A new middle school science curriculum from Oregon Sea Grant guides teachers and their 6th- through 8th-grade students through the growing threat to our oceans posed by microplastics – tiny particles of plastic which wind up in the sea.
Microplastics – particles less than five millimeters in size that deteriorate from larger plastic pieces, as well as plastic “microbeads” used in personal care products such as face and body scrubs – have emerged as a growing ocean pollution concern due to their small size and persistence in the environment.
A 2015 study published in Environmental Science & Technology estimated that eight trillion microbeads were entering aquatic environments throughout the United States every day. When consumed by crustaceans, shellfish and other marine animals, the plastics can affect reproduction, growth and survival.
The new, 70-page curriculum, compiled by Marie Kowalski, a recent graduate of OSU’s Marine Resource Management program in collaboration with Oregon Sea Grant’s marine program manager, Tracy Crews, includes three lessons designed to engage students with the issue by analyzing the problem and investigating possible solutions.
The lessons include opportunities for student inquiry, as well as collaboration and engagement with real data collected by researchers working in the field. Each lesson includes an estimated length, which will vary by classroom. The entire curriculum is designed to take about one week, but may be extended by including a project at the end of the curriculum.
The curriculum is available, free of charge, as an accessible .pdf download from the Oregon Sea Grant Website.