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the Zones of the ocean using an oil spill.
Morris, Carrie Shocker
| The lesson will be divided into
three days. The first day, students will learn about the photic, aphotic,
benthic, oceanic, neritic and intertidal zones of the ocean. They
will actively participate in their groups with the teacher discussing
differences that occur in each zone. At the end of the day they will
discuss oil spills and the effects they may have on each of these
zones of the ocean. The second day, they will have the opportunity
to observe the effects by cleaning up an oil spill. They will also
need to discuss in their groups how each zone is effected by the spill.
The third day, the students will give a presentation with their groups
to show what they have learned. The focus of the presentation should
be how the oil effects the zones with little on the best clean up
|The grade level should be
around 6-9th grade. The best size class would be 12 to 28 students.
description or introduction
The scientific principles
that the activity is founded on.
|The ocean is a conglomeration
of a variety of different environments. In each of these environments
the organisms that live there have to be adapted to differences whether
they are temperature, salinity, pressure, light, or the possibility
of drying out. The ocean is divided into six zones to separate regions
of the ocean and to make it easier to define organisms by the different
regions they live in. An oil spill is a catastrophic disaster to a
marine environment. It affects organisms in every zone, even the organisms
in the deep water are affected.
There are three vertical and three horizontal
zones of the ocean.
The three vertical zones are
the photic zone, the aphotic
zone and the benthic zone
The photic zone is where light
penetrates. This accounts for less than 100 meters from the surface.
The only producers are photoplankton.
The aphotic zone is where
there is cold, deep dark water. There is an absence of sunlight
and very high pressures that limits organisms that can live there.
Plants do not grow in this zone because of the absence of sunlight.
In addition to that, there is no ocean floor for the plants to root
into. Organisms that live here eat detritus. This is tiny pieces
of dead organic material that drift down from the surface.
The bottom of the ocean is called the benthic
zone. Organisms in the benthic zone also feed on detritus.
This zone covers the entire ocean floor.
The three horizontal zones
are the oceanic zone, the neritic
zone and the intertidal zone.
The oceanic zone is the largest
zone in the ocean. It consists of 90% of all the surface area of
the World Ocean. Sunlight does not penetrate very deeply into this
zone. The photic zone is where light penetrates. This accounts
for less than 100 meters from the surface. The only producers are
The neritic zone extends out
to the end of the continental shelf. The zone goes down about 500
meters. This is the rainforest of the ocean; it is where most of
the ocean’s organisms live. Coral reefs are formed here. Coral is
alive and receives nutrients from the water. When it dies, new coral
is formed on top of that and the cycle continues. The way reefs
are formed is when the tide is coming in, the coral that is further
out into the ocean receives the nutrients and the coral closer to
the beach doesn’t not get as much and therefore dies.
The intertidal zone is located
along the shoreline. It alternates between periods of exposure and
submersion twice a day. Organisms must learn to survive both conditions
and the constant pounding of the surf. Some attach themselves to
rocks while others burrow in the sand. This zone is surrounded by
wetlands, salt marshes and mangrove swamps.
An oil spill has a profound effect on the ocean. Thirty to forty
percent of the oil evaporates in the first 24-48 hours after the
spill; these are the most poisonous portions, as well as the portions
that are the most soluble, and flammable. Oil tends to float and
spread out into a very thin film on the water surface. It is very
rare for oil to sink. It needs to adhere to heavier particles such
as sand, algae, or silt to sink. One exception to this is a kind
of oil used for burning in electric utility plants. This oil can
actually sink in water since it is heavier than water.
Oil will effect all of the zones and all of the animals in each
zone. It also effects animals that do not live in these zones but
depend on them such as sea birds. It can cover animals preventing
temperature control and coating the detritus with oil which is toxic
to the animals eating the detritus.
If students do not further research on oil spills they will need
to know how response teams really clean up the spill.
- Often they will protect sensitive areas with booms (floating
barriers) and help oiled wildlife by cleaning birds and fur-bearing
mammals with detergent.
- Containment and recovery: Surround the oil with booms and recover
the oil with skimmers. This is the most widely used as it is least
destructive, but it is only 10-15% efficient under even the best
- Sorbents: remove oil with absorbent sponges made from diaper-like
substances. Some sorbents are made form natural materials—straw,
grasses or wood chips.
- Dispersants: These are chemicals that act like detergents to
break oil up into time droplets to dilute the oil’s effect and
to provide bit-sized bits for oil-eating bacteria that occur naturally.
- Burning: Burning is usually 95-98% efficient, but does cause
black smoke. The smoke is not more toxic than if the oil were
burned as intended in fuels.
- Biomediation: Enhancing natural biodegradation by natural oil-eating
bacteria by providing them with needed fertilizers or oxygen.
- Shoreline cleanup: high-pressure hosing to rinse oil back into
water to be skimmed up. This usually does more harm than good
by driving the oil deeper into the beach and by killing every
living thing on the beach. Areas left alone to be weathered by
winter storms were shown to be cleaner and harboring more life
than those cleaned by high-pressure washing.
- Do nothing: Particularly in open ocean spills, cleanup is difficult
and not efficient. Wave action and photo-oxidation (from the sun)
helps to break oil down.
for the activity
time to do the activity
|This activity should last
about one class period per day for 3 days. The oil spill activity
should be done on a block day which is about 90 minutes long.
|Identify the Zones of the Ccean
|Understand the Effects of an Oil
|Promote Environmental Awareness
and the Understanding of the Impact of Oil Spills on the Ocean
Science Education Standards. (NSES)
content standards that this lesson plan covers:
|Content Standard A: Science
as Inquiry Students will try to figure out what zone of the ocean
they are in by looking at overheads. They will need to compare each
one and look at background information. The teacher should not just
tell the students what they are looking at. The students will inquiry
ways to clean up the oil spill. This is also addressed when the students
figure out how the oil will effect each of the zones and the organisms
that live there.
|Content Standard F: Environmental
Quality Students should walk away with and awareness of the effects
of oil spills on the ocean and ocean dependent organisms. We will
also be talking about conservation.
For the first day, the teacher needs to have:
- A modified deck of cards in order to randomly separate the students.
- Colored overheads of the different zones of the ocean. The overheads
need to make it obvious what zone it is representing. For instance,
if talking about the neritic zone, make sure there is coral in
For the second day, you will need for each group: ?
- Paint liner dishes (one for each group of four), these can be
found at any hardware store.
- Blue food coloring. - Can be found at a grocery store
- Clean up supplies such as felt - Can be found at a craft store
- paper towels
- a comb
- Styrofoam cup etc.
Also items to show the effect of the spill such as:
- Feathers- Any pet store will be happy to give these to you
- shells - You get these at a pet store
- seaweed - could be found at a pet store
- plant moss - Could be found at a garden store
- You will also need some vegetable oil and cocoa powder to make
- Have butcher paper and markers ready for when the students start
to work on their presentations. The butcher paper will be used
for poster if the students want to make them.
The only material necessary for the third day might be numbers
to randomly give the groups to see who goes first. However, you
can do that as you desire.
Engage: Overhead activity of zones of the ocean. After students
are put into groups, the teacher should assign jobs to each person.
For instance the “clubs” person, will be the recorder, which means
he or she will write down what the groups observes. Other jobs could
be a materials person, a clean up person and spokes person. Then
the teacher will put on the overhead projector a picture of the
ocean with some fish swimming in it. The picture will be of the
oceanic zone. The students will observe the picture and write down
everything they can about it. They should see how the water is much
lighter on top and progressively gets darker. They should also observe
that you can still see the surface of the water and the fish’s colors
as well as eyes. All this information supports the topic of the
oceanic zone. Seeing the answers each group comes up with will be
a good way to assess their prior knowledge of the subject. After
having each group go around and tell what they have observed, explain
to class exactly what the oceanic zone is. The teacher can also
talk about the photic zone at this time. Do the same thing with
a picture of the aphotic zone. They should take what they learned
from the first observation and use it to observe this picture. They
should be able to compare it to the first one. They should notice
that the background is dark, hence the absence of sunlight. The
fish are not as colorful. There are no plants. The teacher can next
show a picture of the neritic zone. Do not have the class observe
it in such detail. Just have them look at it and ask for volunteers
for observations. By this time, they should know what you are looking
for. Instead of just telling them about this zone, ask questions
and try to have them figure it out themselves. Obviously they will
not get all the information you want them to know so you will have
to do a little lecturing. Draw a picture on the board to demonstrate
where the zones are. This should lead the teacher into a lecture
on the benthic zone. Be sure to be clear that there are no distinct
lines that seperalte these zones. They all blend on with one another
and zones can overlap each other.
Preparation: A modified deck of cards should be ready. The
deck will be modified so that whatever card the students chooses,
is the group he or she is in. For instance, all of the 6's will
be in one group. The colored overheads will need to be already prepared.
The teacher needs to put it into some sort of order so that the
students are better able to understand the concepts. Prepare to
end the zone lecture with 5 minutes left of class. Take these 5
minutes to get the students thinking about the effects of oil spill
on the ocean and how one might clean it up. You can make the oil
spill activity interesting by telling them scary facts about oil
spills. -Every year 100 millions US gallons of oil spill. This is
equal to 100 school gymnasiums. -The biggest oil spill occurred
during the 1991 Persian Gulf war when about 240 million gallons
spilled. - The second biggest happened over a 10-month period when
140 million gallons spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. -Even all the
oil spilled during the Persian gulf spill is only about 1/3 what
the USA uses in ONE day! -The US uses 710 million gallons per day.
Each group will have to bring in at least one item to help clean
up the spill. Remember that the point of the oil spill activity
is not to learn about oil spills and how to clean them up, it is
to emphasize what was learned the day before and to think about
how the spill will effect each zone.
The second day needs the most preparation. All of the materials
need to be in bags for the students, one bag per group. The "oil"
needs to be already made. Combining vegetable oil and cocoa powder
makes this. Have the water and food coloring mixed and stored in
milk jugs or another container for the “ocean”. Have questions prepared
to ask the students. These questions should be geared to keeping
them on track and keeping them thinking about how not only is the
oil effecting the zones of the ocean also how the clean up method
is effecting the zones. Question examples are how would you clean
the oil off of a bird's feather? Does the sorbent you are using
pick up more water than oil? How will the oil effect the coral reefs
in the neritic zone? How will the oil effect the benthic zone?
The last preparation for the day is to have butcher paper and markers
ready for them. This will be for making a poster if they want to
in their presentations. Students should work on the oil spill for
30 –40 minutes and use the rest of class time to put together a
presentation. The third day will require the teacher to somehow
put the groups in order of who will do their presentation. The teacher
should also have some questions prepared to ask the students after
Procedure for the Activity
divide the class into groups of four. If you want this done randomly
use a deck of cards. It should be modified to fit your class. 1.
Once students have gotten into their groups put a picture on the
overhead of a fish swimming in the bright water where you can see
the surface of the water (photic zone). Give them 3 minutes to talk
with groups and write down everything they notice about the picture.
They should notice things like it is light, you can see the surface
of the water, the fish are brightly colored, etc. Go around the
class and have the "club" person of each group state what they observed.
Talk about the photic zone or the oceanic zone. 2. Do the same thing
again with a picture of the aphotic zone. 3. Again, with a picture
of the neritic zone. *Always remember to turn on the lights when
talking to the class, lights being off invites sleepiness and inattentiveness.
Three overheads are enough. You can use others for effect but do
not have them intensively observing too many. The teacher can use
what the students know now to explain the rest of the zones. For
instance, draw a picture on the board of where the zones are and
have them think about and discuss as a class what areas have not
been talked about. 4. This will take 45 minutes of class. Take the
last 5 minutes to start an introduction to oil spills. Ask the students
to think about one thing in the room that is not either made directly
from oil or oil is used in its production. Ask them to talk about
how an oil spill may affect the ocean and what would be a good way
to clean it up. Explain that tomorrow you will bring the ocean and
an oil spill to them and they will need to figure a way to clean
up the oil spill without further harming the ocean. Their groups
will need to bring in something that they think may help clean up
1. Each group will get an "ocean" which is a paint liner with blue
water in it. A paint liner is a great replica of the ocean. The
way it steeps down can be thought of the as the three vertical zones.
Plus the bottom is bumpy, just like the rocks on the bottom for
the ocean. 2. Go around to each group and spill the oil in. You
need to slowly pour it in otherwise it will not work. 3. Give each
group of students the materials needed. Make sure you announce ahead
of time that not only are they supposed to clean up the oil in the
most efficient way, but they are to think about how the oil and
the clean up method is effecting the animals in the different zones
of the ocean. Also make sure they understand that the feather, plants,
seashells etc. are not for a clean-up method, but represent the
life in the ocean. 4. Put some questions on the board that they
will need to answer by the time they are done. An example question
might be if you used soap, what are some problems that might occur.
Does the harm out-weigh the good? Other than the fish, what might
the oil have an effect on? 5. During activity time the teacher needs
to go around and talk to each group to make sure they are on track
and to ask stimulating questions. Students should need only 30-40-
minutes to do this. Have the assigned clean up person from each
group make sure all materials are put in their proper place. This
does not mean the clean up person does all the clean up, it simply
means they are responsible for getting the rest of the group the
help clean and that they are responsible for all missing materials.
6. Explain to the students that the rest of the time will be for
working on their presentation. Presentations will have a time limit;
I would give 6-7 minutes per group. You can add more or less depending
on how many groups you have. It needs to be clear that the presentations
are going to be the main assessment tool. The presentations need
to be creative. They need to include a very short segment on the
best way to clean up the spill. The rest will be dedicated to how
this affects the animals that are dependent on the ocean. Have the
students answer the question you put on the board in their presentations.
1. Randomly assign the groups an order to present in. Ask the students
questions after their presentation just to reinforce that they know
what is going on. Have students’ observing the presentation ask
questions to ensure they were paying attention. After the presentations,
tell all the students to take out a piece of paper and draw a circle
on it. Tell them to divide the circle up into a pie chart of who
did the work. If everybody in the group worked together well and
did the same amount of work, the circle would be divided up into
four even sections each labeled 25% with a student’s name in each
piece of pie.
work sheets, additional web pages
for discussion or conclusion
|Name the 6 zones of the ocean.
| Why might the oil effect
|What would happen to the ocean
if nothing was done to clean up the ocean?
|How is the clean up method
going to affect the ocean?
|The main assessment would be
through the presentations given. The presentations will be graded
on whether or not the students understood the material. They will
have had to answer the questions that the teacher put on the board
so their answers will be part of the grade As a teacher, you will
know from what they say in the presentation how will they understand
what is going on. If they say that oil has little impact on the neritic
zone, then you know the students has no idea what is going on. Part
of the grade will also be group participation. Because we cannot see
exactly who has done what work the students will evaluate their groups
individually using a circle that is divided up by student work. You
could include this material in a quiz or exam given at a later date.
activities which relate to and extend the complexity of the experiment.
|You could assign
some kind of research project that would have the students researching
other problems the ocean is faced with. That is an extremely vast
subject, but it would be interesting what information the students
come back with. Students could research oil spills and find out in
more detail what the affects are on animals and plants dependent on
the ocean. They could also research how oil spills are really cleaned
up. This could used for a great conservation activity. It could lead
to other conversation activities. This could also lead to other activities
that have to do with the ocean and nothing to do with oil and oil
A web address with information on the topic of the activity.
|Castro, Huber. Marine Biology,
The McGraw-Hill Company, Inc. 2000