Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Earth Day Videos that Engage Students to Action

Water covers over 70% of our Earth's surface.  Are our planet's ocean becoming garbage collectors?  Did you know that most plastics never break down?  So, if they never deteriorate, where do they go?  I'm glad you asked!  Think about an item we all know of and probably use . . . plastic bags. Did you know that they use our Earth's oil resources and have been banned in many cities?  Do you know where they end up?  Do you know where their "life cycle" ends?   This blog post is about an issue I love to teach during April.  April 22 is Earth Day.  Here's a great video I like to show and after viewing it, students want to know more and they spring into action.  What teacher wouldn't love that student response? Students taking charge and self-directing their own learning?  Students want to know more... they demand answers.  I love it!

Our fourth grade environments curriculum is the perfect way to tie in this important concept.  Begin the lesson by asking students what is important about April (besides it being poetry month)?  Yes, it's Earth month. Then tell them you are going to show them a "mockumentary.  Make sure to teach students what it means to "mock" (see image, below) so they "get" the sarcasm in this video.   Then show the YouTube video (3:59) called "The Majestic Plastic Bag - a Mockumentary."   You will be asked to show it again, so plan for that!

This movie sparks tons of questions from students.  The video clip shows what happens to plastic bags i.e: their "life cycle" and ultimately where a plastic bag ends its "life" - it ends up in our oceans as trash.  Students are glued to every word, thinking the video is funny but they soon learn that this topic is sad at the same time.  This video really gets students thinking.  It is a great jumping off place that will lead students to pose questions about our planet, healthy oceans, recycling, reusing, reducing waste, plastics and oil use, animal impact, consumerism, and more.  This lesson is self-directed learning at its finest!

Next, your students will be asking to learn more about this "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" they just learned about during the plastic bag movie.  This is another YouTube video from 2009 narrated by Oprah (1:20).  The video clip is grainy, but it's definitely worth a watch.  NOTE:  Teachers, be sure to preview these videos before you show it to students to make sure they are appropriate for showing to your students.   The video clip is shocking and very sad, but addresses very real issues we all should know about for the health of our planet.
And here's another video "Secrets of the Deep:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Good Morning America" show (4:30) that offers even more information on this issue.  It, too, is grainy but has good content.
Here's yet another video that is interesting about the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch (3:34).  this one has some profanity so before showing to students, you will want to mute the sound and show the images in spots.

Here's some vocabulary you may encounter:  buoyant, indefinitely, coexist, decompose, indigenous, closed system, biodegradable, plankton, currents, food chain, debris.

Ask students to come up possible questions.  Some example might be:
  * What are plastic bags made of?       Plastics infographic
  * Why are they banned in some cities and states?
  * How many sea creatures have been injured by plastic bags and other plastic trash?
  * How much oil does it take to make a plastic bag?
  * How long does it take for items to decompose?      Great visual - poster
  * How long does it take marine debris to break down?       Great visual - poster
  * How long do other products take to degrade in a landfill?
  * Is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch real?
  * How can we reduce the amount of trash we create?
  * What happens to sea creatures that get tangled in the trash?
  * When debris gets into our oceans, where do the currents take them?
  * What can we do about this and where does this end?

For a literacy lesson, you can use this website link to do a close read on the topic.  Be sure to click the numbers 2, 3, and 4 at the bottom of each page to advance to the next page.  Much discussion will occur.

To enhance your teacher background knowledge, watch this TED Talk video (4:41) about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Here's another video about plastics and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (4:56).

Happy Earth Day!  YOU can make a difference in the world.  What ideas do YOU have for Earth Day?  Please share your ideas!


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