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Sources of Plastic Waste in the Environment

Secondary

Description

Plastics present a major challenge to terrestrial and marine ecosystems as well as to our health. This resource helps students identify the biggest plastic waste producing countries and industries in the world. As such, it it is one piece in any study of the larger issue of the impact of plastics on our world.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Students practice skills related to data reporting and analysis.

Strengths

The topic is critical and current. The data provided is part of a piece in understanding the larger issue of our dependence on plastics and their impact.

The additional resources attached to the lesson offer teachers and students an opportunity to  explore the issue beyond the relative limited objectives of the lesson.

Weaknesses

The aim of the resource is to provide data. It does that in a straight forward manner - read, record, report. Little effort is made to adopt a pedagogy that students might find more interesting.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson may be used as part of a larger unit on the study of the role of plastics in our society. It also may be used by math teachers who are anxious to use authentic data to teach outcomes related to units on Statistics and Probability.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 9
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        • Knowlege And Employability: Statistics and Probability
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        • Environmental Science 11: Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems
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        • Environmental Science 12: Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth.
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        • Introduction to Environmental Science 120: Sustainable Development
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        • Atlantic Canada in the Global Community: Environment
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        • Geography 10: Data Collection
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        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Geographic Inquiry and Skill Development
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        • Environmental Science 621A: Environmental Challenges and Successes
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        • Environmental Science 12: Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth.

Themes Addressed

  • Waste Management (3)

    • Hazardous Waste
    • Solid Waste Disposal
    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The lesson plan offers data rather than opinion. The objective is to provide information about the amount of plastic produced by companies and countries.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

The issue of plastic production and disposal has economic, environmental and social implications. The exploration of these considerations is however beyond the objectives of this lesson. A number of the additional resources cited in the lesson plan do offer a great deal of useful background information on these considerations. 

Teachers may choose to use this lesson plan for the limited objectives set out and seek other resources to explore the economic, environmental, and social implications of our use of plastics. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The lesson limits itself to offering data - who produces plastics. Once this is in place, other lessons are needed to explore questions related to why we have become so dependent on plastics?; how does our use of plastics affect our health? How are ecosystems and the oceans affected by plastic disposal and what can we do to  address this crisis?  

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

There is an opportunity here for teachers to have students examine their personal use of plastics and what collective action might be undertaken. This may include such activities as plastic collection efforts along rivers and oceans. The lesson, however, does not provide direction for such positive action. 

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered

The topic is rich in opportunities to have students investigate their and societies values - what value do we attach to convenience? should we be concerned about the impact of our use of plastics on other living things? Such discussions would rely on teacher initiative or other lesson plans.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

A study of the impact of plastics on the planet may be expected to help students connect with the natural world but this would have to be another lesson plan.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Poor/Not considered

The opportunity to examine our use of plastics at the local level and what might be done to reduce our use is there but is not within the purview of this lesson plan.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered

The lesson plan identifies the players in the current production of plastic but does not provide any timelines that would illustrate our growing dependence on plastic and what a plastic - free world would look like.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory

The lesson provides data regarding plastic production and asks students to examine the data and make comparisons as to who is producing the plastics we use.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

An examination of the plastic crisis might have students look at the chemistry of plastics (Science), their role  in the economy (Economics), their impact on the environment (Environmental Science, STEM), and human health (Health), the role and responsibility of citizens (Political Science, Citizenship  Education). These issues are not addressed in this lesson but might be addressed in subsequent lessons located on the Green Learning website .

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

Students are provided with data and asked to answer questions based on their examination of that data.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The lesson plan focuses exclusively on data analysis.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

Students deal with real data on an issue that is both serious and current.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered

Students work independently to complete worksheets in which they record plastic waste by sector, country and region. The concluding exercise may be completed individually or as a group activity.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

The worksheets completed by students offer material for assessment.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The study and analysis of the data on plastic production is a case study.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

The lesson is directed, limited in its objectives and moves tightly through a series of steps. If students want to explore the plastic issue at a deeper level the Green Learning website provides resources with various learning and take action activities to offer a thorough learning experience.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.