Oil + Water + Wildlife = A Real Mess

6, 7, 8

This lesson will enable the learners to better understand the effects of oil spills on the living organisms in an ecosystem.

PrintTwo 45-minute class periods

The learner will:

  • complete an experiment to show the effects of oil on different animals.
  • understand the problems resulting from spilled oil.
  • increase their understanding of the human effects on the environment.
  • Handout One, Oil + Water + Wildlife = A Real Mess lab activity sheet
  • Water
  • Motor Oil
  • 2 feathers- duck, goose, chicken, for each group (available at craft stores or through Internet)
  • 2 pieces of natural wool material to simulate an animal’s fur for each group
  • Cleaning materials - dish washing detergents, laundry detergents, baking soda, mineral oil, Borax, (Borax may be found in the laundry supply isle of a grocery store or online http://www.soapsgonebuy.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=D1002&Show=ExtInfo)
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paper towels
  • Sponges
  • Eye droppers
  • Newspaper- table covering
  • Pictures of the Valdez oil spill or other pictures showing the devastation to the habitat that is a result of an oilspill.

Wikipedia "Deepwater Horizon" oil spill. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill (accessed August 5, 2010)


  1. Anticipatory Set: Learners discuss their homework papers with the class. (See Handout Two, Lesson Two: Oil Use in Your Home) List the learners’ responses on the board. What types of oil do you use at home? What do you use oil for? How do you dispose of the oil?

  2. Create groups of four learners for each group for this activity.

  3. Hand out the Oil + Water + Wildlife= A Real Mess data sheet (See Handout One)

  4. Distribute the materials to each group

  5. Ask the learners to follow the instructions on the data sheet to complete the lab activity.

  6. After the learners have completed the lab activity, allow time for them to discuss their findings.

  7. Teacher’s Note: Access the Internet to view images of the Deepwater Horizon (BP oil spill) and Exxon Valdez oil spills or locate picture from another source such as National Geographic Magazine to share with the students for discussion.

  8. Continue to ask the question: Whose responsibility is it to pay for the cleanup of an oil spill?


Collect the student worksheet to grade for completeness.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.