STEM Oil Spill Challenge / Earth Day Activity (Volume & Measurement)

Vivify STEM
Grade Levels
2nd - 9th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF (45 pages)
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Vivify STEM
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Oil Spill STEM Activity - Great for Earth Day!

Learn about the effects of an oil spill on the environment through a hands-on engineering challenge! The goal of this challenge is to clean up all of the oil from the feathers and from the water in the time provided. Students will work in teams to devise a plan to get the oil spill cleaned up in a specified time of work.

Distance learning update: Activity has been updated to accommodate distance learning including instructions on creating a materials kit and digital STEM journals that are editable in Google Slides.

Adaptable activity: This activity is adaptable for 2nd - 9th graders. Math extension problems (in both SI and metric units) target 5th - 8th grade topics including measurement, percentages, volume calculations, and ratios. Through the activity, students will understand the challenges of cleaning a major oil spill disaster and will lead to discussions on the effects on marine plants and animals. This is great for an Earth Day activity!

Read more about the Oil Spill Challenge here.

Included in this product

  • Standards: Common Core Math and NGSS
  • Engineering Design Process poster
  • Oil Spill Lesson Plan
  • Materials list and activity suggestions
  • Student handouts including information on BP Oil Spill, clean-up efforts, and environmental consequences
  • Digital STEM journal in Google Slides
  • Printed STEM journal for distance learning (editable in Google Slides)
  • Student activity guide
  • STEM Career Connection: Marine biologist, environmental engineer, environmental scientist, petroleum engineer
  • Math Connection at an upper elementary and middle school level: Percentages, Measurements, Volume (*in SI and metric units*)
  • Reflection Questions

Looking for more STEM lessons? Find the Vivify resource guide here:

About STEM Challenges: Click here to learn more about the 3 Stages of STEM. STEM challenges are an engaging way to incorporate the engineering design process into your classroom or afterschool program! These hands-on activities allow students to work in teams, apply the engineering design process, and connect science topics to real-world applications. The teacher will provide the structure to the project, but students will take an active role in designing and building their own device.

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Total Pages
45 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
50 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
Draw polygons in the coordinate plane given coordinates for the vertices; use coordinates to find the length of a side joining points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths by packing it with unit cubes of the appropriate unit fraction edge lengths, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths of the prism. Apply the formulas 𝘝 = 𝘭 𝘸 𝘩 and 𝘝 = 𝘣 𝘩 to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with fractional edge lengths in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by composing into rectangles or decomposing into triangles and other shapes; apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and solve real world and mathematical problems involving volume.


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