Recently Jeremy Wagner’s science classes at Heritage Middle School have focused on life science, with a particular emphasis on the interactions of humans with the environment. In their current unit the students learned about species adaptations to the environment, complex interactions in food webs and the human reliance on ocean ecosystems.
Throughout this particular lesson a reoccurring theme has appeared on how humans impact the world around them, with a special focus on oil spills. Mr. Wagner decided to create a lab model for the students to see just how difficult oil spills can be to clean up. Students first watched news clips from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010 from BP. These clips were used as a discussion point on how oil spills endanger species, destroy ecosystems and what goes in to cleaning up the mess.
On Thursday, May 7, the students pretended to represent an engineering firm that specializes in ecosystem recovery and clean up. The government has approached them with a $20,000,000 budget to clean up an oil spill off the coast. Students were asked to plan a strategy for cleanup within the confines of their budget, harnessing the information they learned throughout the unit. The group, and class, with the most successful water cleanup efforts will be named the “cleanup champions”.
The students were able to analyze that some clean up strategies result in more problems for the environment than they solve through this lab. It was a great exercise to show the many elements and obstacles faced when dealing with such a catastrophe as an oil spill.