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Sorting Out the Oil Spill

Topic: 5_6H Enquiry in environmental and technological co

Crude oil has been flowing from a leaking Gulf of Mexico pipe since the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, leased by BP, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on 20 April 2010 and sank two days later. Heavy rust-coloured oil has washed ashore, threatening wildlife. The spill has reached Louisiana and is threatening Florida and Cuba.

In this activity children will investigate the properties of water and oil and will try to find a way to separate the two liquids.

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Try the Activity Learning Objective

Click to Download Sorting Out the Oil Spill teacher notes
Sorting Out the Oil Spill teacher notes

Click to Download Sorting Out the Oil Spill activity
Sorting Out the Oil Spill activity

   

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that different liquids have different properties

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

how to plan an investigation to answer a question

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

how to use the information gathered to answer questions in a wider and environmental context

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 4 successfully.


   
Curriculum Link

Science:
QCA Unit 5_6H: Enquiry in environmental and technological contexts
to ask scientific questions
to plan how to answer questions
to decide what kind of evidence to collect
to try to explain their results using their scientific knowledge and understanding
to describe the limitation of their own and others' evidence
to plan a suitable approach eg creating a variety of designs and selecting the best fit for the design specification
to test out designs making a series of observations
to adjust designs in a systematic way in the light of evidence collected
to try to explain their designs using their scientific knowledge and understanding where possible
to evaluate the limitations of their own and others' designs

Literacy (speaking and literacy)
e.g. Speaking and listening - putting together a case for a choice and discussing it with a group
e.g. Persuasive writing - this could form the start of a literacy topic

Numeracy
see numeracy files for the relevant year - use headings
e.g. counting, portioning and calculating
e.g. handling data and measures

 
Running the Activity

Introducing the activity
Display Page 1 of the activity through a data projector or on an OHT. Tell the children that in April an oil drilling platform that extracts oil from under the sea bed exploded. This has led to several cracks in the oil pipe which sends the oil to the mainland.
- Have you heard of any attempts that BP has made to stem the flow?

Leading the main activity

Display Page 2 through a data projector or on an OHT. The oil is pouring out of the pipe at the rate of at least 5000 barrels (795,000 litres or approximately 2 Olympic sized swimming pools) per day. Look at the map. You can see that the water in the Gulf of Mexico will eventually travel all over the world.
- What problems will the oil cause in the water and when it is washed up on land?


Display Page 3 and print off copies as appropriate. What do children know about oil and water?
Teacher to place some water in a transparent container. (This water could contain food colouring if desired. This helps to mark the contrast between oil and water but may confuse.) Then add a small amount of oil (about 1/10 of the volume of water.
Leave the water to settle into water and oil.

Display Page 4 (evaluation )
Would any of these methods work with the Gulf of Mexico spill?
- Think about scale, what could you use instead of kitchen roll/ spoon?
- Think about volume of water, you could not siphon the sea,but could you siphon the oil if the layer was thick enough. (this has been tried)
- Does the sea being made of salt water make a difference?
- Would sand or hair be more effective with crude oil which is stickier than cooking oil? Look at pictures of birds and beaches covered in oil
- Detergent. What is the environmental effect of pumping huge amounts of detergent into the sea?

 
Web Links

BBC News
The news story behind the activity

ThinkQuest
Information about oil spills

The Guardian
Information on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Population Education
Student investigations into separating oil and water

Information is Beautiful
Comparing oil spills in history

BBC News
Article about mopping up the oil spill using human hair

 
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