Plastics: From Pollution to Solutions unit driving question: How can humans solve our plastic problem in the ocean? 

Knowledge + Action = Power lesson driving question: How can your publishing team maximize positive impact on your community and the environment?


1. Facilitate the publication presentations to an invited audience.

  • Display each team’s final magazine around the room for a gallery walk.
  • The time necessary for this step will vary greatly depending on your students’ success in inviting their target audiences to your class.
  • Welcome any guests to your classroom.
    • Provide name tags so guests can write their names and titles. Students may also want to wear name tags.
    • Ask for a student volunteer to explain the purpose of this unit of study.
      • Possible response: 
        • We studied the crisis of plastic pollution in the oceans and the problems that it causes.
        •  We also researched solutions and proposed our solution to members of the community.
    • Ask another student volunteer to introduce the various elements that are included in each magazine.
      • Possible response: 
        • Each magazine has a front and back cover, a Food Web Infographic showing biomagnification in a marine ecosystem, an Ocean Plastics Movement Model, a Featured Marine Organism Profile, a profile of the winner of the Ocean Plastics Pollution Solutions Contest, a glossary of vocabulary words, a Letter from the Editors, and a Call to Action.
    • Explain to guests that each publishing team chose a different target audience and developed a different Call to Action. Ask each team to briefly name their target audience and describe their Call to Action.
  • At this point, make sure all outside guests know which publishing team invited them.
  • Provide time for guests to receive a presentation of the magazine from the publishing team or read the magazine in paper or digital format.
  • Provide time for guests to ask questions of students and to give their initial reactions to the Call to Action. The guests may answer questions, such as:
    • What did you learn from reading the magazine?
    • What did you find interesting or thought-provoking?
    • What questions do you have for the publishing teams about their projects?
    • How realistic is it that you will be able to accomplish this Call to Action and why?
    • What barriers or obstacles would prevent you from being able to accomplish it?
    • What suggestions or advice do you have for the publishing team?
  • Thank your guests for attending and make sure students have exchanged contact information to stay in touch with them in the future.

2.     Show the picture of reflections and ripples.

  • After guests have left, ask: What do you see in this picture? 
    • Possible responses: 
      • clean water, a drop of rain, waves or ripples in the water, reflections of trees
  • Congratulate students on the work they have done and explain that on this last day of the Plastics: From Pollution to Solutions unit, their final activity is focused on reflections and ripples.
  • Ask: What are reflections, and what are ripples?
    • Possible responses:
      • A reflection is what you see in the mirror, or in the water.
      • A ripple is a wave that travels outward from a single point.
  • Tell students that even though the unit is ending today, the problem of ocean plastics does not end today, and neither should their journey from knowledge to action.
    • The reflection represents students looking inward at themselves and how they have changed.
    • The ripples represent the effects of small actions, like a single drop of water, moving outward into the world and affecting others.
3.     Divide the class into two equal groups to reflect internally and externally.
  • Orient students to the reflection banner hanging in the room (see Setup for directions). Explain or post directions for how the banner works:
    • Top half: Students write or draw at least one individual action they plan to take in relation to plastics.
    • Bottom half: Students draw or write one or more collective actions they want to see other people take in relation to plastics.
  • Explain that one half of the class will complete the Ripples and Reflections Survey handout while the other half of the class will reflect on the banner with markers.
    • After both groups have finished their assigned reflections, tell the groups to trade places until all students have taken the survey and written on the banner.
    • Once students have completed their surveys and written on the banner, teachers are encouraged to share their class’ responses, along with the students’ final projects, digitally with the broader National Geographic educator community.
  • Conclude the unit with a whole-class discussion about next steps.
    • Discussion questions:
      • If a member of your target audience did not attend today, what is your plan to reach out to them?
      • If a member of your target audience did attend today, what is your plan to follow up with them to check on their progress in completing the Call to Action?
    • This is a good opportunity for a final review of the class Know and Need to Know chart.
      • What questions about plastics do you still have that were not answered in this unit?

Informal Assessment

Students’ ideas about individual and collective action to address the plastics crisis demonstrate their answer to the unit driving question: How can humans solve the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean?

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Arts and Music
  • Conservation
  • Experiential Learning
  • Social Studies
    • Civics

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Present their magazines to their target audience and respond to their feedback.
  • Discuss how their attitudes and behaviors have changed as a result of new understanding.
  • Imagine new actions they will take to become better stewards of the planet.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussions
  • Reflection

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 16:  The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1.A:  Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.5:  Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6:  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Next Generation Science Standards

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Hole puncher
  • Markers
  • Binder clips
  • Long sheet of white paper (approximately 36” x 144”)
  • Stapler
  • Tape

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per pair

Physical Space

  • Classroom


Step 1: Note that the success of this activity builds on the work of the publishing teams in the Choosing an Audience activity, when teams invited their target audience to a presentation of their published magazine. Ideally, members of their target audiences will be able to attend this session; however, this will not always be possible for all groups. Consider following up with each group’s target audience a few days before this final activity to confirm their attendance. Additionally, inviting school and community members can provide an authentic audience, even if they don’t represent the specific audiences targeted by each group.

Step 2: Hang a long banner across a wall in your room or a hallway at eye level. Draw a dark line horizontally across the paper dividing it in half.


  • Large-group instruction
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Like the scientific method and the engineering design cycle, project-based learning is an iterative process. Students and teachers both benefit from taking the time to reflect on successes as well as failures. It’s tempting to turn in the final project and feel like the unit is finished, and indeed, reflection is often skipped over as a waste of time when there are always more standards to cover. However, taking the time to reflect has real benefits. Students need time to process, articulate, and internalize what they learned. They need to see it, hear it, say it, write it, draw it, and experience it in multiple modalities. Once learning has been processed, then it can be applied to new situations and contexts such as future projects.



observers or listeners of an event or production.


event or situation leading to dramatic change.


to make as big as possible.


to engage in deep thought, contemplation, or introspection.

socioscientific issue

a problem that requires both scientific knowledge and evaluation of ethical concerns to solve.