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Can your students help fight ocean plastic waste?

Over 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year. Shockingly, it is now estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It is choking marine ecosystems and poses a huge threat to the livelihoods of those who depend on healthy oceans. The problem is crying out for budding scientists to answer the question: how can we solve the problem of ocean plastic waste? Using what they have learned in Science and by harnessing their creativity and problem-solving, students must create a solution which would reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. Can your students help save the planet?


Over 10-20 contact hours, students work in small teams through eduSTEM’s design thinking process to understand, design, and test a solution to this environmental challenge.

  • Phase 1: Empathise & Define: Students explore the problem of ocean plastic waste and its impact. Students conduct a plastic waste audit on their home and school to understand how much plastic waste is produced and how it is discarded. Students study the chemical and physical properties of plastic to understand why plastic doesn’t biodegrade and analyse the impact of plastic on the marine ecosystem and food chains. Students conclude this phase by choosing a cause of the problem to tackle.

  • Phase 2: Ideate: Having understood the problem, students examine case studies of how people around the world are attempting to tackle it. Students apply their creative thinking skills to develop a range of possible solutions to the problem, then use a critical thinking framework to stress-test their proposed solutions and determine which one is the most impactful and feasible.

  • Phase 3: Prototype & Test: Having defined their solution, students apply rapid prototyping skills to build working models of their solution. They must test whether they work and make further iterations as necessary.

  • Phase 4: Showcase: Students finish the project by pitching their solution and explaining the impact it will have on the problem!


Ocean Plastic Waste can be used to both teach and assess the following curriculum points and General Capabilities:

  • Curriculum

- Students must analyse the impact of plastic on ocean ecosystems through the classification of different organisms with the ecosystems, and by assessing the ripple effect of plastic up and down the food chain (VCSSU091 & VCSSU093/SC4- 14LW/ACSSU111-112)

- Students consider how the chemical composition of plastic gives it the properties that make it so widely used, but also lend plastic the property of being extremely difficult to dispose of and resistant to biodegradation (VCSSU095-098/SC4-16CW & SC4-17CW/ACSSU151-152)

  • General Capabilities

- Creative and Critical Thinking:

○ Inquiring, identifying, exploring and organizing information and ideas

○ Generating ideas, possibilities and actions

○ Analysing, synthesizing, evaluating, reasoning and procedures

○ Reflecting on thinking and processes

- Personal and Social Capability:

○ Self-awareness

○ Social awareness

○ Social management

○ Self-management

- Intercultural Understanding:

○ Interacting and empathizing with others

○ Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility

○ Recognizing culture and developing respect

Interesting in incorporating Ocean Plastic Waste as a module in your science class for 2020? Contact a PBL Program Coordinator here

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