Contents of the Plastic Ocean Teaching Kit (Previously called the Debris Science Investigation Kit)


Photo Credit: Algalita

Investigate the impacts of microplastics on our oceans with this hands-on, out-of-the-box teaching kit.

Grades 5 and up

Time Needed 50 minutes in class

FREE for public school educators in the USA

OUT OF STOCK FOR THIS SCHOOL YEAR. You may still request a kit to help us gauge demand and to be added to our list for next year. Thank you!

Toolkit Details

What is in the Plastic Ocean Teaching Kit?
– link to shared Google Drive folder with all printable materials for class copies and replacements
– 1 copy of Plastic Ocean by Capt. Charles Moore
– 1 copy of the Educator Guide
– 1 copy of the Student Workbook and Answer Key
– 3 sets of 3 Station Cards
– Sink or Float Station Materials: 3 jars with plastic item samples, 3 towels, and 3 hemostats
– Plastic Soup Station Materials: 3 North Pacific Ocean water samples containing plastic and plankton
– Tracking Trash Station Materials: 3 sets of microplastic sample image cards

Materials you’ll need to procure
– isopropyl alcohol to fill the water sample vials which have been drained for shipping

Preview a sample of the Plastic Ocean Kit Student Workbook – PDF

Format Serves up to 9 groups of students simultaneously. This kit is designed for schools and is fully reusable and shareable.

Purpose and Context

This easy to use kit will give your students a look at real-world ocean and environmental science!

The Plastic Ocean Kit (a.k.a. the Debris Science Investigation Kit) is an all-included, prepared activity for educators to use in the classroom. Students rotate through three hands-on activities, including studying microplastics in an ocean gyre sample, investigating the densities of various plastics and their effects on ecosystems, and mapping out where we find plastics in our oceans. Each activity includes a station card with background information, a student worksheet with investigation instructions, and 3 sets of materials for that station.

Algalita Marine Research and Education have been investigating and educating about ocean plastic pollution for over 25 years. This teaching kit is our most popular teaching resource and has been distributed to over 2,500 classrooms across the US.


Prepare Order a kit with the link above. Once you have your kit, just follow the Educator Guide to set up the lesson! All materials and worksheets included. *The only thing you’ll need to procure once you’ve got your kit, is isopropyl alcohol to fill the gyre samples which have been drained for shipping purposes. Fill the jars about 3/4 full with isopropyl alcohol to help preserve the biological matter inside and make it easier to analyze contents. You can find isopropyl alcohol at your local grocery store. 

In class

Screen the 6 minute introductory video.


Group your students into 9 groups that will rotate through 3 stations. At each station, students read the station card aloud, then follow their workbook instructions for each activity. Each activity should take about 10-15 minutes. 

Station: Sink or Float includes common single use plastic items and a jar and hemostats to test their buoyancies.

Station: Plastic Soup contains a real ocean sample collected on an Algalita expedition.

Station: Tracking Trash includes clue cards of samples collected around the world’s ocean to locate on the world map.

Discussion Ideas The student workbook includes a follow-up reflection and action activity: creating a Public Service Announcement about the issue of plastic pollution.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Each kit includes a copy of Plastic Ocean by Capt. Charles Moore, founder of Algalita. Put it in your classroom or school library for everyone to share.
  • Each kit includes a USB with all of the printed materials and videos for you to access as needed.
  • This kit is designed to be completely reusable so you can share it with the other teachers in your school or department!

Associated Standards


MS-PS 1-3 Gather and make sense of info to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.

Students testing bouyancy of plastic debris items in science activity.

Students using the Plastic Ocean Investigation Kit at the Children’s Water Education Festival in Irvine. Photo Credit: Algalita

“Algalita’s teaching kit was the most well-designed “kit” activity I have ever used. Most things like this have to be tweaked so much before actually using. This could be used right out of the box. Well done!”

-Brett Wiley, High School Biology teacher in Long Beach, CA

Related Resources

View of a sandy beach on a bay, littered with trash and a snowy mountain in the distance.

Lesson: Trash Cam LIVE

Monitor plastic pollution in Alamitos Bay and find out how environmental conditions influence the flow of plastic through the environment.

Co-created with Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research

Grades 4 and up
30 to 60 minutes

Close up of an albatross, sea bird, sitting on the ocean surface.

Lesson: Sources and Sinks

How does plastic get into and impact ecosystems?

Grades 4 and up
30 to 60 minutes

Explore more

Take a Swim in the Plastic Soup

Take a virtual swim through a plastic pollution accumulation area in the North Pacific Ocean.

Learn more

What are lanternfish?

Learn about a little known yet important fish species.

Learn more

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