What pollution is impacting the ocean? - Lesson Two

Lesson 2 - Microplastics - how do plastics break up?
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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Social StudiesHistory+35th,6th Grade

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time-iconLesduur is: 45 min


Lesson 2 – Microplastics – How do plastics break up? This lesson looks at how plastics and other materials break up. Understand the terms compostable, biodegradable and degradable. Learning activities:  Research what microplastics can be found at home and look at alternatives to replace them.  Experiment to see how long plastics last in the ocean.


Time: 45 minutes

Contact: education@seashepherdglobal.org
© Sea Shepherd 2022

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Lesson 2 - Microplastics - how do plastics break up?

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

This lesson is provided by Sea Shepherd.  Sea Shepherd was founded in 1977 and is a marine conservation organisation working to protect the oceans and marine wildlife.  Sea Shepherd works globally on a range of issues impacting the oceans, running numerous direct action campaigns each year.  Ocean pollution is one issue Sea Shepherd is working on to help stop marine wildlife dying.
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Slide 2 - Tekstslide

During the lesson we will use these icons to identify the learning actions.
Introduction to IUU fishing and the impact of overfishing.

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

This lesson we will focus on solid pollution.

Ask students: “What do you think happens with the solid pollution out in the ocean?  

Most of the everyday items we use, take a long time to break down in the ocean. Plastics will generally just break down into smaller pieces, called microplastics. They don’t fully disappear; it just makes it easier for smaller fish to eat them by mistake.  

Introduction to IUU fishing and the impact of overfishing.
Degradable - Biodegradable - Compostable

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

To determine what happens to plastic pollution, we need to understand the terms – degradable, biodegradable and compostable.

Ask students if they know what each of these terms mean and then explain them.
Degradable - these items never completely disappear. Items such as plastic bags breakdown into smaller pieces over time but never completely go away leaving a harmful trail behind.
Biodegradable- means they can be broken up over time by microorganisms, however not all items advertised as biodegradable are completely harmless. They may contain chemicals, such as ink used for labels, which is left behind in the water after the labels have broken down.
Compostable - these items can be completely broken down and returned back to the earth, leaving no harmful traces behind at all.  However, this may not be your backyard compost heap, many will require commercial composting.

Introduction to IUU fishing and the impact of overfishing.
Up to 90% of pollution plastic based.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

There are actually thousands of types of plastics made today, all with a specific purpose in mind.   Most are made from chemical substances that, when submerged in water, could leach chemicals into the environment.  
Up to 90% of marine debris is believed to be plastic based.
Most will be degradable.  Which means that they will not disappear but will simply break up into smaller pieces and stay in the ocean.
Plastics can be hard, they keep their shape, or soft, they can be scrunched up, like food packing.
Both types can take a long time to break up into small pieces.

Introduction to IUU fishing and the impact of overfishing.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Over time plastics will break up and become microplastics, but some products are created as microplastics.
Ask students if they know any examples.
Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are used to manufacture plastic products. This way the plastic is easier to transport and integrate into manufacturing than sheets or blocks of plastic. When containers full of plastic pellets are lost at sea, these plastic pellets are often found washing up on beaches and coastlines.  

Illegal Fishing
Illegal fishing means that the fishermen enter the territorial waters of a country or regulated marine zone without permission or without a license for the fish they intend to catch.

They are stealing from these waters.





Slide 7 - Tekstslide

What microplastics can we find at home, that could easily be washed down the drain?
    A lot of clothing is partially made of plastic. When these clothes are washed, small pieces of plastic start to break off and are washed down the drain. These are called microfibers.
    Microbeads – these are small plastic beads that are used in things like facial cleansers, body scrubs and even toothpaste.  Some countries are starting to ban these.
    Glitter – most glitter is made from plastic, but new versions made from natural products are also available.

Introduction to IUU fishing and the impact of overfishing.
How long til it breaks up?

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

This slide shows how long until some of the items break up to the size of a grain of sand – talk through some examples.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies


Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Refer Teachers Guide for Learning Activities.