BeMED 4. Oh No! Plastic in my food! Plastic everywhere!

Oh No! Plastic in my food! Plastic everywhere!
Anita Muscat
Age Guide
Year 1-3 with adaptations for Year 6
Subject Area
English, Science, Fine motor skills when colouring and handling scissors for the younger students.
Preparation Time Depends on what activity is chosen and how it is carried out
Estimated Duration 30 to 45 minutes
Site Classroom and/or school hall / yard
Educational objectives Students will learn that all creatures living in the sea are interconnected and that anything which affects one of them will probably affect others further up the chain as well.

Students will become aware of what micro-plastics are, where they come from and the harm they cause.

Students will learn that our plastic consumption has somewhat spiralled out of control but this trend can be reversed if we all do our part.

Students will learn that many countries around the world are aware of the harm caused by plastics and what they are doing to address the problem.

Learning Outcomes Year 1 and 2

– Understand that planet Earth supports life and therefore we must take care of Earth’s resources.

– Identify practical ways of reducing, reusing, recycling and repairing waste as well as refusing items and rethinking everyday practices to safeguard planet Earth.

– I can handle scissors safely to cut freely, along straight and curved lines.

Year 3

– I can ask questions about the world around me.

– I can carry out a simple practical investigation with the teacher’s support.

– I can make simple conclusions from my direct observations.

Year 6

– I can access information from a range of sources with ability and efficiency.

– I can write for an audience and with a purpose.

– I can create and write my own book/s experimenting with different genres.

– I can find answers to simple questions on a scientific topic.

– I can identify simple cause and effect relationships.

– I can explain that the environment is an ecosystem that can be harmed through pollution, destruction of the natural environment, acid rain, overfishing and overpopulation.

– I can observe and describe how the sea is becoming polluted and its effect on marine life.

Link to SDGs SDG 14: Life below water
Educational resources required Posters, pictures, books and videos containing information about the different forms of life in the sea.

Appendix 4.1 – Template: How to draw a fish (1)

Appendix 4.2 – Template: How to draw a fish (2)

Appendix 4.3 – Template: How to draw a fish (3)

Appendix 4.4 – Photos: 3D Fish

Appendix 4.5 – Poster: Lifecycle of a plastic water bottle

Appendix 4.6 – Poster: How long does it take for trash to decompose

Appendix 4.7 – Powerpoint: Can we end plastic pollution

Appendix 4.8 – Powerpoint: Plastics and the environment

Appendix 4.9 – Poster: Food chains

Cereal boxes, coloured paper, paper puncher/scissors

Internet connection

Remote preparation Year 1 – 3 : Prepare various different sized, rectangular pieces of cardboard (used cereal boxes). Sizes can be 25cm by 13cm, 20cm by 10cm, 15cm by 8cm, 10cm by 5cm, 8cm by 4 cm, at least two identical pieces  for each student. The teacher decides whether to ask the students to draw the biggest fish they can on the given cardboards at school or at home the day before.

Prepare various small pieces of coloured paper or plastic. They can be circles which are produced by paper punchers.

Year 6 students are asked (a week before) to do web-based research about micro-plastics or sea pollution. –

Questions could include: What are micro-plastics? Where do they come from? How big or how small are they? Are they dangerous? Why? Where do these micro-plastics end up? What are their effects? What can we do to reduce their amount?


What causes sea pollution? What are its effects on marine life? Does it affect humans? How? What can we do to reduce sea pollution? (For example: use local products, use products with less packaging, refuse single use products, apply the 3Rs)

Planning Considerations Highlight of lesson: One should stress that plastic which is thrown away and finds its way in the countryside and the sea does not disappear. It takes a very, very long time to decompose and then the very small pieces just become smaller but are still there. In the meantime, it causes a lot of damage to the environment and subsequently to all forms of life.
Method Summary Years 1 – 3

Role play – Different sizes of fish which have ingested micro-plastics are represented by coloured circles inside their tummies. The amount of micro-plastics accumulates the higher one moves up the food chain. The coloured circles are removed from the tummy of one fish and emptied into that of a bigger one which has eaten them. This repeats itself until someone catches the biggest fish which has ended up with the largest concentration and then that ends up on our plate with humans who end up eating these tiny plastic particles. And nobody wants to eat plastics!


The teacher starts to ask the students whether they have ever seen films of life in the sea and shows some videos to demonstrate what a wonderful world exists in the sea level. Reference can be made to children’s films which depict such life –such as Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. (Links to trailers: Videos 1 and 2 below). The students are encouraged to name living creatures which they know live in the sea. Guide the students to name both ‘animals’ and ‘plants’ even if they do not move. Pictures of these creatures and/or videos 3 and 4 can be shown on the interactive board. The beauty of this habitat is discussed.

Video 1: – Under the Sea – song and trailer from The Little Mermaid

Video 2: – Finding Nemo trailer and song

Video 3: – Sea animals for kids by All Things Animal

Video 4: – Down In The Deep Blue Sea – Super Simple Songs

The enemy:

Fish and other sea creatures have a relatively new enemy: plastic. Plastic used by people sometimes ends up in the sea, it breaks into smaller pieces and the fish and other creatures swallow it, sometimes thinking that it is food. Is this good? What do you think happens to the fish when they eat plastic?

The very small pieces of plastic look very much like the food small fish normally eat. What happens then?

The teacher explains/leads the discussion so that the students understand that the big fish eat the smaller ones and this repeats itself until who ends up eating the big fish? Try to elicit where humans come in the picture…


For Years 1-3 students:

The students are given pieces of cardboard of different sizes and colours. They are encouraged to draw fish of different sizes. Ideas/Templates showing how to draw a fish can be found in the following Appendices: Appendix 4.1(

Appendix 4.2 (

Appendix 4.3 (

Each student would need to cut out two similar fish shapes. These should be stuck or stapled together save for a small opening where the micro-plastics (pieces of paper) would be inserted and removed (Appendix 4.4). Thus a 3D fish would be created. Small pieces of paper are put inside each fish’s stomach.

A role play for all 3 classes follows with the bigger fish eating the smaller ones. Every time this happens, the ‘micro-plastics’ inside the stomach would move from one fish to the other and accumulate along the way. Finally, these would end up on our plate.

Each child holds his/her fish up high and starts to walk around in the school hall or yard. That way all the fish start to ‘swim’ in the area provided. The teacher explains that the small fish are the most in danger and the students holding the bigger fish are to try and catch a smaller fish to eat. The teacher could ask the students to indicate which is the small, the big and the bigger fish to check whether they understsand these terms. Big fish start to ‘eat’ the little fish. However they would not just be eating the fish. They would also be eating the plastics the smaller fish had swallowed. Once a small fish is caught that cardboard fish is put inside the larger one and all the small coloured pieces emptied into the larger fish. The two students stay together and try to escape a larger fish from eating them. By the time the largest fish has eaten the smaller ones the largest fish should have quite a few coloured pieces of plastic inside its stomach. The teacher then ‘catches’ all the remaining big fish representing the fisherman who catches the fish to sell them for people to eat.

The following videos can be shown either before or after the activity.

Plastic Planet –

A whale’s tale –

What Is Plastic Pollution – Dr Binocs Show –


At the end of the chain, fishermen catch the fish. These fish end up on our plates. And would we be eating just the fish or would we be eating the plastic as well? Is plastic good for our health? Should we eat it? What can we do to avoid this happening?

Adaptation for Year 6 Students: How could this be possible? Humans eating small pieces of plastic when eating fish?

The teacher can ask some of the questions below to gauge the students’ knowledge on the topic.

1.   How big are micro-plastics? Where can they end up? Why are micro-plastics harmful? How do they effect marine life? What happens to creatures which end up eating plastic? Is it true that they starve? Can these plastics effect our health? How? How widespread are they? Are micro-plastics found only in the sea? Can we get rid of them? How?

2.   What are the pros and cons of plastic?

Pros: They are cheap to produce. They are light and strong. They can be either flexible or rigid, opaque or transparent They can be made into every imaginable type of product.

Cons: Most plastics have short lifespans. Most plastics which are used as packaging will be thrown away immediately. Other plastics are single-use ones so they are discarded after that particular use. If they are not collected and recycled, plastics systematically end their lives abandoned in nature, particularly in the sea. So they remain in the environment for a very long time.

3.   Will our seas become an ocean of plastic? Is there anything we can do to avoid this happening? What can we do so that waste plastic does not end up in the sea anymore?

The teacher should then point out that the solution to this problem lies on land. People need to change their behaviour, avoid single-use plastics and reduce, reuse and recycle.

The teacher needs to point out that some micro-plastics may come from cleaning and/or personal care products where they are put intentionally to ‘improve’ the product and not only as a result of larger plastic products breaking down. Also some micro-plastics are ending in our food from the packaging used to pack the same food.

Work for home:

Once the students’ curiousity is aroused students are guided to research further about micro-plastics to try find how micro-plastics are formed. Each student is expected to share his/her findings with the rest of the class. Ideally the information collected is transformed in either of the following which are writing genres expected for Year 6 students:

·       report for a magazine or newspaper,

·       an interview/dialogue between a reporter and a marine biologist


·       a narrative from the perspective of a turtle or a fish.

Further resources for year 6:

The videos below demonstrate answers to some of the questions posed.

#BreakFreeFromPlastic – Why We Need to Stop Plastic Pollution in Our Oceans FOR GOOD | Oceana

Micro-plastics explained –

Follow-up activities A simple diagram of a plastic cycle/map can be presented. (Refer to links below +.) This could start from the raw material to its processing and use as packaging or production of other objects, distribution in shops and making its way to our homes, its multiple uses and to the end of its life which is either followed by the plastic item being thrown away as litter/waste or deposited for recycling. The latter two options are presented and followed separately by the students to see possible conclusions. These could end up written as the story of a plastic bag or plastic bottle by Year 6 students.

Reference to appendices and links below:

Appendix 4.5 (

Appendix 4.6 – How long does it take for trash to decompose.pdf (

Weblinks about the life of a plastic bottle:

Background information for educators Material from the Twinkl website (

Plastics and the Environment” and “Can we stop Plastic Pollution” – Appendices 4.7 and 4.8.

There is a wealth of information on the sources on marine litter and plastic pollution and what is being done around the world to tackle it. One example is: by the United Nations Environmental Programme.

Adaptations Students with learning difficulties could pair up with another student and do the task together.

As follow up for gifted students: explore different food chains which demonstrate the interdependence. See Food webs and food chains – kids do ecology ( and Appendix 4.9 – Food Chains.pdf (

Extra task: Students can be asked to draw a poster about the Life of a Plastic Bottle – from its ‘birth’ up to when it ends up floating in the water to ‘its death’ when it ends up as micro-plastics.