What About All That Plastic?

3, 4, 5

Students learn about the issues of plastic in the ocean. They learn the effects of plastic garbage on the environment, including the lives of animals.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • learn about issues of pollution in the ocean.
  • identify who in the world is affected by litter in the world’s oceans and who creates the pollution.
  • Internet access


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Watch this brief videos about the issue of plastic bags in the ocean: The Bay vs. the Bag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSD21zp89zM 

  2. Ask: Is this video real or an exaggeration? Discuss. Why might an artist or writer use exaggeration to point out a real issue? Why does it work?

    What are the real issues the videos address? What can we do about the problem?

  3. Ask the students who they think is directly affected by this garbage? They may feel that nobody is directly affected by it because it is in the middle of the ocean or scattered around fields. Discuss whether the ocean is a good place for us to store our waste. Discuss some of the following questions.

    • Where does the garbage come from? What could be reduced and how?
    • What ways have people contributed to pollution of the Earth’s water? (sewage, fertilizers, oil spills, illegal dumping)
    • What pollution is hazardous to animals?
  4. Define and discuss the concept of the "common good."

  5. As they respond to the following question, have the students keep in mind that what benefits the "common good" benefits them also.

  6. Who is responsible for cleaning it up? Who is responsible for preventing pollution in the ocean from growing even larger? Is there anything we can and should do to reduce the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastics in our community, state or nation?

  7. List actions that the students brainstorm. Then pick the "next right thing" they can do today to make a difference. Check back with the students in a week to see how it is going. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.