Fun chemistry with recycled oil

Students, like parents or teachers, need to be aware that everything they use and consume leaves a (often irreversible) mark on the environment. The purpose of the interdisciplinary activity is to increase the level of awareness of students about the need for sustainable management of used vegetable oil.

The lesson plan uses:

-geography (part of ecology), to counseling and guidance developing active citizenship skills

-chemistry-solidification of liquid substances and mixtures

We carried out the activity twice:-for students of a second grade and for students in the 5th grade

Used edible oil is a toxic residue. There are rules that oblige both the economic operators, who have kitchens and use oil, and the natural persons, to collect the residual oil separately. And to hand it over to the economic agents that deal with the recycling of this type of waste. As far as individuals are concerned, most of the amount of used oil in households reaches the sewer or landfill. At the beginning of the activity, the 3 teachers presented to the students, suggestive films, using the Youtube platform, which shows the damage caused by discarding used vegetable oil, but also the benefits of recycling it.

The following is a discussion of the films and the formulation of some rules to follow in each family:

– Do not dispose of used cooking oil in the sewer system, it clogs the pipes and causes faults in the systems in the treatment plants

-Do not throw oil on the ground because it rancids, polluting the soil and stopping its regeneration. Thus, the soil becomes infertile, requiring a considerable amount of time for it to become productive again.

-Put the used oil, strained in a plastic, metal or glass container. The oil thus collected is taken to recycling centers

Next is the presentation of some campaigns from Romania, on this topic and some products obtained from recycled oil. The process of making scented candles from used oil is presented through a film and explained to students. Then the students and teachers went to work, each student “making” his own scented candle. We used the following materials: recycled oil, soy wax, wax dye, perfume.  

During the process:

-the students weighed each ingredient,

-mixed the heated oil with soy wax

-observed the solidification process of the mixture.

It’s an awareness activity for the parents as well, because each child brought the used oil needed to make the candle. In the end he gave it as a gift to his mother. We are not born with a civic spirit, but we learn based on what we see around us. So, children, more than anyone, need role models to encourage them to respect and protect nature. By their example, adults send the strongest “yes” or “no” signal when it comes to caring for the environment.

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