earth day pollution science

A Fun Science Experiment to Teach Kids About Pollution

Today is Earth Day, and we ditched our regular lessons to spend the day learning about pollution and how it affects our earth.

We began with this oil spill activity that was really eye-opening, even for me! We started with a pristine-looking ocean scene which turned yucky very fast. The boys tried several times to wash the slimy oil off their sea creatures and it was harder than they thought it would be.

We got the idea from here, if you want to see the original post.

Oil Spill Science Experiment

First, we started with a large, clear plastic tub to hold our ocean animals and water (plus some blue marbles to add a sensory element).

I added two drops of blue food coloring so that the water would be more visible. The boys played in the ocean with their animals for a bit, and then we added the boat.

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To make the oil look like crude oil, we mixed some cocoa powder into the vegetable oil before pouring it into the boat’s compartment. It looked like oil, but smelled like brownies. 😉

Now it’s time for the oil spill. Once the boat gets bumped around enough, the oil will begin spilling into the pristine blue water. The boys thought it was fascinating to see the oil droplets swirl around in the water. And actually, so did I.

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Now, it’s time for cleanup.

First, they tried cleaning up the oil spill by scooping it out. They soon found, though, they were scooping way more water than oil, and the water was looking dirtier.

Next, they used items to try and suck up the oil – cotton balls and a sponge. Both materials were able to remove a bit of the oil, but not enough to make a real difference.

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I think they were beginning to understand how irreversible some types of pollution are.

Now it was time for animal rescue. Using tongs, they took turns removing the ocean creatures from the water and washing them with soapy water. It took many tries to wash all of the slimy oil off. Another good lesson.

We also dunked a real bird feather into the oily water so the boys could see the effects of an oil spill on real animals.

Pollution Walk

After our science experiment, we put on disposable gloves and headed to our neighborhood’s nature trail for a pollution cleanup walk. We found SO. MUCH. TRASH. Either I never noticed it before or today was just a messy day in our neighborhood, but I’m sad to say we filled half a trash bag full of litter on our short walk.

The boys were pros at spotting the trash – it was like a treasure hunt, but less glamorous.

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Honestly, I was pretty disgusted at the amount of litter we picked up. On our walk we talked about what happens to trash when it sits on the ground (and what biodegradable means) and why it’s important not to litter.

Earth Day Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Oil Spill!

The Lorax

The Curious Garden

Compost Stew

Miss Rumphius

Once There Was a Tree

Pond

 

 

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