“The amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans is 10 to 1,000 times higher than expected, according to a new American study. And the main consumers of plastic, mainly generated for packaging, are paradoxically not the main ones responsible for this state of affairs. "
Through the next activities, students will discover how to validate scientific information in addition to understanding why the oceans are polluted with plastic, where this waste comes from and how to improve the situation.
At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:
- Identify keywords to search the web;
- Understand the limits of Wikipedia;
- Evaluate the quality of different sources;
- Read a press article and interpret various extracts;
- Note the differences between the data provided in two press articles;
- Understand how to validate information effectively;
- Find solutions to the pollution of the oceans by plastic.
ACTIVITY 1: Finding valid information
To start the activity, tell the students that the oceans are polluted with plastic. There is even a "continent" made of plastic. To help them discover this reality, invite students to find information on the Web.
First, ask them to identify keywords to use in the Google search engine. Students should quickly find the Wikipedia page for the topic: North Pacific Garbage Vortex.
Invite them to consult the few introductory lines of this Wikipedia article to learn about the situation.
Students should be able to answer the following questions:
- Where is the plastic “continent” located?
- What other names is this plastic “continent” called?
- In what year was it discovered?
- Is there another similar area elsewhere on the planet?
- What is the estimated mass of plastic in the oceans?
Now tell the students that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for 100% and that it is important to validate the information it contains. For example, mention that the mass of plastic present in the oceans is much greater than what is listed on Wikipedia (7 million tonnes). They will also discover the real state of the situation during the next activities.
Then tell them to read the external links at the end of the article. This is a good way to locate valid sources of information on the topic. As a large group, identify the sources that seem most relevant and ask students to explain why they would choose one link over another.
ACTIVITY 2: New data
Invite students to discover a recent study on ocean pollution by plastic.
Then ask them to interpret the following excerpts:
Download the file in ActivInspire format (.flipchart)
Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)
Finally, ask students what they think of the debris being washed into the oceans by Canada. Write on the board the number of tonnes thrown into the oceans by China (8.8 million tonnes) each year. What do students think about China being the number one polluter?
ACTIVITY 3: Other data
For this last activity, present the following headline students.
As you read the headline title and think about the amount of plastic released into the ocean from China in the article consulted in the previous activity, what do students think of this data?
As a whole class, compare the data provided in this article with that presented in this article from La Presse.
Who to believe? Wikipedia? The Press? Or rather Radio-Canada?
Ask students how to get to the real data and how to interpret it properly. After allowing students to speak, as a whole class, identify the source of the data presented in the articles. This is the journal Science produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Tell students that the best way to find out the real data is to go directly to the study in Science journal or to visit the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website.
Finally, here is an AAAS article which summarizes the study published in the journal Science that students can consult.
Ask students to find solutions to ocean plastic pollution. Tell them that a young Dutch student seems to have found a good way to clean the oceans. To discover its solution, visit the following website: The Ocean Cleanup.
More about the magazine
Plastic and ocean, it's time to take stock
Agence Science-Presse, February 15, 2015
Say "no" to plastic to save our oceans
Greenpeace Canada, June 12, 2013