Oil Spills - Improving Oil Booms

Contributor
Teach Engineering Kristen Brown; Berkeley Almand; Sharon D. Perez-Suarez; Melissa Straten; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Janet Yowell; Carleigh Samson
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity , Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

In this activity, students learn about oil spills and the effects they have on Earth’s environment. The driving question students will be making sense of is: What can engineers design to prevent oil spills from polluting beaches and harming wildlife? Using the engineering design process, students model small size oil spills in plastic bins, and then design, and re-design oil booms to prevent the spread of oil to beaches and sea life.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 5
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students brainstorm ideas and then generate solutions as they work to solve the challenge of containing the oil from an oil spill. They sketch their ideas in their notebooks prior to redesign. It is suggested that student groups present and share their different solutions and compare how each group met the criteria and constraints of the challenge.

5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The included slideshow presentation and suggested oil spill video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QUszir56E8) allow students to obtain information and see first hand the damage oil spills cause to Earth’s environment and wildlife. Students can be given a chance to think and talk about this phenomenon as they study pictures of oil booms and discuss how they work to help to contain the oil. To best meet this performance expectation, student teams can be encouraged to research and share information about how scientists and communities have cleaned up other major oil spills prior to engaging in the engineering activities.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Using evidence of past oil spills and observing the damage that was caused, students create a solution to this problem to help reduce the impact on animals and the environment.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students observe the effect of oil on a feather as they dip it into the oil-treated water. This can act as their model to test and then describe the effect oil spills have on wildlife. Student observations can focus on how the feather becomes sticky and thin. Students learn that wildlife are harmed by oil spills because the oil disrupts their biology, habitat, and food supplies and causes birds to have trouble flying. Students could do further research on the effect of oil on wildlife.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students work with their teams to brainstorm approaches and methods for cleaning up oil spills. Throughout the engineering design process, students are encouraged to sketch their ideas and reflections in their science notebooks to share during class presentations. Sharing ideas and communicating with peers is a vital part of the design process.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students may have a preconceived idea that oil spills are always caused by humans. However, natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods can also cause oil spills. For example, 2007 flooding in Kansas caused over 40,000 gallons of crude oil from a refinery to spill into flood waters threatening both the local ecosystem and drinking water. Teachers can have students discuss and record their ideas on how scientists and the community can reduce the impact of the oil spill using booms or other solutions.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students are given opportunities to test and redesign their oil booms as they try to find the best way to contain the oil before it reaches the beach. These relationships need to be made explicit as students design and redesign their oil booms to better contain the oil. Encourage students to write in their notebooks each time a change is made to their oil boom design. They can write what worked and what didn’t work to illustrate the cause and effect relationship. A graphic organizer might help to scaffold the learning as students redesign and improve each test. Multiple opportunities to identify and explain cause and effect relationships are recommended.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students are given experience with the engineering design process through this activity where they learn about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. Students learn that in an oil spill, booms reduce the risk of contamination along the shoreline as well as preserve a larger clean area for wildlife to occupy. The resource makes connections to Common Core English Language Arts standards when students are asked to explain the phenomena of trying to control oil spills with the least damage to the environment and wildlife. Students can use their oil boom model in a presentation to explain the effect it would have on protecting the environment.

  • Instructional Supports: Throughout the activity, students are continually investigating the driving question: What can engineers design to prevent oil spills from polluting beaches and harming wildlife? Designing and redesigning an oil boom that can contain oil engages students in an authentic and meaningful scenario that reflects the practice of science and engineering as experienced in the real world and provides students with a purpose. Pictures of oil spills and the video clip of animals covered in oil can help support students who are English language learners. Additional readings are available for further study. If teams have success with a boom that meets the criteria of preventing oil from getting to the beach, challenge students to redesign their boom to see if it can float or last longer before weakening.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Formative assessments of three‐dimensional learning are embedded throughout the instruction. Students are encouraged to draw and label models in their notebooks in the design phase of the engineering process, as well as record further re-designs, questions and ideas. These reflections can be used for a final presentation where students share with the class what worked for them and what didn’t work. Although a rubric for writing the reflection paper is not included, the criteria for well-done writing is mentioned. That criteria could be used to develop a single point rubric. Students could also research additional ways that scientists and engineers use to control oil spills. A recommended link to a short assessment on oil spills is: https://snapgse.stanford.edu/snap-assessments/short-performance-assessments

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.