Plastic in the Ocean


Plastic in the Ocean (3rd-8th) 

In this lesson, students learn about the abundance of intentionally discarded plastic in the ocean. Students will design and build a filter to capture plastic in “drain pipes” (a cup with water and plastic bits) before it reaches the “ocean” (a bowl). They will discuss solutions to reduce and remove plastic from the ocean. This lesson requires water (not included).

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Lesson Overview

Students will:

  • Discuss how plastic enters the ocean and the impact it has when it gets there
  • Design and build a filter to remove pieces of plastic from water “heading for the ocean”
  • Evaluate the successes/failures of their filter designs, then compete to brainstorm plastic removal/reduction strategies
  • Investigate the life cycle of common manufactured plastic items and discuss ways to limit environmental impacts throughout the life cycle

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Design and build a filter to remove pieces of plastic from an ocean model
  • Discuss solutions to reduce plastic use or to remove plastics from the environment

This lesson is aligned with these Next Generation Science (NGS) Standards.

Standards Covered

Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI)

ESS3 Earth and Human Activity – ESS3.C Human impacts on Earth Systems

  • (3rd-5th) Societal activities have had major effects on the land, ocean, atmosphere, and even outer space. Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.
  • (6th-8th) Human activities have altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging it, although changes to environments can have different impacts for different living things. Activities and technologies can be engineered to reduce people’s impacts on Earth.

Science & Engineering Practice (SEP) 

Developing and Using Models

  • (3rd-5th) Develop a diagram or simple physical prototype to convey a proposed object, tool, or process.
  • (6th-8th) Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions  

  • (3rd-5th) Use evidence to construct or support an explanation or design a solution to a problem.
  • (6th-8th) Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and/or test a design of an object, tool, process or system.

Crosscutting Concept (CCC)

Structure and Function

  • (3rd-5th) Substructures have shapes and parts that serve functions.
  • (6th-8th) Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
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