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April 1, 2024
Vol. 81
No. 7
Newsworthy

Saving the Ocean, One Student at a Time

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    EngagementInstructional Strategies
    Photos of two groups of students participating in beach clean-up activities
    Credit: LEFT: Photo courtesy of Emily Rummel; RIGHT: Photo courtesy of Tim Taechotirote
      Caption: At left, 4th graders from Anna Maria Elementary School in Florida hold up trash they collected on the beach. At right, 4th graders (and a parent volunteer) from Healdsburg Elementary School in California participate in an ocean cleanup.
      Last fall, two groups of 4th graders on opposite coasts gathered on beaches, gloves on and mesh bags in hand. Rather than learning about plastic pollution in a classroom, these students participated in a cleanup event to see firsthand the local ocean pollution and some solutions they could use to improve marine health.
      The event accompanied the launch of a free K–5 marine science curriculum called "Changing the Tide" by Brightmark and the Guy Harvey Foundation. The partnership has led three ocean cleanups with coastal schools, with more in the works. With plastic pollution levels in the ocean projected to triple by 2040 (SYSTEMIQ and Pew Charitable Trusts, 2020), the curriculum aims to educate students—especially those who live near coasts—about the environmental impact of plastics and ­sustainability pathways.
      The curriculum, which has been used in 1,250 classrooms, includes science, art, and literacy lessons by grade level. For instance, in a weeklong unit called "Plastic Pollution, Plastic Solution," students learn about plastic's life cycle and technologies that reconvert plastic into new materials; a 3rd grade lesson educates students on the effects of pollution on humans and animals; and in an ELA lesson, students write haikus to spread awareness. The lessons culminate in a schoolwide art installation, where students make a coral reef from ­discarded plastic. Each standards-aligned lesson plan includes a detailed instructor guide and slide presentations.
      The initiative also offers a high school-level curriculum, "Marine Science 101." Both will be available in Spanish this year.
      References

      SYSTEMIQ and Pew Charitable Trusts. (2020). Breaking the plastic wave.

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