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Lesson Plan

Unprepared: Lessons From Two Massive Oil Spills

About this Video

This 11-minute video examines the Exxon Valdez and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spills which revealed a pattern of inconsistent oversight that environmentalists say raises questions about our preparedness for future oil spills.

What are the roles and responsibilities of government and business in preventing and responding to environmental contamination, like the two major oil spills in 1989 and 2010 in U.S. waters? What preparations and preventive measures by private industry and government could help to prevent disasters that affect coastal communities for years?

Objectives

Students will:

  • Examine the circumstances around two major offshore oil spills in United States waters.
  • Analyze changes in environmental policy over time
  • Examine the long-term effects of oil spills on ecosystems and coastal communities.
  • Formulate an argument about long-term solutions to prevent oil spill incidents.
Subjects
  • Environment
  • Biology
  • U.S. History
  • Civics & Government
  • Geography
Topics
  • Climate Change
  • The Environment and Natural Resources
  • Environment
  • Civics and Government
  • U.S. History
  • Human Geography
For Teachers
Essential Questions
  • Who was responsible for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and subsequent cleanup?
  • Did the response to the 1989 spill result in policy changes? What effect, if any, did those changes have in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded?
  • What obligations do oil companies have for extraction safety and spill cleanup?
  • What role do government agencies have in regulating the oil industry and monitoring oil spills?
Additional Resources
Transcript for "Unprepared: Lessons From Two Massive Oil Spills" Retro Report
Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA’s Long-Term Monitoring Program in Prince William Sound, Alaska National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Longterm Effects on Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90): A History of Spills and Legislation National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Response and Restoration
Optional: Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup National Geographic
Optional: Oil Spill Solutions: Environmental Engineering and Oil Spills Try Engineering

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Evaluate the consequences of human-made and natural catastrophes on global trade, politics, and human migration.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes

Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geologic forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events.

Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.

Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.

Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems

Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems

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