2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Oil cleanup on the beach
Photo Credit: NOAA
The tragic explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that occurred on April 20, 2010, sent 185 million gallons (five million barrels) of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of the next 86 days. A year later, cleanup efforts in Gulf communities continue, and the effect on marine and marshland wildlife and ecosystems remain uncertain. While the environmental and economic fallout from this spill will take years to tally completely, its ultimate impact still depend on a long list of interlinked variables, including the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved, microbes in the ocean, and the mixed success of efforts to stanch the flow and remediate its effects.

Science NetLinks offers the following educational materials that you may find useful for incorporating this environmental tragedy into your classroom.
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  • Making Good Decisions

    Making Good Decisions

    K-2  |  Website
    In this lesson, students practice balancing different interests involved in solving social problems, looking for the most realistic solution.
  • Introducing Biodiversity

    Introducing Biodiversity

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    This lesson introduces students to the amazing variety of life around them.
  • Ecosystem Services - Water Purification

    Ecosystem Services - Water Purification

    In this interdisciplinary lesson, students explore the concept of ecosystem services by investigating natural water purification in their home watershed.
  • Oceans


    6-8  |  Hands-On
    This lesson helps students obtain a better perception of earth's oceans and to understand earth's water cycle.
  • Technology and Oil

    Technology and Oil

    6-8  |  Interactive
    This lesson demonstrates how much our society depends on petroleum products and shows how advances in technology have allowed us to find, obtain, and transport oil more efficiently.
  • The Chernobyl Disaster

    The Chernobyl Disaster

    In this lesson, students explore how a nuclear accident can affect biological systems.
  • The Invisible Kingdom

    The Invisible Kingdom

    9-12  |  Video
    This lesson helps students develop an understanding of the characteristics and diversity of microbial life.
  • Risks and Benefits

    Risks and Benefits

    9-12  |  Website
    This lesson provides students with an opportunity to further their understanding of the risks and benefits associated with innovations in science and technology.


  • Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone

    Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone

    3-8  |  Interactive
    This resource is part of a larger site on The Coral Reef Adventure, a film that follows the real-life adventures of ocean explorers and underwater filmmakers, Howard and Michele Hall. It has several different activities that you can do.
  • High Seas

    High Seas

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This resource will help you learn about waves and their behaviors.

Science Updates

  • Fossil Fuel Switch

    Fossil Fuel Switch

    6-12  |  Audio
    Learn about a thirty-year plan to replace 70 percent of our fossil fuels, using only current technologies like storable solar power, safer nuclear plants, and methanol from crop waste.
  • Marine Reserves

    Marine Reserves

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update looks at the unexpected impact marine reserves have on their surroundings.
  • Killifish and Pollution

    Killifish and Pollution

    6-12  |  Audio
    Hear about how certain small fish are managing to survive in highly toxic waters.
  • Deepwater Horizon Animals

    Deepwater Horizon Animals

    6-12  |  Audio
    How are animals coping five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?


  • The Science of the Deep Horizon Oil Spill

    6-12  |  Video
    John P. Holdren at the May 13, 2010 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy discusses why scientists can't determine more precisely how much oil is gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig.

AAAS Resources

The Science of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: John P. Holdren, the President's Science Advisor and Director of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, fielded a question at the May 13 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy on why scientists can't determine more precisely how much oil is gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Oilspill feature at Science

Grade Band: 9-12
Description: This resource page from AAAS's Science magazine provides you and your students current news stories about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Other Resources

Oil Spill Experiment
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: This hands-on activity offers a glimpse into the perils of oil spills.

Tracking the Oil Spill
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: This interactive map from The New York Times reflects daily estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the extent of the oil slick on that day. It represents only oil on the surface and does not account for any oil that may be below.

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