Learning About the Oil Spill


The situation in the Gulf of Mexico continues to lead the news with stories about the attempts and lacks of success in capping the well.  The incident has also become incredibly political in nature with hearings and visits to the site by the American president.

If only the energies and efforts could be channelled towards finding the solution.  The owner of the well, BP, is taking all of the pressure for this; I hope that other oil companies are helping find a solution as any incident could have happened to them and there will undoubtedly be new rules and regulations implemented as a result.  It behoves all to come to a resolution as quickly as possible.

When things like this hit the news, it has huge implications in the classrooms world-wide as teachers and students try to come to an understanding of what has happened.  Using television and other news sources is a traditional place to turn, but the internet does provide a forum for innovative and unique ways to learn and acquire a deeper understanding of the situation.

Here are some resources that I found particularly helpful.

Size of the area affected.  Part of the problem with traditional maps is the inability to show relative sizes.  Areas towards the poles seem to be larger than those near the Equator.  How do you put this in perspective? I investigated and blogged about Paul Rademacher’s mashup yesterday.  Here, he allows you to overlay the spill on any part of the world.  Put it on your community where you may be more familiar with distances so get a true appreciation.

In this CNN report, an explanation of one of the methods to try to cap the well is explained.  In times like this, news reporters turn to experts who have a reputation for being a resource to assist with the report.  In this case, Bill Nye has been consulted.

What about the rig itself?  How did this incident start and where were the flash points that led to the situation?  The Wall Street Journal provides this interactive object to let you explore the areas of the rig detailing The Final Moments.  There was an unfortunate loss of life in this incident and that is also covered here.

BP itself provides a couple of resources that explain what has happened and how they are attempting to find a solution.  This animationshows the concept of “Top Kill” which was seen as the solution to stopping the flow of oil.  A remotely controlled vehicle provides streaming video from the floor of the gulf. A collection of BP’s responses appears here.

ESRI provides an animation that illustrates a timeline of the incident.  Starting from April 25, you can see how the oil has spread to endanger the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and how it’s projected to affect Alabama and Florida.

NPR has provided a resource showing the impact on the environment that this incident has had and will continue to have.  Time provides a photo essay illustrating the impact on the “Critters of the Oil Spill”.  The imagery is sickening but does detail the horrific effect this has on the wildlife of the area.

Boston.com is known for its publication of incredible images documenting the news.  The Gulf of Mexico accident is no different.  Images of the area and the impact on wildlife and peoples can be found here.

This is a disaster of incredible proportions.  When curiosity needs addressing, the internet does respond with images, documentation, and animations to assist.  Used judiciously, they can support student understanding that goes beyond the quick clips on the evening news.

links for 2010-05-29