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The enormity of plastic pollution in our oceans has become one of the most serious environmental challenges of the 21st century. This resource explores this global issue with a collection of ten lessons that investigate how plastics enter and travel around the ocean, plastic impacts on marine life and positive steps towards resolving this problem. Students develop critical thinking skills as they expand their understanding of marine litter and ecosystems with the following learning activities:
Investigate how ocean currents transport plastic pollution.
Study how microplastics move through marine food chains.
Examine other human impacts on ocean ecosystems.
Debate ideas for addressing the problem of marine debris.
Design awareness materials to communicate this issue to peers.
Identify personal goals to reduce single-use plastics in their daily lives.
The lessons in this resource can be used individually or collectively to support outcomes related to ocean science, endangered animals and loss of species, pollution, sustainable communities and global issues. Students also practice critical thinking skills through open-ended inquiry and there are many opportunities for creative collaboration with each other and other schools.
The last three lessons of the unit focus on solutions. Students develop public awareness materials, design and present strategies to solve the existing problem and present ideas for reducing single-use plastics. This information could become the basis of a community action project where pupils motivate citizens to become as plastic free as possible. A class could create and sell cloth shopping bags, initiate a letter writing campaign to ask local government to ban single-use food items like plastic straws and work with local pet stores to encourage dog owners to use biodegradable “poop” bags.
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives||Very Good|
One key strength of this resource is that although the theme is plastic litter students have an opportunity to learn about other ocean stressors such as climate change and over-fishing. This will strengthen student awareness that pressure on marine ecosystems can be compounded by cumulative effects.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Good|
Beyond the obvious environmental issues of wildlife entanglement and ingestion, students are also presented with information that supports informed questioning about the direct and indirect impacts of plastic pollution on fisheries, food supplies, tourism and human health.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
There is a progressive building on prior knowledge to gain a clear understanding of all of the complexities in solving the plastic pollution problem. This holistic approach provides many opportunities for students to think critically about the issue.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Good|
Students are able to develop creative strategies for informing peers and community members about reducing the use of single-use plastics. A guided inquiry approach also helps them formulate personal action goals.
|Acting on Learning: |
Learning moves from understanding issues to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community, or for the planet
An important goal of this unit is that students develop a self-awareness about how much plastic they use in their daily lives. This information then provides the basis for discussions about personal conservation strategies.
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Poor/Not considered|
|Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).|
|Personal Affinity with Earth||Satisfactory|
This resource does not include an outdoor component. Taking a class to a local beach to find and analyze plastic pollution would reinforce connections between the natural world and human impacts.
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
An evaluation of the amount of plastic pollution in the local community could be used to reinforce how a local environmental problem is connected to the larger global issue.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Satisfactory|
Although the problem of marine litter can seem overwhelming this resource clearly identifies that our oceans can improve through active environmental stewardship.
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
Students have several opportunities for unrestricted dialogue throughout the lessons. They are also able to process new learning and ideas independently.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
This resource focuses on marine ecosystems while supporting outcomes related to sustainability, understanding maps, and analyzing visual and written information. Communication skills through debate and writing tasks are also an integral component of each lesson.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
The teacher's role in most of the activities is to support instead of direct student discussions and reflection. This strategy ensures there are many opportunities for self discovery which facilitates active student involvement in the learning process.
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
|Differentiated Instruction||Poor/Not considered|
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
This is a classroom based unit but a field trip to a local beach would make the learning more meaningful.
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
|Cooperative Learning||Poor/Not considered|
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Poor/Not considered|
There are no specific evaluation tools, but the final project of developing an infographic for communicating the plastic pollution message could be used as a summative evaluation using standard English Language Arts rubrics.
|Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.|
Students actively engage with each other through peer discussions and problem solving.
|Peer Teaching: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
|Case Studies: |
Relevant case studies are included. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore concepts in an authentic context.
|Locus of Control||Good|
Students are able to create a choice of two mini- projects. One task has them develop an "infographic" that can be used to communicate facts about ocean pollution. The other project asks pupils to develop an innovative idea for tackling the problem of plastic waste and presenting their design to a "panel of experts".
|Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.|