100 Days of Science # 94 & #95 Oil Spill & Water Filtration Experiments

My boys love hands on projects and activities and I saw a few experiments about keeping our waters clean that I thought would be great.

First up we tried our hand at cleaning up an oil spill.  I gave each boy a container of water, some cotton balls, a paper towel, some "oil," and a spoon.

They then poured the "oil" into each container of water (Our oil was made by whisking together cocoa powder and vegetable oil).

I asked them to clean it up-- all of it if they could.

They tried soaking up the oil with cotton balls... and found that water always came up with it.

They tried spooning the oil off the top.. but again ended up removing a lot of water..

We talked about how the oil spreads, breaks apart, and in general is tough to control.

It took them a long time and they never really got the water that clean!

We talked about what happened when we tried to scoop up or absorb the oil, how plant and animal life would be affected, what would happen if the oil spilled on land, etc.

We looked up a few videos and articles on how oil spills are contained and what they cost to clean up.  It was a great science lesson!

We then moved onto a water filtration experiment.

We gathered a jar of water from the lake (with a bit of sediment from the lake too) and filled two cups; one with sand and one with gravel.

We prepared our aquifer by lining a plastic cup with coffee filters, sand, and gravel.  We poked a small hole in the bottom and placed our aquifer over another clean jar.

Then we shook up our jar of lake water so we had really cloudy, muddy water to being with and poured it into our aquifer.  Watching to see what the water looked like as it came out the bottom.

We were surprised at how clean the water looked... we talked about how the rocks, sand, and filter only keep sediment out of the water but does not necessarily screen out toxins, bacteria, and other things that might make us sick.

We decided to make another aquifer and try screening out the oily water to see if that would clean it up better...

The water did come out nice and clean!

But we pulled out the liner to see all the "oil" that was left behind on the land..  it was really dirty!

Others in this series:
58.  Exploding Snow and Water Baggies 
59.  Exploring Properties of Minerals
60.  Visiting the Hartford Science Museum
61- 63.  3 Difference Bridge Challenges
64.  Making Models of the Earth's Layers 
65.  Graham Cracker Plate Tectonics 
66.  Homemade Lava Lamps
67.  Movies We're Watching for Science
68.  Index Card Tower Challenge 
69.  Learning Botany at the Botanical Gardens
70.  Board Games for Science
71.  Homemade Frozen Yogurt Pops
72.  Starburst Rock Cycle 
73.  & 74.  Making Marshmallows Sink and Grow
75. Jumping Conversation Hearts
76-78.  Making Paper Airplanes 3 Different Ways 
79.  Learning About Hummingbirds
80.  Planting an Herb Garden
81.  Mushroom Spores
82.-84.  Penny Saturation Experiment
85.  Sink or Float?
86.  Disappearing and Re-Appearing Ink
87.  Sediment Layer Jars 
88.  Tie Dye Science 
89-91 DNA Experiments
92.  Making Homemade Butter
93.  Floating Marker Art


  1. That's a really neat activity. Wow, it's tough to clean up oil (not such a good thing for our oceans).

    1. It really is; we thought it was going to be so much easier than it was.

  2. ...40 some odds years ago I worked for a company that made an oil absorption product made of corn corns. I'm not sure is they still do.

    1. That's neat! We watched a few videos to try and see what they use now.

  3. What a great hands on experiment! And an exercise in PATIENCE!


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