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ocean pollution science fair projects

A Story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast, swirling soup of trash, twice the size of Texas. Can we ever clean it up? That’s what 8 year old Ila wants to know. She lives in Hawaii and likes to pick up trash whenever she goes to the beach. She lives closer to the garbage patch than most of us. To find out more, visit

Ocean Pollution Experiment for your Kids to Try!

It can be more fun, when explaining something like pollution, to do a hands-on activity to really drive home the concept. This ocean pollution experiment is eye-opening to see what happens when there is an oil spill, especially around World Ocean’s Day when we explore ways to help Earth.


Large Tupperware container
> Water
> Blue food coloring
> Small rocks
> Ocean figurines
> Toy tugboats
> Test tubes
> Cocoa powder
> Vegetable oil
> Cotton balls
> Sponge
> Spoon
> Optional: bird feather, dish soap

ocean pollution experiments


Start your ocean pollution experiment by placing the rocks and ocean figurines in the Tupperware container. These will make your ocean model more realistic.

Add water. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to mimic the ocean,stir.ocean pollution experiments with bath toys educational ocean pollution experiments

Add the toy tugboats just like how you see huge boats and shipping vessels floating in the ocean when you visit the beach.

ocean pollution science fair projects at home
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”.

instructions for ocean pollution science fair projects

We admired the blue water and being able to see the ocean creatures on the bottom.

ocean pollution experiments you can do at home
Then we added the oil to the tugboats and tipped them over. OIL EVERYWHERE!

First, we used the spoon to try and scoop oil out. What do you notice in your ocean pollution experiment at the moment? 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.

child working on ocean pollution experiment

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.

learning about ocean pollutionhow oil pollution spreads

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.

how to learn about the oceansExample of ocean pollution

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?

child working on ocean pollution science fair projects

In your ocean pollution experiment, you’ll discover that it is not easy to clean up after an oil spill, whether that be in the ocean or on animals. For more experiments check out our ocean science box.

ocean pollution experiment banner

For more science experiments for kids, don’t forget to bookmark our blog page.

Photographs and content by: Heather Kucenski

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