Oceans and Pollution (science activity)

Teacher of Lesson: Teresa Moore
Grade Level: 2/3



Previous background:

Students will have been introduced to the effects of ocean pollution on plants and animals (particularly oil spills) through childrenŐs literature books (read alouds and on display).


  1. "As captain of our Ocean team, it is my duty to inform you of a problem we're having in the Pacific Ocean. It appears that there has been an oil spill off the coast of Hawaii and they need our help to clean it up. I am going to assign each of you to a crew of four or five people. Each crew will test a method of clean up. Now these are cooperative groups so each person will need a role. One will be crew leader and make sure everyone does their job correctly, plus be a reporter to the class. You will report directly to me if any difficulty arises. One person will be in charge of keeping accurate records. One person will be in charge of setting up the water and oil for the experiment. And finally, the other one or two will be the ones to handle the cleanup materials."
  2. Call out crew names from prepared lists. Have them sit together and fill in the lines next to their names according to the role they will be taking.
  3. Instruct each preparation member to fill the bowl halfway with water, then add one or two teaspoons of oil mixed with food coloring. (keep one bowl with just water at the captain's station.)
  4. There will be six groups and six stations set up with three different kinds of clean up materials. (two stations for each method) Those at station 1a and 1b will need to try to soak up the spill using the materials in front of them. Groups 2a and 2b need to skim the oil off using the materials at the station. Groups 3a and 3b need to add detergents and then make waves in the water to try to break down the oil.
  5. Ask them to record their results then prepare a statement for the Ocean team on how effective they think their method is for removing oil spills.
  6. Have the crew leaders report to the team. Write responses on a large chart. Compare their final sample to the clean captain's water. Which method seemed to clean it best? What were some problems you had? Are any of them completely clean? Why do you think some methods might be better for the environment than others? What methods are easier to perform? Is there a way to combine methods? How should we handle the oil spill near Hawaii? Discuss as a team.


  1. Listen to the sharing of clean up method results. Was the group representative able to convey to the class their method of clean up and explain the difficulties and successes that the group faced?
  2. Did all groups contribute to the formation of the chart? If not, the chart would have blank spaces.
  3. Did the recorder write down the results of their clean up method? Collect each group's recording sheet from the recorder.
  4. Did every person in the crew perform his or her job? The crew leader stars every name on a group list who participated fully. Collect those lists.

Extensions/ Reteaching Strategies:

If they decide that a combination of methods might work, perform the test with the captain's clean water for all to see, or give them a new bowl and have their crews develop their own combinations to compare the new and improved best methods later in a class discussion.

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