Spill Spread


Spill Spread

In this simulation, learners explore how ocean currents spread all kinds of pollution—including oil spills, sewage, pesticides and factory waste—far beyond where the pollution originates. Learners create an experimental “ocean” (water in a tray) and “continents” (rocks), then add melting ice cubes to create temperature-driven currents in the water. Learners observe how “pollution,” represented by food coloring, spreads through the model ocean affected by both “currents” and “continents.” This activity can be used with lessons on ocean science or environmental hazards.

Materials List:

  • Clear, shallow tray or salad container (1½” to 2” deep)

  • Water

  • 2 rocks (about ¼ size of a brick) or upside down coffee cups

  • Food coloring (blue, red, yellow, green)

  • One large ice cube or several small ones

  • Newspaper

  • Measuring cup


Topics: Earth & Space Science, Rivers, Lakes, Oceans & Water, Chemistry, Nature & Environment, Ecology, The Scientific Process

Grade Level: Grades 3 - 8

Activity Type: Model, Simulation

Preparation Time: Under 5 minutes

Activity Time: 10 - 30 minutes