What Is Oil Really Like?
Adapted from 4th R Recycling Curriculum, by San Francisco Recycling Program, San Francisco, CA
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CONCEPT: What are the properties of motor oil and what effect does oil have on the environment.
OBJECTIVE: To discover the properties in motor oil and see how it reacts when it is put in contact with other natural resources such as water, soil, and plants.
* motor oil in 35mm film container (caution: could be harmful if improperly
* jars of water
* ceramic bowls with soil in them
* small plants in pot
* feathers
KEYWORDS: oil, properties
BACKGROUND: Millions of gallons of used motor oil are drained from family cars and disposed of each year. The oil is dumped into storm drains, on vacant lots, and into trash cans. This is an incredible waste of a potentially useful resource that is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. When improperly disposed, oil can have negative environmental and health effects.
Explain that in this lesson we will discover the properties of oil (what oil is like and what it does when it is used with other things). We will do three experiments. We want to observe what oil does when it comes in contact with water, soil, and plants. Divide the children into small groups. Each group should record their observations regarding:
1. oil with water
2. oil with soil
3. oil with plants
4. oil with animals (bird feathers)


Have each group choose a secretary to record the observations. Each group receives a small film canister with oil, a jar with water, a bowl of soil, and a seedling or plant.
Discuss the findings. Elicit summaries of the students' observations, and post them on the board. After a week, the OIL WITH PLANTS experiment will be completed. Add those findings to the dittoes posted on the board.
FOLLOW-UP: Discuss the following questions:
* How many of you have family cars? Have you seen people adding oil to their cars at the curbside? Have you seen empty cans of oil in the gutter?
* What happens to motor oil when you pour it on the ground, in the sewer, or in the trash can?
* How can we solve the used oil problem? How can we keep used motor oil out of the environment?
* Will your local gas station or recycling center accept used oil?
If they don't, why not?
How can you convince them to recycle used motor oil?
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