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October 5, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Clean up to take weeks following massive oil spill in Southern California

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

UPDATE! Read the latest update on the oil spill here: Ship’s anchor among possible causes of California oil spill

Summary: Federal and state investigators are focusing on a 41-year-old pipeline as the cause of a massive oil spill off the Southern California coast. The 126,000 gallon oil spill is threatening wildlife and prompting a robust cleanup effort in the Pacific Ocean. But as Stephanie Sy reports, the scale and scope of the damage remains unclear.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is working to help address the damage caused by the oil spill off the California coast?
  • What are the ways oil spills harm wildlife?
  • When and Where was the oil spill discovered, and why wasn’t it spotted earlier?
  • Why do oil spills potentially affect human health?
  • How can authorities try to clean up the spill or otherwise address the impact on natural systems of the spill?

Focus questions:

  1. What are some of the actions taken by local volunteers to address the oil spill? What are some ways you could volunteer to help clean or protect the environment in your own community?
  2. What actions do you think the state of California or federal government could do to better protect natural environments from oil spills and other disasters?

Media literacy: This piece contains images of animals that have been killed by oil spills. Do you think these sorts of images should be included in media accounts of environmental disasters like oil spills? Why or why not?

Additional resources:

  • Looking for ways to invent solutions to help your own local environment, including wildlife? Check out this series of lesson plans based on the power of invention to help solve problems in your community!
  • Use this lesson to explore how students can become agents of change through Sustainable Development Goals.


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