A simple and effective 7th grade STEAM lesson on plastic pollution: Educator Spotlight on Shari Mark

Mar 9, 2023 | Classroom Activities, Community News, Educator Spotlight

Wayfinder Society is for environmental educators who believe in the power of collective action. It is an online platform hosting a robust offering of classroom and teaching resources that makes it easy for educators to create a fun, dynamic, and engaging classroom and to inspire their students through environmental awareness and action. Every other month, we highlight an educator in our network.

Author photo

Shari Mark teaches 7th grade Science at Irvine Unified School District. She’s been using our labs for the past few years.

I was first introduced to Algalita through an educator workshop a few years ago. I was most impressed with the passion and message of the lessons. Plus, the activities were engaging, educational, raised awareness of the plastic problems in our oceans, and FUN! I knew my students had to learn more about the situation and solutions.

I began teaching my students about the plastic industry, both good and bad, and had my students keep a tally of plastics in and around school and at their homes noting the Resin ID codes. This was the hook! Now I was ready to have my students learn with an actual lab – all provided by Algalita. I setup 4 stations: 1. Look for nurdles in sand collected from local beaches. 2. Sink or Float. 3. Tracking Trash. 4. Plastic Soup. The students absolutely LOVE these labs and continued to talk about what they’ve learned for a few days afterward. We finalized the lesson with repurposing ‘plastic’ projects.

– Shari

Student upcycled plastic artwork
Student upcycled plastic artwork
Vista Verde School plastic waste art turtle.

The images above are examples of educational artwork made using plastic waste items
made by Ms. Mark’s students as part of her STEAM lesson on plastic pollution.

Thank you Shari for engaging your students on the topic of plastic pollution!


You can learn more about the lab she’s talking about on our Toolkits page. Her 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stations are part of our Plastic Ocean Teaching Kit (formerly Debris Science Investigation Kit). Check out our new Synthetic Sand toolkit and lesson to obtain sand samples for your classroom.