The time to teach children about ecology is when they are very young. Paren’ts often teach their children about the relationship between ourselves and the environment when they are old enough to understand. We teach children to recycle so that waste will not end up in the landfills. We teach children to pick up after themselves at a picnic so that plastic bottles, bottle caps and plastic rings don’t end up in the stomachs of the fish and wildlife that frequent the area when we have gone home.
At home and in the classroom we can teach children about ecology by teaching them respect for all forms of life and their environment. Wouldn’t it be exciting to teach children about oil spills and the harm that spills can do to the fish that live in the water and the wildlife that depends on the water for food? Wouldn’t it be even more exciting to teach children how to clean up an oil spill? Teaching about oil spills and their clean up will teach them about ecology, a lesson they won’t ever forget.
Here is an easy experiment to teach small children a lesson in ecology, related to an oil spill. Take a tray or roasting pan that is at least an inch deep. Line the tray or roasting pan with stones all the way around to represent the shoreline of a lake ocean. Now pour some sand all the way around the rocks and in front of the rocks to further represent the shoreline. Now carefully pour in some water until it reaches the shoreline. Now if you have some feathers to represent birds place some in the water and around the shoreline. Next if you can get some motor oil, or even some mineral oil, carefully pour it into the water to simulate an oil spill, which is something you hope never happens to the ecology of the oceans and lakes. Now place a fan in close proximity of the experiment and turn it on. The wind will cause a disturbance in the water, moving the oil around. The oil will saturate the feathers in the water and reach out toward the shoreline.
Now to clean up the oil from the feathers gently wash them with Dawn dishwashing detergent. The feathers will come clean. You may have seen commercials for Dawn dishwashing liquid, where ducks were rescued from oil spills and they were cleaned up with Dawn dishwashing liquid, a lesson in ecology. Next, to clean up the oil spill from the water place some clay kitty litter around the shoreline. The kitty litter will absorb the oil, and gradually the oil will leave the surface of the water and become entrapped within the kitty litter. If this were a real oil spill in the ocean there may be other methods used to clean up a spill.
A picture is worth a thousand words, that is an old saying that rings true in this instance. You can talk about ecology, but until a child can grasp the concept they might not have a full understanding of what ecology means.