Submitted by: Rebekka Stasny

Grade Levels: 3-5

In this water pollution lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3 to 5, students use BrainPOP resources to determine causes of ocean oil spills and explore how birds, marine mammals, and fish are affected by oil spills. Students will also identify ways to clean the water and animals after an oil spill, and create a public awareness poster of the effects of oil spills in the ocean and ways to help keep the oceans


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Determine causes of ocean oil spills.
  2. Describe how birds, marine mammals and fish are affected by oil spills.
  3. Identify ways to clean the water and animals after an oil spill.


  • Access to BrainPOP
  • Access to Microsoft Publisher
  • Copies of downloadable resources below
  • Feathers from a bird
  • Dawn Dish Soap
  • Ivory Soap
  • Water
  • Motor Oil


pollution; adaptations


Students will explore possible cause and effects of oil spills in the ocean. Students will conduct an experiment where they will feel the effects of an oil spill first hand, determine environmental problems that are caused by oil spills, determine effective ways in cleaning wildlife that has been affected by oil spills, and create public awareness posters to help keep ocean wildlife healthy. Prepare materials so that each group of students has all of the required materials.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Have the students watch the Brainpop movie Water Pollution. Use BrainPOP's interactive features (Activity Pages, Related Reading, Experiment, Quiz) before, during, or after the movie to enhance the lesson.
  2. After the students have completed watching the movie, ask them to brainstorm about what they know about oil spills, where the oil might come from and possible effects that it can have on the ocean and the wildlife living there.
  3. Explain the Dirty Birdies Activity (downloadable below) to the students.
  4. Break the class into small groups and provide each group with materials and a Dirty Birdies Observation Sheet.
  5. Have the students complete the Dirty Birdies Activities by following the directions on the Dirty Birdies Activity Sheet.
  6. After the students have completed their Dirty Birdies Activity Sheet, discuss the results of the activity and which of the cleaners cleaned the oil off of the feather the best.
  7. Have the students complete a Public Awareness Poster about the possible environmental effects that oil can have on the water and the animals that live on or in the ocean.

Extension Activities:

The Dirty Birdies Activity Sheet provides the lab instructions and activities for the students to complete while they are conducting the activity. BrainPOP Jr. and BrainPOP both have suggested extension activities for home and school to check out!

Downloadable Resources: