Saving the Wildlife of the Water

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SWBAT test two different samples of soap and determine which one is best to clean oil from feathers.

Big Idea

Oil spills are devastating for the oceans of the Earth, but more so to the marine life that makes those oceans their homes. This investigation allows students the opportunity to investigate cleaning the feathers of a bird themselves.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

Sadly, oil spills are happening more often then naught.  The animal life that is affected by those oil spills are in danger of loosing their lives.  This lesson came about because of an urgency to help my students see that they have the potential to help save animal life. 

This lesson is more of an independent inquiry lesson and not one that is led by me.  My purpose in this lesson is to see if the carefully laid out lessons before have established enough for the students to begin to work a bit on the independent inquiry continuum.  It is a fact finding lesson for me.  

This lesson follows a lesson on oil spills and their effect on the oceans.  

Materials needed:

tubs with water

vegetable oil


Dawn Dish washing liquid

generic dish washing liquid (preferably a different color)

LOTS of paper towels!!!!!


5 minutes

I direct the children to look at the Can We Save These Animals? presentation on the screen.  Slide one (the title slide) is visible.  The children can read it and instantly will know that there is something good to come.  They should recognize the similarity of this slide to the lesson just prior....oil spills. I purposely used the same background so the children would make the connections of this lesson to the last lesson.

As the children quiet down, I move to slide two which sets the stage for the lesson and the learning.  I read the slide and watch for the reactions of the children.  Because of the previous lesson, the children have a strong sense of the impact oil spills have on the oceans.  The wave lesson also brings in background knowledge that will impact this lesson. The oil is going no where, it will coat the animals and not move.  

Slides three through five explain to the children the objectives for the lesson.  It is a real world scenario setting up the situation of an oil spill in the Puget Sound.  As scientists, it will be our challenge to determine which soap will be best and safest to clean the birds feathers with. I further explain that when they are finished with their investigation, they will need to create a chart and document in whatever fashion they would like what they discovered.  



10 minutes

Once the situation has been set up and established, I explain to the children that I will not be assisting them this time.  

I want to see what they can do during this investigation on their own. This is one of those times, when my intention is to see if the children are able to work through an independent inquiry investigation. I have worked to establish all the pieces and hopefully, it will prove that they are able to do it. My hope is to begin releasing the locust of control in the children's learning. 

I want to see if the children can work together in a team and create their own investigation.  I am watching and listening for conversation that includes a laying out of a plan.  I want to see them discussing and having dialogue about what they should do first and explaining why.  I purposely gave each group two different soaps.  I hope that they will be able to think clearly and realize that they cannot use both soaps at the same time. But one at a time, almost as a changed variable each time.  I don't expect them to use these words.  More the thinking process to work logically and methodically. 

I circulate throughout the classroom as the children begin working through their ideas and processes. If I find groups that seem to be stumbling, I will ask any or all of these questions. 

  • "Where are in your plan?"  
  • "Do you feel successful with the work you have done up to this point?"
  • "Explain to me what you have discovered so far?" 



10 minutes

I wait until it appears that all the groups have completed their work and then I get their attention with the bell.  Once the ringing of the bell is heard, the children all stop and wait to hear the directions.  I explain that it is time for them to make a their chart to document their discoveries. 

I am navigating and wandering through the classroom making my own observations about the learning I have I have just seen. I am hoping that the children will incorporate some of the strategies for documenting that I have utilized in previous lessons.  

If I see teams writing in a list format, I will know that the charts have not been internalized enough for those students. If I do see charts being used, I will also know that these students are organizing their ideas and discoveries in a logical way to use for communication.