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.

Lesson Rating 
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 to view videos about plastic garbage in the ocean, if possible
  • Projection equipment, if available


  1. Anticipatory Set

    If you have internet access, show one or both of the following brief videos about the issue of plastic bags in the ocean: The Bay vs. the Bag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSD21zp89zM or When birds eat plastic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAL9Xvrg3hI

  2. Ask:

    Are these videos 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?

    https://www.healthguidance.org/entry/14901/1/The-Effects-of-Plastic-Bags-on-Environment.html: This article analyzes the production, consumer, and pollution costs of plastic bags.

  3. The following resources have information either for facilitator background or to share directly with students about pollution issues:


  5. 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. Discuss whether the ocean is a good place for us to store our waste. Ask, why or why not.

  6. Ask:

  7. Where does the garbage come from?

    What other ways have people contributed to pollution of the Earth’s water? (sewage, fertilizers, oil spills, illegal dumping)

    Why is it hazardous to animals?

    Who is responsible for creating the garbage?

    Do you think it is important to stop producing so many throwaway products? Why or why not?

  8. Introduce or remind the students of the concept of the "common good."

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

  10. 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 in our community, state or nation?

  11. List actions that the students brainstorm to reduce the use of plastic bags.

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.