Educators Using Gulf Oil Spill as a “Teachable Moment”


The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is providing a “teachable moment” for science teachers nationwide. With environmental issues likely to continue throughout the summer, more lessons are expected when schools starts back up in the fall. The spill provides the opportunity to study the delicate balance of nature through hands-on simulations and to role play as government officials and scientists.

Teachers note that their students are extremely interested in how the situation is being handled and many express the desire to help. Leading some teachers to challenge students to devise solutions on how to plug the leak and brainstorm strategies for cleaning up the oil.

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Educators Using Gulf Oil Spill as a “Teachable Moment”
Role Playing, Cocao Powder and Cooking Grease Used To Study Disaster
June 21, 2010

Science teachers nationwide are using the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a “teachable moment” as the school years ends, with most saying environmental issues will likely continue throughout the summer and spark even more lessons when school starts up again.

Using everything from role playing of government officials and scientists to hands-on models of cocoa and cooking grease (to simulate crude oil), teachers are tackling the disaster with students who are demanding answers and a chance to help find solutions.

“This is science at its best,” said Dianne Haberstroh, a 7th Grade teacher from Orefield, PA. “When they can actually live it and feel like they’re living it.”

In her classroom, she built a long table with water and sand to recreate the water and beaches in the Gulf. Students pumped cooking oil into the water to see how it would react

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