Document Type

Lesson Plan

Publication Date



Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has become increasingly dependent on the use of fossil fuel as a source of energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) the United States consumed seven billion barrels of petroleum in the year 2011 (EIA, 2011). This accounts for 22 percent of the total world’s consumption of petroleum per year. However, the United States only makes up five percent of the world’s population. With such high demands for oil, the United States imports almost half of its oil from other countries around the world. With the transportation of large amounts of oil comes the risk of an oil spill. Recently, models for oil spills have been created to allow for more efficient removal and prevention of the spread of oil in the event of a spill. For our purposes, modeling can be used to allow students to virtually explore the dispersion of oil in the ocean. By using a model, students are able to look at a situation, in our case an oil spill, through a controlled environment. This gives students the capability to test multiple variables one at a time, and make observations on the impact that each variable has on the spread of oil. Students would be provided with a complete model, consisting of an environment and agents. Using the provided model, students would have the freedom to test different scenarios by adding or removing agents from the worksheet. This assignment consists of a cross discipline topic between Biology and Chemistry. In Biology, this model would be used during the ecology unit, or water quality unit, and would provide students with a real life example of human impact on an ecosystem. In the chemistry classroom, this model can provide students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the effects of polarity on solutions. This model can also be used as a real life connection to the abstract ideas of organic chemistry. Along with using AgentSheets, and completing the worksheet, students would incorporate learning through inquiry by completing a lab report on their findings. As an extra credit assignment, students would be allowed to create their own models.

This lesson plan addresses NYS Standards in Biology and Chemistry.

The accompanying zipped file includes the lesson plan, powerpoint presentations, and student worksheets.


Questions, comments or suggestions about this model may be sent to:

Dr. Leigh Little, The College at Brockport (397 kB)
Lesson plans and supplemental files

Tools used

Agent Sheets

Grade Level