You’ve head about oil spills on the news, you’ve read about the cleanup in the newspaper but did you know you could learn about ocean pollution right at home or in the classroom? This big idea is made tangible for kids with an easy oil spill experiment. This eye-opening oil spill activity will sure to be a hit with your kids, ocean science never goes out of style!  Even turn it into a oil spills science fair project.

 OIL SPILL CLEANUP EXPERIMENT FOR KIDS

learn about pollution of the oceans with this oil spill activity for kids

POLLUTION OF THE OCEANS

Get ready to add this oil spill activity to your OCEAN lesson plans year. Learn more about ocean pollution as you create your own oil spill model and try to find ways to cleanup the oil.  While you’re at it, make sure to check out these other fun ocean stem activities. 

Our science activities and experiments are designed with you, the parent or teacher, in mind!  Easy to set up, quick to do, most activities will take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and are heaps of fun!  Plus, our supplies lists usually contain only free or cheap materials you can source from home!

OIL SPILL CLEANUP EXPERIMENT

This is oil spill activity might get a bit messy but then again oil spills are a messy topic too! Use this oil spill demonstration with your kids to express the importance of caring for our natural resources.  You can also check out this simple ocean pollution activity for younger kids.

PRINT THE PROJECT: Click here or on the image below.

This oil spill experiment asks the question: What are oil spills and what is the best way to clean them up?

YOU WILL NEED

  • 2 Tin Pans
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dawn Dish Soap
  • Medicine Dropper
  • Spoon
  • Paper Towels
  • Cotton Balls

Other options to explore include a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth!

Materials needed for oil spill experiment

OIL SPILL CLEANUP ACTIVITY  SET UP:

STEP 1:  Fill the tin pan/ tray half full of water. 

STEP 2: Pour oil into the water.

STEP 3: Try different ways to clean up the oil. Can you use the cotton balls? The paper towels? How about the spoon or medicine dropper to scoop out the oil?

can you use paper towel to remove oil from water

STEP 4: Lastly, try using the Dawn Dish Soap.

Add dish soap to the oil and water mixture.

CLASSROOM TIPS

For older kids, you can also have graduated cylinders available. Measure the oil into the cylinder before pouring it into the water. Then have them use a spoon to try to collect the same amount of oil and put it back into the cylinder.

Set a timer and see how much oil is recollected at the end of the given time!

CHALLENGE: What other ways can the kids come up with to remove the oil from the pan?

Click here for your FREE Printable Ocean Activities.

WHAT IS AN OIL SPILL?

An oil spill is a form of pollution generally found in a marine ecosystem. However, oil spills can happen on land too. An oil spill occurs when oil leaks or spills into the water. Oil spills can also happen in rivers or lakes!

What causes an oil spill?

Oil spills are often caused by accidents, but they can also be caused by human error or carelessness. These accidents involve tankers, barges, oil drill rigs, and other places or methods of transportation that store or hold large amounts of oil.

Why are oil spills harmful?

Oil spills are harmful to marine birds and mammals as well as fish and shellfish. Oil coats the feathers and fur of marine life which leave them susceptible to hypothermia (being too cold) because their fur or feathers cannot protect them from the weather.

Additionally, an oil spill can contaminate the food supply or food chain. Marine mammals that eat fish or other food exposed to an oil spill may be poisoned by oil.

HOW TO CLEAN UP AN OIL SPILL

I’m sure we have all seen the commercials for Dawn dish soap and how it’s helped clean thousands of animals affected by oil spills, but how does it do that? Soap breaks up the oil into smaller drops that can mix with the water and rinse away.

The chemistry behind soap is the key! Each end of the soap is made of different molecules. One end hates water (hydrophobic) and the other loves water (hydrophilic).

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The oil is then broken up into tinier droplets and is no longer one big clump, it’s easier to remove!

The chemicals used to clean real oil spills work similarly to dish soap but on a bigger lever. You can read more about a variety of oil spill clean up methods here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OCEANS

OIL SPILL CLEAN UP EXPERIMENT FOR OCEAN SCIENCE

Discover more fun and easy science & STEM activities right here. Click on the link or on the image below.

Best ever STEM and science activities for kids.

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