NOAA Environmental Sensitivity Index Map Oil Spill Exercise

Learning Objectives

This exercise has multiple learning objectives: (1) to get students to increase their map-reading abilities; (2) to understand the impact of human activity on the physical environment; and, more specifically, (3) the complexities involved in cleaning up an oil spill.

Standards Addressed

vS.8.D.1.2 - Describe the potential impact of humanmade processes on changes to Earth's resources and how they effect everyday life.

Supplies/Materials/Articles Needed

Home Page - what happens, and how to respond to oil spills.

Additional Information - ocean and coastal issues, especially oil spills (and the link to the home page of ESI Maps).

All files needed for this exercise are attached below, including the ESI Oil Spill Scenario for Lewes, DE (which can be modified for different grade levels).  Note that the maps and map legend are formatted to print on 11 x 17 inch paper.

Preparation Time Needed

 None.  Materials are provided below for this exercise - only printing/photocopying and any edits to the student questions will be the necessary preparation time.

Class Time Required

This exercise may take two one-hour class periods for the map analysis and write-up.  The write-up can also be completed outside of class to free up additional in-class time.

Activity Description

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Ocean Service has an Office of Response and Restoration that publishes a series of Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps (ESI Maps). [See More Information About ESI Maps]

ESI maps provide a concise summary of coastal resources that are at risk if an oil spill occurs nearby. Examples of at-risk resources include biological resources (such as birds and shellfish beds), sensitive shorelines (such as marshes and tidal flats), and human-use resources (such as public beaches and parks).

When an oil spill occurs, ESI maps can help responders meet one of the main response objectives: reducing the environmental consequences of the spill and the cleanup efforts. Additionally, ESI maps can be used by planners--before a spill happens--to identify vulnerable locations, establish protection priorities, and identify cleanup strategies.

Students can use the same maps that professionals use for a variety of exercises!