Science Activity
Creating and Cleaning up an Oil Spill

Purpose: To create an oil spill on the seashore and investigate different methods of cleaning it up


sand (fine) food coloring
liquid detergent.....4-8 popsicle sticks
kitty litter............baking powder
talcum powder......medicine dropper
blue food coloring..strainer or net
cotton balls..........large rubber band
string................25 mL of vegetable oil (or oil from a gas station)
feather...............straw (or fan) for waves
stream table or large shallow pan & water


How does the oil spill behave in water?....Did it stay in one place?
2. What happens to objects when they are dipped into the oil in the water?
3. How is the feather changed by the contact with the oil?
4. Which methods worked best in containing or removing the oil?
5. What effect did the liquid detergent have when it came in contact with the oil?
6. What effect did the "oil spill" have on the seashore?
7. What effect did the waves have on the spill?
8. What did you do that made the spill spread?.....What conditions were you simulating?

Extension Activity
Cleaning the animals:
put some salad oil on donated, stuffed animals and try various methods to clean it off.

Student Pages

Authors: Jill Mueller ( and Pat Pentek ( West Chicago Middle School, West Chicago, Illinois . Created: Fall 1996 Updated December 14, 1996.
Created for The Fermilab LInC sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office , and Friends of Fermilab and the Illinois State Board of Education.