Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

To obtain kit materials, visit our online store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 learners.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit.  Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Tehya and her friend Sam are members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. One day, while taking photos along the Elwha River, they make a scary discovery. Oil is coating the surface of the river, harming ducks, muskrats, plants and other organisms. The river is a valuable ecosystem, but also much more--it holds special meaning for Tehya and all of the tribe. Tehya and Sam volunteer to work with local environmental engineers on the oil spill cleanup. Can Tehya’s photos--and her knowledge of the river--help engineers design a process for cleaning the river?

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Tehya’s Pollution Solution Storybook / Grade 5 / Lauderhill, FL
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EiE - A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

How does Christina set the stage for the reading of Tehya’s Pollution Solution?

Christina has students share their prior knowledge about the role of environmental engineers. Christina also has students think about the characters, setting and plot of the story.

  • Before reading, Christina has students write down what they think environmental engineers do. Then she reads some of the responses out loud so students can hear their peers’ ideas. (0:20-1:07)
  • Christina locates Washington State on the U.S. map to help students appreciate the setting of the story. (1:15-158)
  • Christina has students use a tree map to bring attention to the story’s characters, plot, and problem. (2:05-2:20)

How does Christina use the story to reinforce the steps of the Engineering Design Process with her students?

Christina reinforces steps of the EDP by having students review the process that Tehya went through in the book.

  • In small groups, students look to the text for evidence that Tehya used the Engineering Design Process to come up with a solution to the oil spill. (7:30 -7:53)
  • Students share out specific examples of how Tehya used the EDP (7:53-8:30).
  • Finally, Christina goes through each step of the EDP and asks the whole class to reflect on the story. (8:33-8:54)
Tehya’s Pollution Solution Storybook / Grade 5 / Tucson, AZ
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OIL SPILLS Lesson 1 RKS Tech Edit

Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Sandy using to build students’ understanding of environmental engineering before, during, and after reading?

Sandy activates students’ prior knowledge before reading and allows time for students to reflect on what they have learned from the book.

  • To assess prior knowledge before reading, Sandy has each student post a sticky note in response to the questions, “What is an environmental engineer? What does an environmental engineer do?” (1:24)
  • After reading chapter 5 of the book, Sandy leads a discussion about what the students have learned so far from their reading about oil spills and environmental engineers. (4:24)
  • After discussing the changes that occur in an ecosystem over time, Sandy reinforces the idea that environmental engineers work to clean up oil spills and protect ecosystems. (3:32)

How does Sandy’s method of reading the storybook with the class encourage student engagement?

Sandy’s read-aloud procedure helps all children access the material and develop their skills as active listeners.

  • Sandy has provided each student with their own copy of Tehya’s Pollution Solution. (1:34)
  • Individual students take turn reading sections of the book out loud while small groups listen and follow along. (2:09)
  • After every few paragraphs, students review what they have read with their peers. One student summarizes the main points and others add to or agree with the summary provided. (6:12, 6:30)

Students think like environmental engineers as they investigate the source of pollution in a fictional town.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Enviro-Mystery / Grade 5 / Lauderhill, FL
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EiE - A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

In what ways does Christina help her students self-identify as engineers?

Christina uses the word “engineer” frequently. She refers to her students as engineers and uses the verb “engineer” to describe what they are doing.

  • When introducing the unit, Christina explains to the class, “Now you guys, as environmental engineers, are here to solve a problem.” (0:20)
  • The Mayor of Greentown addresses the students in his letter as environmental engineers (0:32), and Christina also calls her students environmental engineers. (2:12)
  • Having students wear safely goggles during the lesson reinforces Christina’s message that her students are engineers. (3:58)

How does studying pH levels prepare students to think like engineers?

Studying pH levels helps students think about the overall work of environmental engineers and some of the tests they conduct.

  • Testing and recording the pH levels in environmental samples gives students the opportunity to engage in the practices of engineering. (4:38)
  • Comparing the pH levels from 5 years ago with pH data from today allows students to contemplate the source of pollution and its impact over time. (5:51)
Enviro-Mystery / Grade 5 / Tucson, AZ
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Oil Spills Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

How does Lesson 2 prepare the students to think like environmental engineers?

The pH testing procedure serves as a tool to help the students figure out the source of pollution in Greentown. The results of each test are combined to help students create an explanation of what is happening in the whole town.

  • Because each group has the chance to test their own soil or water sample, they acquire the hands-on knowledge of the pH testing procedure engineers might use. (5:27)
  • Each group contributes their findings to a class chart, which reinforces the idea that engineers work in teams. (6:48–7:22)
  • Finally, the class concludes that pollution in one area affects the surrounding areas, developing a deeper appreciation for complex environmental problems. (7:48) 

What evidence do you see that Sandy’s students have been taught the norms and expectations for group work?

Sandy’s students understand the value of teamwork and readily share materials. They have learned to listen well and support each other’s ideas.

  • When asked to discuss what they think might be causing the problems in Greentown, all three member of the team are able to contribute ideas and listen to each other. (2:04)
  • When testing the environmental samples with pH strips, students demonstrate their experience handling and sharing materials. (5:30)
  • Before writing anything down, student teams share and evaluate possible responses to the journal questions. (5:57)

Students perform controlled experiments to identify effective materials and methods for cleaning an oil spill.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
A Slick Idea / Grade 5 / Lauderhill, FL
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EiE- A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

How does studying ecosystems prepare students for the Oil Spill challenge?

By understanding how plants and animals are connected through ecosystems, students can start to think like environmental engineers by recognizing the effects of pollution on many different forms of life.

  • Students begin the lesson by studying the food web from the storybook to see how different plants and animals in the Pacific Northwest are connected. (0:40-1:33)
  • Christina has students physically create their own food web in order to understand how all the parts of an ecosystem are connected. (4:50-6:18) 

What evidence do you see that the students are beginning to understand that all materials have different properties that can help or hinder the process of cleaning up an oil spill?

Students test their tools and compare and contrast the effectiveness of each tool in cleaning up the oil. They imagine which tools would work together most effectively when combined.

  • Students in one group are surprised when the spoon they predicted would remove the oil was ineffective. (8:20-8:37)
  • Christina has the class rate the ability of the materials to contain or remove the oil based on their observations. This allows the class to see the calculated data of the materials and show which materials were the most and least effective at cleaning up the oil. (8:55-10:31) 
A Slick Idea / Grade 5 / Tucson, AZ
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EiE- A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

How does Sandy encourage her students to think critically about how an oil spill might affect an ecosystem?

Sandy uses a food web model to demonstrate the connections between different components of an ecosystem.  Throughout the lesson, she also asks her students relevant and pointed questions.

  • Sandy begins the lesson by asking students what’s important to know about the ecosystem where the oil spill takes place, guiding them to provide thoughtful answers. (0:54)
  • Sandy reinforces her students’ understanding of the purpose of the food web activity by posing the question, “Why do you think this is called a food web?” (2:31)
  • Sandy wraps up the food web activity by asking her students why they think it’s important to clean up oil spills. (4:05)

Where in this lesson do you notice students begin to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different materials and methods used to clean an oil spill?

Through hands-on exploration and controlled experimentation, students authentically evaluate the materials, tools, and methods used for containing and cleaning an oil spill. 

  • After making predictions, students test the rubber band and record their results. (7:09–7:46)
  • A student tests the sponge’s absorbency and realizes that the sponge “absorbed it a lot.” (8:00)
  • After testing the nylon’s absorbency, students discover that it “didn’t even work.” (8:22)
  • Students share the advantages and disadvantages of the materials they tested. (10:31)

Students apply their knowledge of ecosystems and environmental engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own process for cleaning an oil spill.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Cleaning an Oil Spill / Grade 5 / Lauderhill, FL
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EiE - A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

Working with water and other “spillable” materials can quickly become messy. What preparations has Christina made in order to efficiently manage materials?

Christina organizes the model river materials, pre-pours water, and coordinates the testing of oil.

  • Christina covers each table with plastic wrap to contain any messes the water and oil may cause. (2:29)
  • Christina has students come to the front of the room to purchase their materials and tools. This limits confusion and keeps the groups and materials organized. (6:06)
  • Christina uses pre-measured cup samples of water for each group to use in their model. (6:44)
  • Christina hands each table a bowl for waste. This helps keep clean up organized and contained. (6:38)

How does Christina cover each step of the EDP while teaching this lesson?

Christina uses EiE handouts, group discussions, and some of her own activities to help reinforce the EDP.

  • Christina spells out each step of the EDP and asks students how they will use the steps in their lesson. (0:52-1:12)
  • Christina explains to the class how they are applying the EDP as they explore ways to clean up the oil spill. (4:18-4:47)
  • Christina gives students a chance to redesign their cleanup process through the improve step of the EDP. Students fill out a worksheet to reflect on what they have done and how they will improve upon the process. (11:39-14:30)
Cleaning an Oil Spill / Grade 5 / Tucson, AZ
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Oil Spills Lesson 4 Sandy Shiffman

Reflection Questions

What support strategies does Sandy provide as her students make their way through the Engineering Design Process?

Sandy uses EiE handouts, group discussions, and the storybook to help reinforce the Engineering Design Process.

  • At the beginning of the lesson, Sandy reminds students of the Engineering Design Process that Tehya used in the story they read. (1:07)
  • Sandy has compiled all of the handouts from Lesson 4 into a STEM folder that helps students keep track of the multiple components of the EDP, including a second copy of the Plan sheet that students use to help them improve (8:50).
  • Sandy has her students complete each step of the Engineering Design Process by filling out the notebook pages in detail and in order. (1:30, 3:34, 5:07, 5:52, 8:25)

What kinds of things has Sandy done to help reduce the confusion and mess that this unit might create in the classroom?

Sandy has spent considerable time preparing materials and has developed an organized procedure for distributing them to students.

  • Students collect testing tools and clean-up materials from a table that is well organized and staffed by an adult volunteer. (3:49)
  • During the Create step of the Engineering Design Process, Sandy has covered a set of desks with a waterproof tablecloth. (6:19)
  • Sandy has prepared an Oil Evaluator Tool for each group of students to calculate the size of oil drops in the water, and she has cut brown paper bags into sheets that students can use to evaluate oil on the shoreline. (7:55)