It can be more fun, when explaining something like pollution, to do a hands on activity to really drive home the concept. This is an eye opening experiment to see what happens when there is an oil spill, especially around Earth Day when we explore ways to help Earth.
Large Tupperware container
> Blue food coloring
> Small rocks
> Ocean figurines
> Toy tugboats
> Test tubes
> Cocoa powder
> Vegetable oil
> Cotton balls
> Optional: bird feather, dish soap
Place the rocks and ocean figurines in the Tupperware container.
Add water. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to mimic the ocean, stir.
Add the toy tugboats.
Add a little bit of cocoa powder to each test tube (we made multiple as we had small test tubes). Add vegetable oil to the powder. Put top on and shake mixture until it turns brown. This is your “oil”.
We admired the blue water and being able to see the ocean creatures on the bottom.
First, we used the spoon to try and scoop oil out. What do you notice? We were able to get out a little bit, but every time we went to touch the oil mixture it seemed to break apart and spread throughout the container.
Next, we used the cotton balls to soak up oil. While that also worked, again the oil mixture spread each time we tried to soak it up.
Lastly, we used the sponge to try and soak even more oil up. The sponge absorbed some oil but the end result was we had oil everywhere in the container. The more we messed with it, the more it spread all around the container.
We did not have a bird feather, but if you do, put some oil on it. What happens when you use a paper towel to wipe it off? Does it come off? Does it spread? Is it sticky? What happens when you use dish soap to try and get some oil off?
Generally we should discover that it is not easy to clean up after an oil spill, whether that be in the ocean or on animals.
For more science experiments for kids, please check out our blog!
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Photographs and content by: Heather Kucenski