June 15, 2012

Homeschooling: Cleaning up an oil spill


Have you started hearing, "I'm bored!" yet???

I thought that I would share a fun project that we did this year that
can get "bored" kids excited about science!

I taught an elementary chemistry class this past year for our co-op and one of
our lessons was on organic compounds.  After I had the kids learn how to name simple alkanes, we talked about how oil is a hydrocarbon.

Then, we recreated an oil spill!


The students were given an "environment" complete with animals and plants! Our animals consisted of fake fur and feathers.  The kids just went outside and found some leaves for plants.  

To really recreate the ocean, you can add blue food coloring and salt.  We also had the students build an island of rocks in the center of their pan.

My oil was just canola oil, but we decided that it would have been a lot more fun had we used some motor oil!

We required the students to "purchase" all of their clean-up materials setting a
maximum spending budget of $20,000,000.


Off to the side we had a "Wildlife Rescue Center" that contained a bowl with soap and some paper towels.  Students had to pay extra to use that station to clean their animals.

I have tried to find out where I got this lab originally and cannot find the source.  Here is the table that listed the "cost" of their supplies.  Be easy on me if the link doesn't work right away.  It's my first attempt using Google documents.


If anyone knows a source or direct link, please let me know.  I'd much rather use that!


The class was a huge success and I know that many students in the class went home and "instructed" their younger siblings and recreated another spill at home!

The students also learned how tedious it is to remove all of the oil and how limited they are by a budget!  Great life lessons!


I love when kids get excited about science!


3 comments:

Bliss said...

Now that looks like a fun project, one I would like as well.

~Bliss~

Darci J. Harland said...

Ok, I've spent an hour looking through your site, and I seriously think you and I are sisters separated at birth! Our stories are similar (taught science, you chemistry, me biology) and now are homeschooling.

I did an oil spill post earlier this year http://www.stemmom.org/2012/02/marine-oil-spill-lab.html, though mine is geared to high school. I LOVE the added idea of the cost! Very cool, and really pulling in the social issues along with the ecological! Seriously, great job!

Your new best friend,
Darci the STEM Mom

Layne Adams said...

Hi, nice post. Well what can I say is that these is an interesting and very informative topic. Thanks for sharing your ideas, its not just entertaining but also gives your reader knowledge. Good blogs style too, Cheers!

- The oil spill clean up ma

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