Public Lab Research note

Messages from the Mississippi Lesson 5: Finding a New Way

by purl | February 26, 2021 20:53 26 Feb 20:53 | #25813 | #25813


Available as a Google Doc here.

Time: 90 minutes


  • Computers (with internet access) for each student/student group
  • Teacher computer (with internet access) and shareable screen
  • 4 envelopes
  • Printer access
  • posters paper for each student
  • art supplies, i.e. markers, colored pencils, construction paper etc.

Further Reading

Objective: Students will be able to synthesize what they've learned and select solutions to mitigate plastic pollution to present to their local community. Students will do this through presenting plastic reduction proposals to the group, choosing a proposal to design an awareness campaign around and learning about activism.

Preparation Prior to Lesson

Have space on a whiteboard or make a Google Doc for shared note-taking space.

Have a part of the classroom dedicated to art supplies for the third leg of the lesson (making posters for World Environment Day), so that materials can be distributed with time efficiency.


Time: 20 minutes

(5 min) Discuss

Have students discuss and answer the following question: What are some ways you could (or already do) reduce your plastic waste footprint? List their answers on a whiteboard or a digital space that students can access and edit.

(15 min) Explore: Micro to Macro Impact

(5 min) Are the practices students mentioned above ones that they can expand to their community? Are there initiatives they've seen within the New Orleans area that they can help promote or utilize?

(10 min) Have students look in small groups or individually at The Green Project and Go Green Nola, exploring the websites and seeing local initiatives happening in their area. Helpful resources include both groups' recycling pages (The Green Project's recycling page, and link for Go Green Nola here). If you have time, each group or individual can share one project or event that they learned about that they are excited about.


Time: 60 minutes

(35 min) Plastic Pollution Coalition

Split classroom into four groups. Each group should have a computer with internet access. Have each group pick one of the following subjects: microbead bans, industry regulations, research requirements and comprehensive strategies. Have each group go to the Plastic Pollution Coalition's Microplastics page and read the overview and examples of their respective topics. Within their groups, students should brainstorm ways in which they can make the general strategies provided from the Plastic Pollution Coalition specific to New Orleans.

Topic-specific questions and proposals to consider:

Microbead Bans: Have students google products containing microbeads sold in the grocery and department stores that they frequent (i.e. Rouses, Winn Dixie, Walmart, etc.). Students can look at examples of microbead bans other countries or states have initiated (available in the above link) and draft a letter to said grocery/department stores proposing they limit or end their sale of microbead-infused products.

Industry Regulations: Who are the politicians representing the constituents in students' neighborhoods? Have students draft a letter addressed to said politicians asking them to hold specific companies responsible for the plastic waste they produce. Students can consider examples the Plastic Pollution Coalition provides of regulations that have been passed in other cities/states and model their demands to their representatives after these. What companies do they see in grocery stores and bodegas with a lot of plastic wrappers? What companies/branding do they see among litter on the ground?

Research Requirements: What waterways/bodies of water are there in New Orleans? Where could we go to collect data on microplastics? Have students consider the order of events on their own research. What was their hypothesis, what has been their procedure so far? How might we organize and detail our own research plan such that someone reading our records could pursue the same experiment? Emphasize students' roles as researchers with authority on the subject they are doing?

Comprehensive Strategies: Once students have read the information provided by the Plastic Pollution Coalition, have them open this National Geographic article and read the section titled "250 GROUPS LAUNCH MASSIVE GLOBAL PLASTIC PARTNERSHIP". As a group, students can brainstorm a list of local businesses producing goods and draft a letter asking them to join or commit to the mission of the aforementioned initiative.

At the discretion of the teacher, the letters drafted by each group can be sent out and awaited a response.

(35 min) World Environment Day

Give students a brief overview of World Environment Day (June 5th) and its history. Briefly discuss the theme of this year (Biodiversity) and have students develop a definition of what they think biodiversity means.

Optional: Have students read through this interactive infographic called "The Domino Effect-- the Loss of Biodiversity and Why It Matters".

Students can brainstorm as a class or individually how plastic pollution contributes to the loss of biodiversity. From here, each student will make some kind of awareness art piece about this year's World Environment Day theme and its connection to plastic pollution. There is room for creativity on this front-- be open to students' ideas! Below are some suggestions:

  • Create a poster: have markers, colored pencils, construction paper, etc. available
  • Make a word cloud, recommended: or
  • Create an infographic, recommended: Google Drawings or Canva
  • Make a video, recommended:
  • Write a poem or a story related to the subject.


This assignment may take longer than the class time allotted and may make sense as a project to finish during another class period or at home (depending on students' access to resources).


Time: 10 minutes

Synthesize and Share

Have students look at each other's posters and share what they think works well in their classmates' pieces. [What are effective images or language to provoking an emotional response in the viewers?] What poster pieces spoke to them and why? What were they proud of in their own posters/art process?

After the lesson: Compile student reflections and turn it into a Research Note on Public Lab!


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