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Curriculum Level: 6-8

By Kristen Cox from East Cary Magnet Middle School

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: This lesson will allow students to explore the impact of plastic in oceans. They will discuss how this affects life in the water and ultimately impacts humans as well. By the end of the lesson, students will explore ways they can take action locally to work on this global issue. This lesson focuses on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water. However, there are connections with SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 15: Life on Land, and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.


SUBJECT: Science


NC Science Standards:
8.E.1: Understand the hydrosphere and the impact humans have on local systems and the effects of the hydrosphere on humans. 


  • What are microplastics and how do they affect our world?
  • How does plastic in the ocean impact life?
  • How can we take action on the issue of plastic in the oceans?


  1. Students will be able to explain where microplastics can be found and how they are impacting Earth.
  2. Students will be able to explain the impact that plastic is having on life in our oceans.
  3. Students will be able to explore ways that we can take action in our community to help with the issue of plastic in our oceans and water resources.



Day 1

  • Warm Up: Why do people call the Pacific Ocean the “Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch”?
  • After having students share answers, show pictures of the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch from  National Geographic’s website and complete Slow Looking Protocol where students will record their thoughts on paper.
  • Show Statistics from this SAS website (80% of litter in the ocean is plastic) and allow students to explore the website for 10 minutes. While they are exploring, have them record in their notebook the ways life below the water is impacted by plastic waste.
  • Think, Pair, Share: students will have 5 minutes to brainstorm ways they can reduce waste, especially plastic that ends up in the oceans. Have each group share (each group has 1 minute)
  • Show students this video: A Plastic Ocean and have them discuss 3 things that resonated with them from the video. 
  • Then ask students to make a chart of stakeholders that are affected from the “plastic ocean” and to share out as a group. (Groups of 3-4 work best)
  • Exit Ticket: What is the impact of plastic being in our oceans?

Day 2

  • Warm Up: Where can you find microplastics?
  • Show students a picture of the items listed and have them vote yes or no if microplastics exist: Clothing, Baby Bottles, Seafood, Car Tires, Shampoo, Water Bottles (the answer is yes to all of these)
  • Define microplastics as tiny plastic particles that result from both commercial product development and the breakdown of larger plastics. Next, give them alarming statistics that children and adults might ingest anywhere from dozens to more than 100,000 microplastic specks each day (more info at this website)
  • Demo:  Follow the procedure available on the Microplastics in Laundry Lint Demo Instructions handout for the class demo. Show students the procedure and have microscopes set up to allow students to look at microplastics. Students will record their data and complete reflection questions on the Microplastics in Laundry Lint worksheet. 
  • Exit Ticket: If there are microplastics in our laundry, how do they end up in our oceans?

Day 3

  • Warm up: Are microplastics just affecting oceans? Explain your answer.
  • Allowing students to share their answers from the warm up, they will then watch this video showing that scientists have identified microplastics close to the summit of Mount Everest. Then, ask students to share how this is an issue beyond oceans and how it affects our environment, life, etc. (Think- Pair-Share)
  • Say: We are going to now explore life in oceans. You will use the “Talk to Text” reading strategy as you read this article about Sea Turtles with Microplastics in their Gut using these talk to text sentence starters (handout).
  • Now- you will share your thinking by having a metacognitive conversation with your classmates. 
  • Exit Ticket: What is something new you learned today?

Days 4-6

  • Warm Up: How can YOU make a difference to the issue with plastic in our oceans?
  • Say: We have explored how plastic has impacted our ocean, environment, life on both land and in water this week. We need to think of things we can do to act locally on this global issue. 
  • Divide the class into 4 groups: One group is assigned individually, locally (in your community), in your state, and the World. Have students come up with the 
    • What can we do to take action at this level?
    • Who are some partners at each level?
    • After giving students a chance to answer the questions within their group, draw a centric circle and have a student in each group share out as you write the answers to their questions to show how taking action can take place at each level.
  • You are going to work in your groups collectively to create a single website (create a Wix, Google Site, or Weebly- teacher choice- for your students to work on collectively). You will use the Rubric to Take Action Against Plastic Pollution to guide their work. 
    • One group defines the issue and effects of plastic pollution
    • One group works on the individual tab
    • One group works on the local tab
    • One group works on the state (NC) tab
    • One group works on the world tab
  • Each group will work on their tab to meet Rubric to Take Action and will create a plan to share the website with others to get the information into the world. Please use the rubric to serve as a ladder to help you get a higher grade and create a more effective project.

* Have students pick stakeholders to write letters to invite them to come see the presentation of their website. Part of this project also requires students to find ways to get their website to the public.

  • Students will present to classmates and then display work.

ASSESSMENTS: Exit Tickets, Rubric showing students see how they can take action to help

LEARNING EXTENSIONS: The Ocean Awareness 2023 Contest is one option. Another option is to extend Day 4-6 by having students work virtually with students in other countries and connect via Zoom to work on a podcast.



Boudreau, E. (2023, February 9). The Art of Slow Looking in the Classroom. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kobilinsky, D. (2023, February 9).All Sea Turtle Species Show Evidence of Microplastic in Gut. The Wildlife Society.,that%20likely%20came%20from%20tires.

Lim, X. (2023, February 9).Microplastics are everywhere- but are they harmful? Nature.

National Geographic Education. (2023, February 9).Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Resource Library.

SAS. (2023, February 9). 14 Life Below Water. Global Change Starts with You.

University of Plymouth. (2023, February 9). Are microplastics a big problem? University of Plymouth.

West Ed (2023, February 9).Talking to the Text Inquiry. Reading Apprenticeship.