George Lucas Educational Foundation

Gulf Oil Spill

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The spill in the gulf (unfortunately) offers a number of learning opportunities and investigative projects. What are you doing in your classroom to teach about the oil spill in the Gulf? What resources have you found to be most useful for teachers, parents, and students to help them learn about it?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture

Thanks for sharing that NBC video, Elana - Barry and his kids are absolutely heroes in my book. Here's a great list of links to students on the front lines of environmental defense.

We also published an article when an oil spill happened in the San Francisco Bay in 2007: Unplanned Lesson: An Outdoor Project Reacts to Oil Spill.

And finally, a link to a NatGeo lesson plan for 3rd - 5th graders on cleaning up wildlife after oil spills, similar to what you see Barry and his kids doing in the NBC video.

You can find even more in this round-up of oil spill resources from Associated Press.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I came across this email from a list serve that I am on and thought it was worth posting it out to our community. Although they're looking for those with technical expertise (perhaps create an after school club on Drupal!) , I'm sure if you don't have those specific skill sets, there will be ways to get involved:

I am looking for volunteer collaborators to help update to be a clearinghouse for ways for people to find training and work cleaning up the gulf oil spill. (Read the backstory at the bottom of this message for how and why I came to this project last night.)

Please let me know if you or someone you know have some web dev or design savvy you can lend to the project. I'm thinking a Drupal site and blog could do it, though it could get more involved. I have the content creation/editing side of things pretty much covered, and the marketing and advocacy side of things are pretty clear to start.

The site would have three areas:
1. Cleanupjobs Clearinghouse
Similar to the site's functionality now - be a central place for information about how to help and get training and work cleaning up the coastline and wildlife. List places to get free training, list cleanup jobs available, post availability, link to other resources.

2. Advocacy
Make it possible for people to tell Washington, state representatives, and BP to make this a large-scale funded work program. Make the training free for anyone who wants to help. Make sure the workers get paid a living wage and adequate safety precautions and health care. Post some petitions, Facebook pages, Meetups, and other ways to contact representatives and get involved.

3. Blog and social media, and other ways to help
Updates about the cleanup. For people that can't physically get down there to help, list all of the ways they can help from home. Point to any and all organizations that are raising money for this issue. Facebook and other social media, Kickstarter (if necessary, I think this will be a largely volunteer effort), etc.

So if you are a developer or designer and can lend a hand to get this site updated, please get in touch ASAP! Email me: or call (415)533-5797. Thanks!

Backstory: last night I had an episode of bad news overload (again), especially about the oil spill. I was so sad and frustrated, I tried to go to sleep, but couldn't stop feeling horrified by's picures of oiled birds, and the staggering lack of and unpaid, ineffectively managed cleanup crews. And if you're on the Atlantic coast, it could be coming your way soon and it will likely be trouble for a generation or more. At the same time, there scores of people unemployed in this country, and as of today it's not getting better. (Yes I've been reading Huff Post too much lately.)

Going over and over this again in my head, needing to do something, I got up and looked up what it would take for me to actually go down there myself to volunteer to help, get hazmat training, etc. This is clearly not my expertise, and it's obviously not that easy to do cleanup, for environment or for wildlife. To really do beach/marsh cleanup safely, you need a 40-hour hazmat certification, something called HAZWOPER. This seems to cost at least $200 in most places, though some places it is being offer for free for the cleanup. I imagine training is also necessary for animal rescue.

So then I thought - why not start a program to provide free training and living-wage jobs to people who want to go clean up in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and beyond? And force BP to pay for it? A corporate-funded public works program if you will. I know there are a myriad of management issues involved, but I think it could be done.

Paid brown jobs (like a green job, only dirtier). I immediately thought of would be a good URL. But is better. I went to the URL and saw that it was used as a site to help people find work doing Katrina response! I contacted the owner, Paul Miller, and he replied right away as he wants to update the site for the spill response but is not available to do so now. As you can see at the site, it could use an updating to a more modern platform, design, etc. He had good success with it during Katrina, but this is a much larger effort and needs a much more comprehensive site (I also now own

Thanks for reading. I know this is arriving in many of your inboxes well after the workday on Friday, but I would appreciate any offers, forwards, leads, ideas, etc. Please especially feel free to let me know if you think this is crazed or misinformed. But I just have to do something and I thought this would put my skills and that of the nptech community here to good use.

Please let me know ASAP if you or someone you know can help. Please feel free to forward!

Many thanks,

Camron Assadi
twit: @teiwaz

Lora Ma-Fukuda's picture
Lora Ma-Fukuda
mom & former exec producer

This is a great site, and while you won't find lesson ideas, I found a "challenge" from InnoCentive they are promoting:

InnoCentive is offering a prize for ideas to help solve this environmental crisis. Deadline is June 30th.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Just heard this horrible fact on the gulf's current oil crisis.

If we can't do anything about this physically now, we need to educate our future generation to make sure something like this never happens again. Are any of you using this crisis to educate your classes?

Thanks for listening -- just got very fired up about this catastrophic event.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Great resource that I just came across via Twitter:

Here's an excerpt:
"The oil spill is all over the news (for good reason), social media, and pretty much every other communication channel. It's important to inform students what is going on. What's a teacher to do? EduDemic has developed this helpful list of 50 resources for teachers, students, and pretty much anyone looking to learn more about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

andrea johnson's picture

Hi, i used to be a chemist on drilling rigs before I began teaching and I have worked offshore a couple of times. I did a research project dealing with the spill and was able to add real world experience to the project. It was very engaging for the students and they were excited when they hear and a saw it on the news.

Lois Curry's picture
Lois Curry
Guidance Counselor

As a school guidance counselor I have been teaching lessons on the Six Pillars of Good Character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Citizenship, Responsibility, Fairness, Care) and within those lessons I try to show the strong connections between those qualities, our thoughts and feelings. I want to help my students understand how the oil spill will effect us directly and indirectly. What we can do to help without creating more anxiety or fear within their lives. I have observed that since 9/11; Hurricaine Katrina; "The (ongoing) War" and the slow economy there is a higher level of fear and anxiety within in them. I want the children to be mindful and sensitive to the world around them. Any suggestions?

Kelly Tenkely's picture

How about allowing students to create a mini version of the oil spill and then come up with their own solutions for how it might be stopped? This would give students more understanding about the spill itself, and give them the opportunity to dream up possible solutions. This would give students a sense of control and help them to understand that action will cause change. We need students to help students step out of the fear and anxiety to and offer it to them as a puzzle to solve, involve them in the process of coming up with a solution.

Justine Hargreaves's picture
Justine Hargreaves
Product Manager at Delta Education

Shoreline Science is a unique hands-on inquiry and integrated Disciplinary Literacy unit for grades 2-4 that can give teachers the tools they need to gain experience and gather evidence on concepts and topic related to shoreline ecosystems and human impact of the environment. For example the causes of erosion, what aquatic animals need to survive and a case study of an oil tanker spill off the coast of Spain.
You can find more information at:

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Just came across this really interesting article via ABC News,"Educators Using Gulf Oil Spill as a "Teachable Moment""

Here's an excerpt:

"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.
Images of Tony Hayward on his yacht draw more outrage from Gulf residents.

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. "

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