CHEMISTRY NOW: The Chemistry of Oil Spills (Grades 5-8) Print

Objective:

Students will evaluate several methods of cleanup used in the recent BP oil spill, and learn about the importance of chemistry in oil spill cleanup.


Introduction Notes:

 

 

CHEMISTRY NOW: The Chemistry of Oil Spills

 

 

 

Title:

 

 

The Chemistry of Oil Spills

 

Subject/Topic:

 

 

Science

 

Grades:

 

 

5–8

 

Standards

Alignment:

 

 

Science as Inquiry 5–8

 

Time Allowance:

 

 

1 hour

 

 

 

Overview and Purpose / Objective(s)

(information, concepts to be learned):

 

Students will evaluate several methods of cleanup used in the recent BP oil spill, and learn about the importance of chemistry in oil spill cleanup.

 

 

VOCABULARY:

 

boom – floating barrier used to contain oil in a spill. Cannot contain oil leaks that occur under the surface, or in turbulent waters.

detergent – substance that lowers the surface tension between the water and the soap and creates an emulsion.

dispersant – chemical method for separating oil from water. Brings the oil below the surface, allowing it to be diluted before being consumed by bacteria. Some dispersants may lead to an increase in toxic hydrocarbon levels.

emulsifier – substance that stabilizes an emulsion.

emulsion – type of colloid in which two liquids are evenly dispersed in each other.

skimmer  mechanical method of separating oil from water. Does not provide for complete removal of oil; skimmed liquids will have some percentage of both oil and water.

solubility – ability of one chemical species to dissolve in another.

 

Materials (per group of five):

- two aluminum baking tins

- 4000 ml of water

- bottle of olive oil

- 20 popsicle sticks

- paper towels

- 5 sponges

- 5 plastic spoons

- dish soap

 

ACTIVITY / ENGAGEMENT

(reinforcing lesson, making real-world connection)

 

Class Starter:

 

Engage students on what they know about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill: 

 

How bad was the spill? 

How successful has the cleanup been? What cleanup methods were used? 

 

PRESENTATION OF NEW MATERIAL

Present the video. Ask your students why the dispersant is of interest and importance to the overall cleanup effort. If the topics of solubility and chemical bonding have already been discussed, frame their answers in terms of these subjects.

 

 

IN-CLASS RESEARCH

(Online or with teacher provided hand-outs; individual or in groups)

Develop an experiment with your class to evaluate potential oil spill cleanup methods. Topics to discuss should include, but are not limited to the following:

What criteria do you think would mark a successful cleanup?

How much water must be left?

How quickly must this cleanup occur?

List these ideas on the board. They will serve as the basis for the experiment portion of the lesson.

 

 

Procedure:

 

1.  Break the class up into groups of five.

2.  Fill each aluminum baking tin with 2000 ml of water.

3.  Measure 500 ml oil and pour it into one of the aluminum tins.

4.  Have students write down their observations.

How did the oil interact with the water?

Did it dissolve?

How is it dispersed?

5. Give students popsicle sticks, paper towels, sponges, and spoons.

6. Have students place the popsicle sticks around the spill in an effort to control the spill – a method similar to oil booms.  Note how well the popsicle sticks do – or do not – contain the oil spill.

7. Allow students to try other physical methods. Ask students what physical methods they think will be most effective at removing the olive oil from the water’s surface. Allow each member of the group to try to remove the oil with his/her desired physical method. Was it effective? What were the observed problems with this method?

8. Give each group a sample of dish soap. This will represent the use of dispersant.

 

9. Ask your class what they think the effect of soap will be to the setup.

How do you think it will work compared to the physical methods?

After they add the soap, ask them to record their observations.

         What happened to the oil?

         Why do you think this occurred? [The soap acts as an emulsifier and helps  disperse the oil in the water.]

         Is this beneficial to the system? [At first this may not seem beneficial, as the oil is now drawn further into the water. But in the case of dispersants, underwater bacteria naturally break down the crude oil.]

 

 

Concluding Discussion/Activities:

 

Ask your students if there is anything missing in this setup. Possible answers could include the following:

         Lack of wildlife

         Stagnant water

         Lack of micro-organisms

 

Other questions to ask include the following:

 

         What are some of the advantages of physical methods?

         What are some of the limitations of physical methods?

         What are some of the advantages of chemical methods?

         What are some of the limitations of chemical methods?


 

 

Student Worksheet for the Chemistry of Oil Spills

 

 

Experiment Title: _________________Date: _____Name: _____________________

 

Student Hypothesis: ____________________________________________________

 

 

Materials:

 

-  two aluminum baking tins

- 4000 ml of water

- bottle of olive oil

- 20 popsicle sticks

- paper towels

- 5 sponges

- 5 plastic spoons

- dish soap

 

Safety Precautions:

 

________________________________________________________________

 

________________________________________________________________

 

 

Procedure:

 

Wear Safety Goggles for all lab work.

1. ___________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________

4. ___________________________________________________________

5. ___________________________________________________________

6. ___________________________________________________________

7. ___________________________________________________________

8. __________________________________________________________

9. ___________________________________________________________

10. ___________________________________________________________

 

Data and Observations:

 

 

 

 

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