The Science of Oil Spills

The Science of Oil Spills curriculum is based on the Ocean Science and Leadership Expedition, co-sponsored by the council in 2010.

Nine high school students from around the country completed the a summer intensive course based in Cordova and Valdez and led by staff from the Prince William Sound Science Center. From August 5-14, the students studied principles of oceanography and marine environmental issues, especially focusing on oil spills, and developed leadership skills in a wilderness learning environment.

This curriculum was created by Alice Dou-Wang of the Prince William Sound Science Center.

Grades: 6-12
Prerequisites: Before beginning this unit, students should have basic knowledge of convection, density, and waves.
Lessons in this unit: The lessons are designed to be completed in sequence, although most lessons can also stand alone.

Lesson 1: The Fate of Spilled Oil – A lecture provides students with in-depth information about how spilled oil behaves in the environment, and the physical processes of weathering.

Lesson 2: Oil Spill Response Methods – An overview of the common types of oil spill response equipment, how they work to clean up oil, and basic cleanup strategies for shorelines and open water.

Supporting materials:
Oil Spill Response Equipment slideshow

Lesson 3: Oil Spill Cleanup Lab  – Students make a motor oil emulsion, compare different factions of spilled oil and their effects on natural materials, and experiment with different oil cleanup methods.

Lesson 4: Incident Command System Scenario  – Students play roles in the Incident Command System and decide how to respond to a mock oil spill scenario in Prince William Sound.
Prerequisites: This lesson will be most effective if students have an understanding of air-sea interactions and general circulation patterns in Prince William Sound. They should also have basic knowledge of convection, density, waves, and Coriolis effect.

Supporting materials:
Incident Command System Roles
Oil Spill Scenario Updates
Incident Command System Background for Teachers
Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Maps Background for Teachers

Download the complete curriculum forThe Science of Oil Spills here:

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