Public Lab Research note

Messages From the Mississippi Lesson 2: A River of Plastic

by purl | January 27, 2021 22:16 27 Jan 22:16 | #25561 | #25561


Available as a Google Doc here.**

Time: 90 minutes

Materials: #Babylegs #Microplastics Trawls, glass sample collection jars with lids (1 per student group), iPad, Tablet or phone with internet/cell access and the NOAA Marine Debris Tracker App, disposable gloves for students, bags for collecting marine debris, pens & notebooks, buckets, broomsticks, timer (phone works) set for 10 minute intervals

Further Reading:

Guiding Question: What is marine plastic pollution like in our area?

Objective: Survey plastic pollution along the Mississippi River, trawl for microplastics and collect data on plastic pollution for analysis.

Preparation Prior to Lesson

Split students into 3 teams: Babylegs Aquatic Trawl, Marine Debris Tracker (Macroplastics survey), Shoreline Microplastic Survey.

Download Marine Debris Tracker App for student use on either an iPad or mobile phone. These devices will need to have service at your survey location.

Optional: Print copies of student field instructions:

-Babylegs Aquatic Trawl

-Marine Debris Tracker

-Shoreline Microplastic Survey


Time: 25 minutes

Review the Guiding Question & objective for today's lesson with students. Have students discuss the following question:

  • How do we measure microplastic in the environment?

Have students review their tool builds and read corresponding instructions.

1. Babylegs:

-Build instructions

-Use instructions

2. Marine Debris Tracker:

-Where to Download

-How to use (text and video)

-Printable Plastic Pollution Journal from National Geographic

3. NurdlePatrol:

-How to collect data (text and video)

Data Collection

Time: 60 minutes

[On Fieldtrip] Trawling and Surveying for Plastic Pollution

After travelling to the shoreline, students should split into their respective groups, and follow the protocols to collect data on local macro- and microplastic pollution.


Time: 10 minutes

[In Classroom] Sharing Experiences

Invite students to reflect on what they say either back in the classroom or while travelling. Were they surprised at any of the findings? Did they have any difficulties with the tools? What might they do differently next time?


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