Developed by: Catherine R. Ney
Adapted from:  Project WILD
Subject:  Life Science
Grades: Middle grades:  4-8
Type: Structured Experiment

Effects of Pollution on Waterfowl

 1. To identify ways oil spills affect birds.
 2. To experiment with different cleaning solutions.
 3. To assess the effectiveness of various-cleaning solutions in cleansing contaminated birds.

 Bird feathers (four per group)
 Hand lens
 Motor oil
 Dish detergent, ammonia, lighter fluid, and vinegar
 Styrofoam-meat containers (five per group)

 1. Divide students into groups of four.  Distribute one feather to each team member.
 2. Students examine a feather with a hand lens.  They sketch their observations.
 3. Distribute one styrofoam container to each group.  Fill it with water.  Add one tablespoon of motor oil.
 4. Discuss what happened to the oil.  Does it stay in one place?  What do you think happens when a oil-tanker spills at sea?
 5. Groups place their feathers in the oil.  Examine again with the hand lens. Compare with previous sketch.  Discuss results.
 6. Discuss how feathers can be restored.  Pour one tablespoon of each cleaning fluid (dish detergent, lighter fluid, ammonia, and vinegar) into one of four styrofoam containers for each group. Label each container.
 7. Group members each place one feather in a different cleaning fluid. Rinse in water and dry each feather.
 8. Examine the feather for oil residue.  Compare feathers.  Which are restored, lacking oil or cleaning fluids?  Which feather floats the best?  Why is this important? (The natural oils insulate and protect birds from the cold water.)
 9. Research how waterfowl and other wildlife are cleaned following an oil spill. Groups present.

 1. Check students' sketches (before, during, and after a simulated-oil spill).
 2. Examine students' feathers (before, during, and after a simulated-oil spill).
 3. Assess group presentation on methods of cleaning up after an oil spill.