Human Impacts—Pathways to the Ocean

Summary: Students investigate the ways in which plastics and other persistent debris get into rivers and the ocean.

Concepts to teach: Watershed, downstream, litter

Goals: Students recognize that their use and disposal method of plastic and other waste products can have an impact on aquatic and marine ecosystems both locally and far away.

Standards:
SS.03.GE.01
SS.05.GE.01, SS.05.GE.07

Specific Objectives:

  1. Trace a potential pathway of plastic marine debris from school to the ocean through both a water and land route.
  2. Identify several points along the pathway which can intercept plastic pollutants before they make it to a river or ocean.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Telling the Story: Fifth graders at Millicoma intermediate School created a PSA YouTube video that tells the story of how a plastic bottle cap gets into the ocean.
  • Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary—This four-minute video tells the tale of a plastic bag’s journey from an inland supermarket to the ocean. Caution: Younger students may take the dramatic positive-sounding narration and music literally instead of seeing it as a spoof.
    • Consider playing the video without sound and having students describe what they see is going on.
    • Stop the video periodically and brainstorm ideas for how to intercept the bag at various stages along the journey.
  • Creative Writing—Students write a realistic fiction story explaining the travels and experiences of a waste product that travels from their school to the ocean.
    • Action: Have the student write a ‘happy ending’ to the story, where an action or intervention stops the pollutant from actually making it to the ocean.

Assessment:

  • Probe: Plastics on the Trail—This probe from Alaska Sea Grant’s Alaska Seas and Watersheds Curriculum elicits students’ ideas about how a plastic bottle on a trail impacts the environment.
  • Probe: Connections to the Ocean—Explores student ideas about connections between Oregon communities and the ocean.
  • Using both a map and written instructions, have students describe a water route from a nearby stream to the ocean.