happen if you dip the feather into this
10) Dip the feather into the mixture. What do you observe? Was your prediction correct?
11) Try to clean the feather off with the pipe cleaner. Did it work? Why do you think that is? What do you
think would work?
12) If students ask for soap, allow them to try to wash the oil off the feather with the soap. Did it work? Do
you think people could try this with a real oil spill?
13) Have students clean up their stations and have a class discussion about what happened and what they
think the effect of an oil spill will be on the environment.
14) Tell the students that we are going to do some more research about oil spills by reading a book about
15) Read the book Oil Spill! By Melvin Berger aloud to the class.
16) Discuss if the book’s information aligns with the results of our experiment. Brainstorm other questions
students have about oil spills and where/how we could find out more information.

 Class discussions
 Entries in science notebook
Differentiation: As the teacher circulates during the experiment, she can scaffold material more for students
who are struggling.
Adaptions and Modifications: Refer to 504 and IEP documents