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Don't Spill the Oil

Investigate the impact of oil spills and efforts made to prevent and clean up such environmental accidents.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Students research the pros, cons, efficiencies, and availability of various sources of energy. Consider environmental and economic perspectives. Recognize the dependence of various countries on oil for transportation and manufacturing. Find out how oil is transported.
    2. Focus on the effects of oil spills on water, coastlines, and plant and animal life in these habitats. Research a specific oil spill to examine the cause, amount of oil spilled, cleanup efforts, and impact on waterways, landforms, plants, animals, people, and economies.
    3. Students create a 3-dimensional relief scene that demonstrates the effect of this oil spill. Use a base of firm cardboard or thin wood. Build up either white or colored Crayola® Model Magic® into landforms such as mountains, glaciers, islands, or tundra as well as the water. Kneading black, blue, and white Model Magic together creates an authentic-looking oil spill effect.
    4. Depict the source of the spill (such as pipeline rupture, undersea oil well leak, oil tanker collision, loading error from barge) with Model Magic. Create objects found in the water and indicate the extent of the spill. Use pieces of cardboard rolls, twigs, or other craft items, cutting them with Crayola Scissors, as needed.
    5. Form pieces of Model Magic to demonstrate the effects of the spill on animals such as birds, beaches, and sea life. Create models of cleanup methods used (such as spill skimmers or absorbent pads, chemical sprays from airplanes, hot water washes off coastal areas, bacteria treatments, booms to contain the spill, rescue equipment). Use Crayola School Glue to attach all pieces to the base.
    6. Cover the work area with recycled newspaper. Paint details on dry Model Magic with Crayola Watercolors or Washable Paint, or Markers. Paint on a glaze of glue mixed with water to create shiny surfaces.
  • Standards

    LA: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    SCI: Construct original explanations of phenomena using knowledge of accepted scientific theory and linking it to models and evidence.

    SCI: Use words, tables, diagrams, and graphs as well as mathematical expressions, to communicate understanding or to ask questions about a system under study.

    SS: Explore causes, consequences, and possible solutions to persistent, contemporary, and emerging global issues, such as pollution and endangered species.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas.

  • Adaptations

    In small groups, students investigate a well-known oil spill. Document the events leading up to the spill, the environmental consequences, and steps taken to clean up the environment after the event. Organize research into a written summary which includes a proposal for on-going steps for humans to take in order to guarantee a clean environment for future living creatures. An electronic presentation can also be prepared for student viewing.

    Students research the spills from the perspective of the oil company held accountable for the disaster. What steps did the company take to clean up the spill? What was the estimated cost of the clean-up and on-going work towards keeping the environment clean? What did government regulatory agencies require of the company?

    Students brainstorm steps that individuals take to keep environments clean for living species. Students can compile a chart of ways they can save different types of energy. Post the chart in the classroom for future discussion.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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