Environmental technology: oil pollution remediation STEM

Learn how we protect wildlife and our environment when catastrophic oil spills occur! With this technical challenge, children will clean up and contain an oil spill!

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Project ingredients
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Tips and Tricks

Clean up the environment for National Engineering Month!

March is the start of the National Mechanical Engineering Month, and what could be nicer than celebrating with a lot of fun environmental challenges! We have completed four fun challenges with printable student lab books, keys, and schedules. That said, it will be really easy to implement them in your class.

Eliminating an oil spill is a really important task. In recent accidents like the Deep Water Horizon, the Trapezoidal pipe leak (or really, leaks) and a mysterious leak in BrazilIt is obvious that we need to find ways to keep the wildlife and ourselves safe.

Did you know there are some? more than 100 oil spills in the U.S. alone in 2018?!? There is even an overflow from a broken platform that has been released Oil in the Gulf of Mexico for almost 15 years – Yikes! Given our hunger for fossil fuels and our need to purchase, refine, and transport them, it should come as no surprise that there are nearly a dozen spills in the U.S. every month.

Create small quantities to learn more about oil spill removal

In this project, we’re going to spill some olive oil or colored vegetable oil so we don’t have to worry about the environment more than if we decide to cook some hamburgers and fries at home. Of course, you don’t want to pour a bottle of vegetable oil into your pipes, which is why our oil pollution is limited to about 10-20 ml of oil per test.

In the first part of the project, the children will examine which materials can best be used to absorb oil. This is a great introduction to how we can help remove wildlife when it is affected. Then the children will try to contain a large amount of water with different materials to create an oil boom. These are all things that real environmental scientists test and use to remove oil spills around the world.

Why is environmental technology important?

Given climate change, we will need an army of environmental engineers to find solutions to our crisis. This helps in removing toxic waste, learning how to use renewable energies, developing methods for generating breathable air and handling solid waste. What other environmental problems do you think engineers will help us with in the future?

Title page of the downloadable curriculum for the environmental technology landfill challenge. Cover picture shows a student building a landfill and three pictures from pages that are contained in the laboratory booklet of the landfill clause. One picture shows the introductory page of the landfill design challenge, one picture shows the vocabulary page of a landfill, one picture shows the levels that are normally used to create safe landfills.

Oily Joe’s store ingredients

The setup of the Oil Spill Cleanup Challenge

Image with the text Oil Spill Engineering Kids Science Activity, approved by Dr. Erica wrote. Three pictures to create a collage. A picture shows a student watching the oil spill they triggered in action and seeing if he is protecting the beach in their trash can. A picture shows another oil boom. The last picture shows two girls who are working with this laboratory book on oil pollution
  1. Print out enough brochures so that each participating child has one.
  2. Set up your Oily Joe store with the items in the list. Change the list of available materials if necessary.
  3. Prepare a place for the test. This is best done near a sink. I like to use syringes to measure the oil and timers to measure the time that has passed since the spill.
  4. Always be prepared! Read the timetable and the key (included in the download) so that you know the project!
  5. Prepare videos to watch if you want to record them. I like “” and “”, but there are a lot of cool videos to show. I like showing the videos on a tablet that is in my setup area – this helps some students to wait patiently for their test train.

Tips and tricks for cleaning up for children in science

in front of you two students work together with a laboratory notebook. The students are working on developing their environmental solution against oil spills

1. Use the student lab book

The student laboratory book contains a lot of information and procedures that you need for a successful laboratory. It includes background information when you don’t have time to prepare your own quick conversation, vocabulary, brainstorming, and more.

The lab book is undoubtedly the best way to get the most out of all our technical challenges.

The student draws a technical plan on a piece of paper

2. Use drawings

Drawings are a great way to check student understanding. The drawings should identify the materials that students want to use to help them with their budget. You can also show the boom across the container, and you should check that the boom spans the container from side to side. If not, you may want to point out that oil can easily flow to the beach.

3. Find inspiring videos

This project is fantastic and I love how many oil ratchet systems I have seen in children. There are a lot of angles that you can use to shop with children. With the overflow of Deep Water Horizons, the recent overflows of the Keystone Pipeline, pictures of marine life covered in oil, or oil-covered birds in need of help, there is no shortage of pictures to show children. I have often sent the smaller first project home with students to try with their families if they want. If you do it in class, This video shows a 14 year old discovering a new oil adsorbent At home is a good conversation starter.

4. Scores to be expected.

Two students are working on their challenge as environmental engineers for landfill solutions. Both students build their landfills on a cardboard box and shape clay into copper shapes.

In contrast to some of our environmental challenges, such as the landfill challenge, this challenge scores the highest with 2,500 points. Children get 500 points if they keep their beach clean the first minute and 500 points if they keep it clean another minute.

An additional 500 points can be earned if your oil boom attracts and appears to adsorb a significant amount of the oil. That is, the oil has accumulated around the boom instead of still floating in drops. And then children add the money that remains in their budget. You can and should assign parts of these points as you wish.

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