K-12 EDUCATION

Ocean and Oil Spill Technologies

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Lessons

LESSON 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE ARCTIC

Areas located north of the Arctic Circle are known as arctic ecosystems. Arctic ecosystems are characterized by the inability to support tree growth. This is due to the short summers, lack of sunlight, and temperatures below ten degrees Celsius, which prevent trees from completing their annual growth cycle. In addition, the permanently frozen ground (known as permafrost) prevents roots from growing deep enough to absorb water, and the extreme winds would hinder growth, as well. Most plants in the arctic grow low to the ground. Lichen (describing a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga) are abundant here. Animals of the arctic include caribou, reindeer, walrus, polar bears, the arctic hare, and birds such as the arctic tern and the snow goose.

Lesson 1 Files

LESSON 2: WATER PROPERTIES AND OCEAN TECHNOLOGY

The ocean is mostly a vast unknown, offering many exploration opportunities. It provides people with food, work, and travel. The ocean regulates climate and affects immediate weather conditions. Many species make their homes in the ocean, and many natural resources are contained there. Most of the earth’s photosynthesis is carried out by phytoplankton in the ocean, supplying the atmosphere with breathable oxygen.

There are three main properties of water that are important to the study of the ocean: density, water pressure, and buoyancy. Due to the unique properties of water, the study of the ocean requires continuous technological advances. One important development was the ROV, or remotely Operated Vehicle, which takes the place of divers in certain areas because they can go deeper and stay longer.

Lesson 2 Files

LESSON 3: CLIMATE CHANGE AND OIL IN THE ARCTIC

Petroleum, or oil, is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of prehistoric organisms that settled at the bottoms of lakes and oceans millions of years ago.  Petroleum is used to fuel automobiles, heat buildings, pave roads, and make many products such as plastics, medicines, fertilizers, and personal care products. Oil must be drilled directly from underground or under the sea. Many concerns for local ecosystems arise when drilling for oil, particularly in the arctic.

A changing climate is also directly affecting organisms in the arctic, particularly by decreasing the amount of sea ice available. An example of an affected organism is the black guillemot, which finds its food, arctic cod, underneath the sea ice. As sea ice retreats, guillemots must travel farther out over the ocean to find food.

Lesson 3 Files

LESSON 4: OIL SPILL SOURCES AND EFFECTS

Once oil has been extracted from underground, it is transported to a refinery through a pipeline, and then transported to its final destination. Oil can be spilled at any of these steps. Oil spills caused by accidents in moving oil usually involve tankers, barges, pipelines, or storage facilities. A spill may result from carelessness, which was the case in the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 when a tanker collided with Bligh Reef outside of Valdez, Alaska (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council). The Deepwater Horizon spill off the Gulf Coast in 2011 was caused by equipment breakdown (BP) . Other causes could be hurricanes and other natural disasters, terrorist acts, and illegal dumpers; however, most man-made sources of oil in the ocean come from small ships and boats.

Lesson 4 Files

LESSON 5: OIL SPILL CLEANUP

In the event of an oil spill, many members of a coastal community may be involved in the cleanup and recovery of the area. After a spill, oil and waxes stick together and usually float on top of the water, forming a thin layer called a “slick” as they are spread out by winds and currents. There are several methods of oil spill response. Mechanical methods involve a piece of equipment called a boom, which is used to contain the oil in a certain area on the surface of the water and prevent it from spreading. Another piece of response equipment is a skimmer, which separates oil and water. Mechanical skimming is considered to be the method that is least harmful to the environment, but it is also very time consuming and has several steps in which errors could occur. Chemical responses include dispersants, dilution, and solidifiers. Oil may also be removed from the environment by burning in open water areas, shoreline cleanup, and bioremediation, which uses bacteria and microbes to actually consume the oil. Each method has its benefits and potential problems.

Lesson 5 Files

LESSON 6: OIL SPILL RESPONSE/ROV BUILD

A remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, is an unoccupied, submersible vehicle that can be used in deep or shallow underwater applications and is operated by a user above water. They can extend human exploration of ocean areas, especially those that are deep or hazardous, because they can travel deeper and stay underwater longer than human divers. ROV’s may be particularly helpful in Arctic ecosystems, which are dark, remote, and characterized by extreme weather and water covered by ice.

Lesson 6 Files

LESSON 7: JEOPARDY GAME

Review and wrap-up of the other lessons in this curriculum.

Lesson 7 Files

Lesson Plans

LESSON 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE ARCTIC

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LESSON 2: WATER PROPERTIES AND OCEAN TECHNOLOGY

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LESSON 3: CLIMATE CHANGE AND OIL IN THE ARCTIC

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LESSON 4: OIL SPILL SOURCES AND EFFECTS

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LESSON 5: OIL SPILL CLEANUP

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LESSON 6: OIL SPILL RESPONSE/ROV BUILD

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LESSON 7: JEOPARDY GAME

Microsoft Office H2O Lesson 7 Plan
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