Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Price of Oil

Offshore oil drilling has long been a controversial topic, and the debate ratcheted up a notch when a BP offshore drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last month. At this writing, BP has installed a tube to siphon some of the 210,000 gallons of crude oil that had been spewing into the Gulf each day.

The United States is by far the leading consumer of oil and petroleum products in the world. In 2008, the US consumed about 950 gallons of oil per person. Despite all the discussion over the years of renewable sources of energy, we are still heavily dependent on oil. My picks this week focus on the environmental, social, and economic effects of oil dependency. Many lessons discuss the ecological damage that occurs with each oil spill, as well as the international politics of oil production and consumption. It’s easy, then, for some students to conclude that we should simply reduce our reliance on oil. But what would be the ramifications of drastically reducing our oil consumption? How would we, as a nation and as individuals, fare if there was a sudden shortage of oil? Students need to be able to view both sides of the issue, and wrestle with the complexities presented by the realities of the continued reliance on oil by the US.

The Drill on the Spill: Learning About the Gulf Oil Leak in the Lab
Subjects: Ecology, Life Sciences, Economics
Grade: 6-12
In this lesson, students discuss the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and related cleanup efforts. They conduct experiments to learn more about the effects of oil spills, and apply their findings to the coastal communities in the gulf region. Students also explore the economic and political impacts of the oil spill, as well as the technological progress to date toward stopping the leak. This lesson is from The New York Times Learning Network, which offers free lesson plans and other educational materials based on content that appears in the newspaper. Lessons are aligned to national content standards.

Oil Slick Emergency
Subjects: Ecology, Life Sciences
Grade: 9-12
In this lesson, students determine how best to address an oil slick through either recovery, removal, or dispersion. Not all oil slicks respond to the same treatment, so students assume various role-play guises as an area committee to learn what types of technologies are available for cleaning up the spill. This lesson is a product of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA’s education service offers online case studies, lesson plans, graphics, discovery kits, and other materials that cover ocean-related science topics.

Oil + Water + Wildlife = A Real Mess
Subjects: Ecology, Science, Technology
Grade: 6-8
In 2007, World Without Oil ran an online simulation for students called Oil Crisis: Get Into the Game, where students responded to events caused by a global oil shortage. Although the simulation is over, the lessons still have great relevance. In this lesson, students complete an experiment to show the effects of oil on different animals. What’s neat about this resource is that you can see how your individual state’s standards are addressed in this particular lesson by clicking on the Standards tab and using the pull-down menu.

~Joann's Picks - 5/22/2010~

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