Microplastic Experiments and Field Investigations for Middle School Students

K-12 Resource
February 2021

While microplastics are small and often invisible to the naked eye, their impact on marine ecosystems is tremendous. Microplastics can enter the ocean as small particles like microbeads in cosmetics and fibers from polyester clothing, or they can be formed through photodegradation of larger plastics like bottles, bags, straws, or cigarette butts. Microplastics are often mistaken by marine life for food, and they often contain or carry on their surface chemicals that are harmful to animals that accidentially eat the plastics. Scientists are only beginning to understand the extent of the microplastics problem and what species are being affected.

About these educational resources

This series of field and classroom-based experiments enables middle school students to explore the problem of microplastics. These hands-on activities have been conducted with school groups with guidance and materials from university scientists in North Carolina.

How these were developed

These activities were developed through a partnership involving scientist and graduate students participating in a Science Collaborative research project that assess storm water impacts in coastal North Carolina. Guidance and support was provided by Duke University Marine Lab Community Science Initiative Water Quality Program and the North Carolina Scientific Research and Education Network.

For additional information or to request support or training on these lessons, visit: Duke University Marine Lab Community Science Initiative Water Quality Program.

Learn more about the project(s) and related resources: