Plastic in the Arctic

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Background Information: 

Brief Description: Plastic found in the Arctic is a global problem – the tip of the iceberg. It is a result not only of the production and industry development but of our daily life habits as well. The plastic waste and more dangerous microplastic are found everywhere: in the oceans, ice, animals’ stomachs or even snow. The plastic waste influence on the environment is evident and alarming, but the scientists are trying to estimate what would be its impact on human’s health and life. The aim of the toolkit is to rethink our daily life habits and encourage all of us to make something environment friendly.

How does the lesson relate to STEAM education (describe briefly what students will be doing in terms of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics): This toolkit refers mainly to the science in terms of biology and geography with environment protection approach and building the awareness of  rising threat of plastic waste pollution all over the world.
Practical part of the toolkit – “Count your waste” experiment – is designed to rise students’ knowledge about recycling necessity and awareness of plastic waste disposal. It is combined with maths knowledge as well – students are asked to count how much plastic waste they throw away in a year, and estimate what percentage of this amount goes into the oceans.
Also some elements of technology are used in the toolkit. In last part “Be the change you want to see in the world” the students are encouraged to rethink they habits connected with daily waste disposal. The application “Beat the micro bead” might help them to stop use products that contain microplastic.

Keywords: plastic, microplastic, plastic waste disposal, recycling, Arctic, environment protection, ocean pollutions, oceans.

Age Range: 12-14

Didactical Hours: up to 3 by 45 min sessions + one week experiment carried out at home/school concerning monitoring of plastic waste disposal

Learning objectives: The students will: 

- learn that the Earth is one big ecosystem where things done in some places (e.g. our country, home, etc.) have global impact and affect even very distant areas (the Arctic);
- build their awareness of environment protection and how by making small steps they can protect our planet;
- learn about plastic waste distribution in the oceans and the impact of this type of pollution on living organisms.

Relation to the Big Ideas of Science: 

Earth > Ecosystems > Ecosystems dynamics, functioning and resilience: The Arctic environment is exposed to plastic pollutions coming from other regions of the world.
Earth > Earth materials and structure > Earth’s surface (ocean and continent): Plastic pollutions is a great threat for marine ecosystems.
Earth > Earth’s climate > Human impact on Earth: According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at least 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans each year. That’s the equivalent of dumping one garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.

The Polar Star consortium is grateful for the input of the Polar Advisors, who helped to choose the polar topics. We would like to thank warmly Polar Advisors, who provided valuable ideas and materials for this particular activity: Paula Frances Galvin, Svetla Mavrodieva and Spyros Meletiadis. A special thjank you to  Svetla Mavrodieva for translating this activity to Bulgarian.

Access the downloadable version >  Access the online version >

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POLAR STAR aims to bring together state-of-the-art learning pedagogies and combine them with exciting activities that focus on contemporary science, thus helping teachers to introduce STEAM successfully in their class. At the same time the project will focus on the development of students’ key skills and competences as well as deepening their knowledge of fundamental science principles, increasing their appreciation of science and technology and their role in todays’ societies. POLAR STAR aims to offer an open and innovative training framework to teachers of primary and secondary education which will focus on:

  • Promoting the 'Science as a Whole' concept;
  • Promoting a holistic STEM educational approach;
  • Promote the introduction of contemporary science activities in schools;



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