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I am the only Social Studies instructor at Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center in Charlottesville, Va. My classes are not taught by subject. Instead, students travel with the “pod” in which they live. When I plan group lessons, I am always looking for materials that can be used for multiple subjects. Unprepared: Lessons from Two Massive Oil Spills was well received by my students, and it related to nearly every subject.

The opening activity was simply having the students list three things they thought would happen if an oil tanker wrecked. The most interesting point that came from this discussion was that not one single student in any class mentioned any long-term effects. After watching the video, students chose what, in their opinion, was the biggest factor in the accident.

Students researched “The Oil Pollution Act of 1990: A History of Spills and Legislation” and created a timeline of the environmental legislation and the creation of the environmental agencies. We then watched the movie “Deepwater Horizon” and kept a scoreboard of all the times and places where regulations were ignored.

To finish the unit, we did the “Simulate an Oil Spill Clean Up” activity from National Geographic that was included in the “Unprepared” lesson. It was a big hit! At the end of the school year, we have two weeks of creative challenges with our students. This year they want to try to create different ways to remove oil from water for the engineering challenge. We are setting up a two-day challenge for those who want to participate.

TOMACINE CROUCH, a social studies instructor at Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center in Charlottesville, Va., is a Retro Report Teacher Ambassador.

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