Environmental Activities


Oil Spill Lesson
Learn how oil spills damage our environment with this homemade experiment.
Learn how oil spills damage our environment with this homemade experiment.

Oil spills are a terrible tragedy for all of nature. Teach yourself an oil spill lesson and find out how the spills affect animals and their habitat.

What You'll Need:

  • Two ice cubes
  • Two sealable plastic bags
  • Three plates
  • Four cotton balls
  • Vegetable oil

How to Make an Oil Spill Lesson:

Step 1: Put an ice cube into each of the plastic bags. Squeeze out all the air of the bags, and seal them. Put each of the bags on a plate.

Step 2: Soak two cotton balls in vegetable oil. Put one of the cotton balls on top of one of the plastic bags. Make sure the cotton ball stays on top of the ice cube. Put the other oil-soaked cotton ball on an empty plate.

Step 3: Put a dry cotton ball on the other plastic bag (on top of the ice cube). Place another dry cotton ball on the empty plate next to the oil-soaked cotton ball.

Step 4: Let everything sit for 20 minutes. Pick up the two dry cotton balls -- the one that is on the ice cube, and the one that isn't. Are they about the same temperature, or is one colder?

Step 5: Pick up the two oil-soaked cotton balls -- the one that is on the ice cube, and the one that isn't. Does one feel colder?

Step 6: Pick up the two cotton balls that are on the ice cubes. Does one feel colder? What does this tell you about the connection between oil and keeping warm?

Imagine that those cotton balls are birds, otters, or other animals. When an animal is soaked with oil, it gets cold, just like the oil-soaked cotton balls. That's because oil destroys the natural insulation that animals have.

Whenever there's an oil spill, animals die for many reasons. Some are poisoned by the oil. Birds starve to death because they cannot fly to catch food. Some animals die because their food has been killed by the oil. And some animals freeze to death because oil has destroyed their ability to stay warm.

Keep reading to learn how to create your own outdoor wildlife haven.

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