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Jan 20, 2022


60 minutes


3rd, 4th, 5th


  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Social-Emotional Learning

Regional Focus

  • Global


  • Google Docs
  • Google Slides

Plastic World (Art for the Earth #3)


In this lesson, students view images of plastic pollution around the world, watch a video on plastic pollution, and analyze artwork about plastic pollution.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students complete a KWL on plastic pollution and view six images of plastic pollution around the world.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students watch a video on plastic pollution and discuss.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students analyze artwork with a partner and then choose one artwork to analyze using the art critique star.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
10 minutes
  • Students activate background knowledge of plastic pollution by completing the "Know" and "Want to Know" parts of a KWL chart. Teacher can lead this exercise as a whole class or students can complete independently or in a group.
  • Students view six images of plastic pollution around the world. Students show their reactions to a partner, using facial expressions to share their emotional response. Teacher can model possible "reaction faces" before students view images, such as "shocked face," "disgusted face," or "angry face."
  • Students add to the KWL chart with new learnings and wonderings.
20 minutes
  • Students watch Plastic Pollution: How Humans Are Turning the World Into Plastic.
  • Teacher facilitates a discussion using the questions on the Teacher Slideshow.
    • Option 1: Teacher can stop the video at various points and have students discuss with a partner.
    • Option 2: Students take notes during the video in response to the discussion questions.
    • Option 3: Teacher facilitates a discussion after the video has ended.
  • Students think-pair-share using the two questions on the Teacher Slideshow.
30 minutes
  • With a partner, students use the artwork critiquing question cards to analyze different artwork.
  • Students might "finish" early, after they have explored all three items. If that is the case, you can try these following extensions:
    • Option 1: Students switch partners and continue discussion.
    • Option 2: Students write a paragraph about their favorite artwork from the entire lesson.
    • Option 3: Students can further analyze this mural or this mural.
Teaching Tips


  • Students are exposed to the impacts of global plastic pollution.
  • Students are exposed to a variety of ways activists can use art to create awareness and apply cultural and political pressure to create change.
  • Students will understand that big companies are the ones creating major plastic pollution.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is lesson 3 of 6 in our 3rd-5th grade Art for the Earth unit.
  • Students should have a basic understanding of plastic pollution.
  • Partners or small groups will need a set of artwork critiquing question cards between them. To save time, cards can be cut out before the lesson or shared with students digitally.


  • Students can be paired or grouped based on ability. Students who do not regularly shine in class may have the most insightful analysis of the artworks. Make sure to provide concrete, specific feedback on how their analysis is insightful.
  • Make sure to guide students to "share the air" when discussing the artwork in partners or groups. Step in to make sure all students have their voices heard so that certain students are not always talking or always listening.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.10.3-5 Identify the beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and values that underlie their own and others' points of view about civic issues.
    • Dimension 3: Gathering and Evaluating Sources
      • D3.1.3-5 Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, structure, and context to guide the selection.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.6.3-5 Draw on disciplinary concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and global problems at various times and places.
  • National Core Arts Standards
    • Visual Arts: Standard 7 - Perceive and analyze artistic work.
      • VA:Re7.1.4a Compare responses to a work of art before and after working in similar media.
    • Visual Arts: Standard 11 - Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.
      • VA:Cn11.1.5a Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.


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