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We are officially halfway through Eureka! This week was DukeEngage week for STEM topics – aka “water week”. Each STEM lesson we taught was designed by our cohort and focused on a different aspect of water – everything from water scarcity around the world to how water sanitation is important.

My lesson was about oil spills and their impact on the ocean. We started the lesson by talking about everything that depends on the ocean – aquatic plants, fish, animals, and even humans. The girls drew pictures of ocean ecosystem and then modeled them with clear containers, water, and different beads and craft supplies. During the actual experiment, we poured vegetable oil into the “ecosystems” and looked at how it affected the different “animals,” and then the girls tried to figure out how to clean up the oil.

The lesson went pretty well all week – now that I know the students, I have a much better understanding of how to manage each class – and my favorite part was always the discussion at the end. The students, particularly the 7th graders, got really into this part. I started off by asking them how their experiments went and what went well and what was challenging. Then we talked about oil spills in real life – they learned vocab for how actual oil spills are cleaned up and we talked about historical oil spills like Deepwater Horizon. We also talked about who should be responsible for cleaning up the oil spills (or paying for it) and what we can do as individuals to help the ocean environment. I was really impressed by their responses to this part. During almost every class, I heard suggestions like donating to charities or even creating non-profits that will help with oil spill clean up. Many of the girls were also really passionate about making the companies responsible or the government pay for the clean up. I pointed out that these two groups might not want to do that – so the girls suggested everything from raising awareness through social media campaigns and informational videos to lobbying to the government to make stricter rules and regulations for oil companies. They were very passionate about everything they can do to help the environment, which makes me very hopeful for the future. It’s good to know that we are passing the world on into good hands.