Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Article excerpt

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Five Years Later

April marked the five-year anniversary of the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the biggest oil industry disaster in history. Caused by a massive drilling-platform explosion that killed 11 people, the spill released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking environmental and economic havoc. For details, follow the New York Times Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill topic (see "On the web"). Also see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) summary of the event and the response to it (see "On the web").

Researchers continue to track the environmental impacts of this disaster. Thousands of dead, oil-drenched birds and fish washed ashore in the first few months following the spill. Long-term effects are only now emerging: A 2015 study linked adrenal gland and lung diseases in bottlenose dolphins with exposure to petroleum compounds. These diseases have contributed to increased dolphin mortalities in the Gulf of Mexico since 2010 (Venn-Watson et al. 2015).

Classroom activities

Given the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and its still-unfolding biological and ecological consequences, this event can be used as a case study for oil spills and water pollution.

NOAA provides several educational resources about oil spills. In the "Responding to a Disaster" activity developed specifically to explore the effects of the Deepwater spill, students play the role of an oil-spill response team and consider the characteristics of oil spills, path of spilled oil, potential impact zones, and spill clean-up techniques in planning their response" (see "On the web").

Peruse "The Gulf Oil Spill in the Classroom" resource from the New York Times Learning Network. It has links to many teacher-created projects, including "The Drill on the Spill" lab activity, in which students design their own experiments to understand oil spills and clean-up techniques (see "On the web"). Both National Geographic and the Smithsonian provide excellent information, activities, labs, videos, and interactives for students to explore (see "On the web"). Help your students understand the Gulf oil spill and the various clean-up techniques with the Smithsonian's "Self-Contained Gulf Oil Spill Kit. …

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