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Plastic Pollution and World Oceans Day

Ocean pollution is a growing global environmental problem. For World Oceans Day, talk with students about this problem and ways in which everyone can help reduce the amount of plastic trash flowing into waterways.

Trash spread across sand at a beach
Photo: By Loranchet, Wikimedia Commons

Plastic Filling the Oceans

World Oceans Day is June 8, 2018. The theme of this year's global observance is the importance of reducing plastic pollution that is making its way into our oceans. The problem of ocean pollution continues to grow. According to the Ocean Conservancy, there are an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic already in ocean waters, and the Center for Biological Diversity notes that plastic debris covers "40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces."

The Problem with Plastic Pollution in the Oceans

Plastics reaching oceans directly threaten marine life and habitats, but ocean pollution also results in chemicals being released into the water. These chemicals are dangerous to humans as well as to marine species. The large amount of plastic entering waterways from coastal locations makes reducing ocean pollution especially important in these areas, but no matter where you live, you play a role in helping to address this global problem.

Students Tackling Real-world Problems

At Science Buddies, we encourage teachers and parents to talk with students about ocean pollution. For students who want to do an independent investigation of this problem at the community level, the Do Your Storm Drains Keep the Ocean Trash Free? environmental engineering project guides an examination of local storm drains. The project asks students to determine how much plastic these drains let through and then to brainstorm solutions and improvements to the design of storm drains that could help reduce plastic pollution reaching waterways. For families and classes talking about ocean pollution, this project can easily be adapted for group or classroom exploration.

New Ocean Science Lesson Plan

As World Oceans Day takes place, Science Buddies encourages teachers to explore a new NGSS-aligned ocean sciences lesson plan. The Oceanic Circulation: What Keeps the Ocean in Motion? lesson plan, developed for students in grades 6-8, is an end-to-end solution for teachers looking to lead an in-class activity on the relationship between oceanic circulation, convection, climate, density, and temperature. The Lesson Plan provides science teachers with background information, classroom presentation materials, and discussion prompts for a hands-on activity that demonstrates the role of temperature in oceanic circulation. With a simple setup using water, food coloring, plastic cups, and CDs (as dividers), students model ocean currents and explore how temperature and density differences set deep ocean waters in motion to create a global oceanic circulation system. A worksheet and assessment resource are also provided.

The activity in the Oceanic Circulation: What Keeps the Ocean in Motion? lesson plan also works with Google's Science Journal app. Using the light sensor, students record and analyze data related to color changes in the water during the experiment. To learn more about using Google's Science Journal app for K-12 STEM, see our how-to series. To learn more about using the free Science Journal app with Science Buddies, visit our Science Journal App page. The app is available for both Android and iOS.

Making Connections

Learn more about World Oceans Day.

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