Addressing the BP Oil Spill

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred during my kindergarten practicum placement.  Due to time constraints, I was unable to address the complications of the oil spill with my students.  I've created a lesson I would've led with my students, in connection with the Three R's and the effects of such a disaster.

After reading Melvin Berger's Oil Spill, I'd create a web with students about the impacts of an oil spill on the environment, animals, humans, and the economy.  Next, I'd present a slideshow from Planet Green with photographs from the BP Oil Spill.  Students will select a photograph of interest to them, and write a descriptive poem about what they see.  The last line of each poem will connect to the Three R's and what we can do to help the disaster efforts and prevention of another environmental crisis.

Students will share these poems with one another.  In addition, the poems will be on display on the kindergarten bulletin board in the hallway.

Other connections to the BP Oil Spill:
- Google Earth superimposes the oil spill on major world cities, including your own:
- Video of oil spilling into the ocean:
NY TIMES - Underwater Video Shows Oil Gushing From Damaged Pipe into Gulf

Photo Credit: NY Times, 2010

Time Needed: 40 minutes

Essential Questions:

-        Why is it important to reduce, reuse, and recycle?  How do these actions impact our environment, wildlife, and well being?

-       How can we adjust our habits to help the Earth?

-       What can we do to tell others about the importance of the three R's and preserving our world?


I.     Affective

·      SWBAT comfortably participate throughout the entirety of the lesson.

·      SWBAT sympathize with the concerns of those living in the Mississippi delta.

II.   Cognitive

·      SWBAT analyze the impacts of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

·      SWBAT locate the Gulf of Mexico on a map of the United States.

·      SWBAT write a descriptive poem about a photograph from the spill.

Materials Needed:

  • Oil Spill by Melvin Berger
  • Photographs from the BP Oil Spill
  • Newspaper articles concerning the BP Oil Spill
  • Poem paper
  • Pencils
  • Chart paper and markers
Lesson Context:

Students have just completed a writing workshop on poem writing.  In addition, they have been learning about the Three R's and the global impact of our actions on the environment. 

Lesson Opening:

I'll begin the lesson with a read aloud of Melvin Berger's Oil Spill.  Following this reading, students will help me in creating a web of the impacts an oil spill makes upon animals, the environment, humans, and the economy.  Also on this web will be connections to solutions involving the Three R's (Reduce the amount of gas we use by biking and walking more often, etc.) and what we can do to help the disaster efforts and prevent another crisis.


1)    Next, I'll ask students if they are familiar with the BP Oil Spill that has occurred recently.  I'll ask students to share what they know to the class.

2)    I'll read short snippets/paraphrase from various newspaper articles about the BP oil spill, in order to give students a sense of the severity of the disaster.

3)    Using the classroom map, I'll locate the Gulf of Mexico, and outline the area of the oil spill and what portions of the coastline are in danger.

4)    As a class, we'll watch a slideshow from Planet Green, which features photographs from the spill.  Pictures include distraught fishermen whose fishing areas are now in danger of being contaminated, birds who are covered in oil, turtles along an oily beach, and oil in the ocean.

5)    Each student will select a picture as the basis for their poem.  Students are familiar with writing a poem about 'anything', but I will model the process for this particular activity with the whole class.  We'll select a picture, and write a poem with the following firestarters in mind:

-       What do you see?

-       Where is this happening?  (in the water, on the beach, somewhere else)

-       How does this picture make you feel?

-       What can we do to help? (reduce, reuse, recycle) **

            ** Each poem should have an offered solution or suggestion


Assessment for this lesson will be an evaluation of students' ability to articulate (verbal or written) the impact of the oil spill on the environment, animals, or our human lives.  I'm concerned with the students' ability to recognize that the three R's are an important part in preserving our planet.

Special Considerations:

Some students have demonstrated difficulty in writing poetry, so I will be sure to model the poem writing process carefully.  I've also provided guidelines/firestarters for the poem, which are not required, but I've offered to help students in the writing process.

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