Ocean in a Bottle

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In this activity, learners consider how oil spills behave in the ocean and what impact they have on marine wildlife. Learners build and observe a model of an oil spill using simple materials, then discuss how real waves and oil spills affect marine wildlife caught in the spill areas. This activity also encourages learners to try the 4-H Home Water Audit (see related resource) with their families.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 Recycled 16-20 oz water bottle per learner
  • 5 Bottles of vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Pitcher
  • 5 Bottles of blue food coloring
  • 5 Funnels
  • Dry-erase marker
  • 5 Rulers (inches)
  • Watch with secondhand
  • access to water


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Human Impact
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • Toyota