COVID project: Art and Science on Marine Debris

A friend asked me to share an assignment for young children to access freely during COVID that pulls together some of the elements of my teaching, research, and arts practice. Here goes!

Are you a teacher looking for an activity for students working from home during the COVID-19 global pandemic?

This activity can be completed remotely with items found in most homes.

After completing this activity, students should be able to:

  • Describe the way plastic waste threatens the health of global waterways {Knowledge: information gathering}
  • Discuss plastic waste and our own behavior. How do we use plastic? Can we avoid it? {Taking apart: analysis}
  • Create an image from plastic waste {Making use of knowledge: application}


Learning about Plastic Pollution

Ask your students to research plastic pollution around the world.

National Geographic has a lot of resources appropriate for kids:

The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained

Ten Shocking Facts about Plastic

Reflect of the problem of plastic by answering the following questions

  • How much plastic is there in the world?
  • How does plastic waste harm wildlife?
  • How do we dispose of plastic?
  • What kind of recycling for soft plastic (ex: chip bag, tortilla packaging, bread bag) is available in my community?
  • How can I reduce my plastic use?


Come together as a group to discuss or share answers to an online discussion.


Learning about Plastic Art

Visit the websites of artists who use plastic as a medium. There are hundreds of artists doing amazing work with and about plastic pollution—a few of my favorites are:


Our activity today is based on my work sewing soft plastics onto large canvases in the shapes of sea creatures


Octopus (96 x 59 inches, photo credit: John Groo)


Whale (75 x 61 inches, photo credit: John Groo)



Closeup, Whale (photo credit: John Groo)


Closeup, Octopus (photo credit: John Groo)


Look closely, do you recognize where some of these plastics came from?



Here’s a simple version of this project appropriate for younger students



  • Soft plastics
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paper



  1. Collect soft plastics in a range of colors


  1. Draw an image on a piece of paper




  1. Cut soft plastic into small pieces


  1. Glue pieces onto your image





  1. Voilà!




More advanced students can…

  • sew plastics onto fabric with needle and thread
  • create more elaborate images
  • create larger images
  • create more meaningful images (i.e., of species, landscapes, or communities impacted by marine debris)
  • use this material the way you would tiles in a mosaic



Shout out to the amazing Shari Bergel for inspiring this!

Download a PDF of the activity here:

Plastic in the Ocean_Art and Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: