Messages from the Mississippi: Lesson Plans
Understanding Plastic Pollution Through Hands-On Environmental Education
The Mississippi River drains two-thirds of the continental United States, bringing its water—and pollution—through the city of New Orleans en route to the Gulf of Mexico. The citizens of New Orleans are actively seeking ways to understand and reduce the amount of plastic traveling downstream. This project leverages student and educator activities to engage the general public on the issue of marine microplastic pollution. This curriculum aims to educate students on microplastics through a series of outdoor experiential learning activities and hands-on projects. While this has been written with New Orleans in mind, this series of lessons can be adapted to riverine environments everywhere.
Lesson One: Plastic Pollution
Students will be able to describe types and sources of plastic pollution in the environment by creating a chart showing the movement of plastic in their local environment.
- Learn about macro- and micro-plastic
- Explore pollution sources
- Engage with content through videos and guided research
Lesson Two: A River of Plastic
Students will be able to illustrate the pollution of the Mississippi River following their participation in an outdoor learning activity and river cleanup.
- Survey plastic pollution along the Mississippi River
- Trawl for microplastics
- Collect data on plastic pollution for analysis
Lesson Three: Analyzing Data
Students will be able to explain the location and estimate the quantity of plastic pollution in local riverine environments through the creation of graphs and maps.
- Analyze data collected during their field experience
- Illustrate the pollution heat maps showing plastic along the river
- Create charts to explain their data to the community
Lesson Four: Reducing Plastics
Students will be able to assess the potential effect of bioplastics and plastic reduction in their community and will model the potential impact on riverine environments.
- Research plastic reduction strategies
- Test bioplastics and plastic alternatives
- Use student generated data to assess the impact and viability of plastic reduction methods
Lesson Five: Finding a New Way
Students will be able to synthesize what they’ve learned and select solutions to mitigate plastic pollution to present to their local community.
- Present plastic reduction proposals to the group
- Choose a proposal to design an awareness campaign around
- Learn about activism
Lesson Six: Building a Campaign
Students will be able to present and defend their proposed solutions through the creation of artwork and educational materials to share with community members.
- Create artwork from microplastics and marine debris collected during their field experience
- Build educational content for posters to support their plastic reduction campaign
- Plastic pollution lessons and activities from National Geographic
- Marine litter infographics from the UN Environmental Program
- Articles for students and educators
- Rivers Carry Plastic Pollution to the Sea from ScienceDaily - How Fashion is a Function of Colonialism by @ maxliboiron on Teen Vogue
- The Plastic Tide: The Problem from the Plastic Tide