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Oil Spill!

Main Core Tie

Science - Earth Science
Standard 4 Objective 3

Time Frame

2 class periods of 60 minutes each

Group Size

Small Groups


Utah LessonPlans


Students will create an "oil spill" in a pan and experiment with the best ways to clean it. At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify at least two successful methods of oil spill cleanup and explain how an oil spill affects the environment.


These may vary:

  • flat pan (aluminum pie tin) for each group
  • water
  • vegetable or motor oil (if the oil is clean, add a few drops of dark food coloring to it and shake well, if you are using used motor oil, it is a great color for this)

Cleanup Materials: Any or all of the following:

  • paper towels
  • soap
  • detergent
  • saw-dust
  • sponges
  • flour
  • Brillo pads
  • strips of paper
  • Comet cleanser
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • Dawn dish soap
  • paper towels
  • Pine Sol
  • plastic spoons
  • plastic cups

Materials for the boom:

  • string
  • straws
  • foam
  • wooden splints

Background for Teachers

Time needed: 2-50 minutes class periods if video is used.

Instructional Procedures

Day 1: Introduction Day View a video of the Exxon Valdez or YouTube (San Francisco Oil Spill: A Preventable Tragedy) is a good one. YouTube has many video clips of birds being washed, affect of oil on sea life etc. Hand out student sheets and describe directions and materials. Ask students to bring materials from home that they think will work to soak up the oil.

Day 2: : Teams clean up a mini-oil spill using various methods. Discuss results of each groups experiments and how those results relate to a real life large-scale oil spill. If you have stereoscopes, the damage to the feather will be more easily observed.


Lesson Design by Jordan School District Teachers and Staff.

Created: 11/10/2014
Updated: 02/05/2018