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Monday Morning Ready03.29.2018
Jumpstart Your Week!

For centuries, historians and archaeologists have defined periods of human history by the technologies or materials that made the greatest impact on society—like the Stone Age, Bronze Age, or Iron Age. But what age are we in now? For some researchers, according to Atlas Obscura’s Cara Giamo, that question can be answered with one word: plastics.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Do you think more people would recycle plastic if they knew how it was harming the environment? Why or why not?

Grade 5-6

According to the article, most plastics don't easily degrade. But that must mean that some types of plastic do. So why do you think people continue to make the types of plastic that don't easily degrade?

Grade 7-8

What do you picture when you think of the Stone Age, Bronze Age or Iron Age? What do you think people hundreds of years from now will picture if the current period of time is called the Plastic Age?

Grade 9-10

If you were voting, which material would you name the current period of time after: nuclear fallout, aluminum, concrete, silicon or plastic? Why?

LESSON PLAN
Investigate Plastic Pollution

PROCESS:

  1. Invite students to look around the classroom. What are the first three things they see that are made of plastic? Then have students think about their homes. How many plastic products do they think they would find there? Have each student guess and record his or her guess on a piece of paper. That evening, have students go home and count the plastic products they see.
  2. The next day, invite students to report their tallies. Add them all up to get a class total. Are students surprised at the total? Were they aware that there was so much plastic around them? Encourage students to share their reactions.
  3. In pairs or small groups, have students conduct research to learn more about plastic. Assign topics including the history of plastic, problems caused by plastic, and potential solutions. Instruct students to create a list of bullet points that summarizes the most important things they learned.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their findings with the class. Instruct the class to pick one solution that students think would work best. Then have students brainstorm ideas about how they could get their family, school or community to follow their lead and implement this solution.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Before students search their homes for plastic items, brainstorm a list of things they might expect to find, such as toys, dishes, bags, hair dryers, etc. You might also want to limit findings to 25 items per student to make the search more manageable. After examining tallies, divide the class into three groups. Assign each group a topic: the history of plastic; problems caused by plastic; or potential solutions. Provide assistance as needed as students conduct research. Challenge each group to write five bullets listing the most important points about their assigned topic.
Grades 5-6:
Before students search their homes for plastic items, brainstorm a list of things they might expect to find, such as toys, dishes, bags, hair dryers, etc. You might also want to limit findings to 50 items per student. After examining tallies, divide the class into three groups. Assign each group a topic: the history of plastic; problems caused by plastic; or potential solutions. Challenge each group to write 10 bullets listing the most important points about their assigned topic.
Grades 7-8:
As students search their homes, challenge them to identify and record as many plastic items as they can. After examining tallies, introduce the research topics to the class. Have the class brainstorm potential subtopics for each issue. Problems, for example, could be divided into impact on water, land, animals or people. Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair one subtopic. When students are finished with research, have those investigating the same overall topic compare notes. As a group, challenge students to write 10 bullets identifying the most important points related to their overall topic.
Grades 9-10:
As students search their homes for plastic items, challenge them to also record the number of each type of item they see. For example, plastic grocery bags would count as one item but there may be 50 plastic grocery bags in the home. After examining tallies, introduce the research topics to the class. Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group one topic. Challenge groups to identify important subtopics related to their issue. Problems, for example, could be divided into impact on water, land, animals or people. Encourage groups to divide the workload so each subtopic is covered. When their research is complete, have groups write 10 bullets identifying the most important points related to their overall topic. As students present their findings, compare and contrast results of groups that investigated the same topic.
VISUAL RESOURCES: EARTH DAY
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Earth Day and You
What would you do if you saw your local river burning? Gaylord Nelson, a former governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, started Earth Day. Read this blog from the National Museum of American History to learn more about his story and how you can contribute in the future.

Earth Optimism
Launched in 2017, the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit is a forum where the best minds can discuss the boldest experiments and most innovative community practices about how to conserve biodiversity, protect natural resources and address climate change. Videos from the 2017 summit are posted online. The online edX.org course for #EarthOptimism2018 will be available beginning April 16.

Smithsonian Earth
Smithsonian Earth is a digital streaming service with original documentaries that bring you closer to nature’s most fascinating animals and wildest locations. For a limited time, you can unlock and watch episodes from some of our most popular series without a subscription. Try it for free, and explore our planet like never before.

American Indian Responses to Environmental Challenges
Use this multimedia website from the National Museum of the American Indian to teach students about the cultural, economic and scientific motivations behind environmental preservation in four American Indian communities. The site includes lesson plans appropriate for students in grades 6-9.

What’s Your Problem? A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard
Invite students to take on an environmental project with these lessons from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. Students will interview people to see how their local environment has changed over time. Then, they will work on a solution.

Paper Recycling Program
In this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, middle school students design a campaign to get a recycling message out to the whole school.

Pick It Up!
Use this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to inspire elementary students to look at the problem of littering around the school. Students will consider ideas for receptacle designs, as well graphic designs to discourage potential litterbugs.
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