Environmental Engineering


Students will work in teams of “environmental engineers” to analyze an “oil spill” in the classroom, then design and test systems to contain and remove the oil from the water. Students will decide on which everyday items/materials they will use and how they will recover the oil from the water. After testing the clean-up materials selected they will analyze the different methods and determine the most efficient way to contain and clean up an oil spill. As part of the analysis, students will test material’s effectivity to clean up oil both before and after the use of dispersants (i.e. dish soap). Students will compare the results of the before and after dispersant test and record their observations on the Student Handout.

Teacher Notes

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  • To analyze and examine methods used to clean-up oil spills.

  • To test different clean-up methods and determine their effectiveness.

  • To explain benefits and drawbacks (tradeoffs) for each particular method.

NGSS Standards

NGSS Standard Student Action
HS-LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity. Students design, evaluate, and refine methods to contain and clean a simulated oil spill.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea Student Action
HS.LS2A.b Human activity directly and indirectly affect biodiversity and ecosystem health(e.g., habitat fragmentation, introduction of nonnative or invasive species, overharvesting, pollution and climate change). Students explore and understand the impacts of oil spills on biodiversity and ecosystem health.
HS.EVS2C.a Different approaches can be used to manage impacts to our environment. Generally speaking, we can change human activities to limit negative impacts. Alternately, we can use technologies that reduce impact or we can perform restoration work to recover natural functions and values. Students learn through the presentation and explore through the activity multiple methods for containing and cleaning oil spills.
HS.EVS2C.b Trade-offs occur when we make environmental choices. Students learn about environmental trade-offs associated with decisions regarding oil drilling and consumption.

Expected Lesson Duration

Lesson 1 - Introduction: 30 - 60 minutes

Lesson 2 - Projects: 150 - 180 minutes

Lesson 3 - Quiz: 30 - 60 minutes