Problems with Oil, Plastics and Density
Take the above ingredients, mix and you get the great Pacific Garbage Patch.
We are starting the density unit with a bit of fun – the diet vs regular coke float in fresh and salt water. Guess and see. Fun, high interest demo and gave me a chance to find out what they already know. Then they predicted and tried a load of bits and pieces from round the lab, including pepper corns, wax candles, paper clips etc. So that’s the fun part. Because they had all played in the bath tub as experimentalist toddlers, they had a pretty good sense of what would float. Ideas include ‘bubbly stuff’ ‘stuff with air in it’. Stuff that’s not ‘thick’. And several used the word density and seemed to have a concept that it was concentrated matter. Lots of molecules in a small space.
Then they tried floating plastic trash they’d brought in, also in salt and fresh water – leading to why it matters that most plastic trash floats.
Illustrated the point with a couple of YouTube clips: The first from Algalita Marine Research, a non-profit who are working mightily to do something about this enormous problem. See “Synthetic Sea” updated for 2010 10 minutes, suitable for 8th upwards. It’s a well-researched, scientifically valid short film. Includes adsorbtion of toxins, ingestion of micro particles on the ocean food chain. 6:1 ratio of plastic to plankton in 1999. In 2008, 45:1. Wow. That’s just shocking.And for more of a shock, check out “One of the Dirtiest Beaches in in the World – Hawaii from Algalita again, and the BBC.
And the much more fun mockumentary The Majestic Plastic Bag from Heal the Bay, narrated with David Attenborough-like seriousness by Jeremy Irons. Wonderful. Showed this as a way to get them thinking about ways to present their Problems with Oil Project and Sports Projects. I’m actually teaching the use of irony from Jeremy Irons. So British, so enjoyable. So NOT handwringing seriousness of so many environmental hell-in-a-handbasket documentaries. I know, I shouldn’t feel that way. I really do support many/most environmental causes. But seriously. Lighten up! and get moving instead.