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Oil Spills are tragic events and I am always so sad when there is a large oil spill in the ocean. My kids and I did some environmental science this week by doing an Oil Spill Clean Up Experiment. This is a perfect Earth Day STEM project for kids in elementary through middle grades. See more STEM projects HERE.
The term oil spill usually refers to ocean spills, but they also occur on land. Today our oil spill clean-up experiment focuses on the ocean spills. The oil comes from off-shore drilling, from accidents with oil tankers in the ocean, or other large ships dumping or spilling their waste oils.
Obviously something like this causes a major disaster in the ecosystem killing plants and animals in the surrounding area. These disasters can take weeks months and sometimes years to clean up all of the after effects of these spills. It is not an easy process. Accidents like this always are heartbreaking to me!
For kids, it is an important thing to learn about. I want my kids to understand the importance of keeping our environment clean and safe.
We did an experiment testing a few ways to clean up our own oil spill. While the methods we use in our home may not match up to what the amazing scientists use now, it brought awareness to my kids. They began to understand how hard it is to remove the oil from the water, and how much time it must take when hundreds of thousands of gallons are released into the ocean.
This experiment pairs perfectly with the Let’s Read and Find Out Science book: Oil Spill by Melvin Berger.
How to Do The Oil Spill Clean-Up Experiment
You will need the following supplies:
A Pan of Water
Blue Food Coloring (optional, but fun!)
Vegetable or motor oil
Fill a pan with water. Add blue food coloring to the water to make the distinction between the water and the oil more obvious.
To make it more fun, I poured vegetable oil into a small toy boat that we had and let the kids dump it into the water that way. It could also be poured straight into the water. We used about 1/4 c. vegetable oil.
Now use various supplies to try to remove the oil from the water. We tried spooning it out, using cotton balls and feathers and a sponge. The kids decided the spoon is easiest, but they all take a long time.
The feathers werte a disaster to try to use. This lead to a discussion about how birds get covered in oil and it is hard to clean them. Soap is often used to do this. We tried washing the feathers with soap. It was messy, but did get it clean.
Over all the oil spill clean-up experiment was a great project to do with the kids. They learned a lot and really enjoyed the experience.
Try More Earth Day themed activities:
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