What are microplastics and where do they come from?

Lesson overview

In this lesson, students develop their understanding of how human actions can have a negative impact on the marine environment. The context of this lesson is investigating the amount of microplastics that students use every day in personal hygiene products.

Learning outcomes

  • Define microplastics (Foundation)
  • Give sources of microplastics (Foundation)
  • Define and use the term 'microplastic' correctly (Developing)
  • Describe how to use sampling techniques (Competent)
  • Apply sampling techniques (Competent)
  • Switch between multiples of units (Expert)
  • Use standard form (Expert)

Lesson steps

  1. Brief from Dr Matt Cole (5 mins)
    Use the slides to set the context and share the learning outcomes.
  2. Where do microplastics come from? (10 mins)
    Using the slides, students learn what microplastics are and where they come from.
    Using the slide-based traffic lights game to assess students’ learning.
  3. Practical work (25 mins)
    Students investigate how much microplastic is in different personal hygiene products.
  4. Summary assessment worksheet (15 mins)
    Students demonstrate their learning by answering questions on Student Sheet 3b.
  5. Self-reflection (5 mins)
    Students reflect on their learning by composing a tweet, complete with appropriate hashtags and emojis.

Home learning

Using Student Sheet 3c, students conduct a survey at home to see which of their own personal hygiene products contain microplastic.

Flip it

Ask students complete the hunt prior to the lesson. Use this as a discussion point in Step 1 to illustrate how prolific microplastic use is.