Earth Day Lesson

When my family went to the island of Kauai in 2014, I was shocked at the amount of tiny plastic debris had washed up on the once clean shores of the Garden Island. I collected plastic water bottles of the trash to show my students physical evidence of the problem. I wanted to know more about how the plastic got there.

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Using NBC Learn, I searched "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch" and found stories that summarize the problem. The Garbage Patch was discovered by Charles Moore, who has since founded The Algalita Foundation to combat the problem.

According to NBC Learn, although the garbage patch has been growing for 100 years, the problem was recently compounded by debris from the 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan.

I got the students' attention by showing them the bottles of plastic and a short video on how our trash gets to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:
The Majestic Plastic Bag -- a Mockumentary

I explain that although the video is comical, the problem is very real. We can be proud that our own city of Long Beach has banned the use of plastic bags.

Then I show the news stories from NBC Learn:


"The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Julianne Pepitone, correspondent. NBC Learn. NBCUniversal Media. 9 Sep. 2015. NBC Learn. Web. 26 September 2015.


This video encourages students to reduce, reuse, and recycle. At the end of the video, it asks students to brainstorm a list of 5 things they can do to help the environment.

"Plastic Debris Harming Hawaiian Wildlife." Miguel Almaguer, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 10 Dec. 2012. NBC Learn. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.


Photos taken in 2014 on Kauai:
2014-11-26 18.44.43.jpg2014-11-26 18.45.57.jpg

After watching the videos on NBC Learn and the "Mocumentary" about the Plastic bag, students write a summary.


This issue would also be a good to follow up with a Problem/Solution Activity or essay.

Solution to Great Pacific Garbage Patch Ted Talk
Update on the Ocean Cleanup 2014

Additional Resources:
Plastic Ahoy! Webinar
Best Way to Deal With Ocean Trash
Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Graphic images -- High School)
Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- National Geographic
The World's Largest Dump -- Discover Magazine