Balloons on the Beach

A lesson plan for Marine Debris Interruptions

First page of the Marine Debris Interruptions: Yellow Rope on the Beach lesson.

Have you ever found litter on the beach and wondered what it is and where it came from? In this project, organized by Oregon Sea Grant and supported through funding by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, students focus on one particular item of marine debris and try to learn about the item's story. What was the item originally used for? How does it move through its life cycle of manufacture, transportation, use, and disposal? How did this item end up abandoned or discarded in the marine environment?

Once students know the object's story, they identify solutions that would prevent this particular type of marine debris from ending up on the beach, and share their ideas with decision makers. The goal is to interrupt the processes that lead to this type of marine debris. These three 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) lessons are centered around the anchoring phenomena of yellow rope fragments, plastic shotgun wads, or balloons on the beach.

Latex and foil balloons are commonly found during beach clean-ups conducted in the Pacific Northwest. In this lesson, students will determine where this type of marine debris may be coming from, and the processes that contribute to the material becoming marine debris. Students will propose solutions to interrupt the escape of balloons into the environment.

On the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, you can find additional resources for teaching these unique problem-based lessons, including a field guide for marine debris items of concern and a blank lesson template to create similar lessons for other marine debris objects.

Lesson Plans
Marine Debris Topics:  
• Types and Sources  
• Solutions  
• Grade 3-5  
• Grade 6-8  
• Grade 9-12  
• College +  
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:  
• ESS3: Earth and Human Activity  
• ETS1: Engineering Design  
• Math  
• Social Studies  
• Earth Science  
• Physical Science  
Special Categories:  
• Citizen Science  
• Working with Data  
• Cleanups & Waste Audits  
• Research  
• Outdoor Activity  
• Class Discussion  
• Action Project  
NOAA Regions:   • Pacific Northwest
Last updated Thu, 07/11/2024 - 12:44 pm EDT