The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Earth Day Project Based Learning (Grades 3-5)

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178 Ratings
Beyond Traditional Math
Grade Levels
3rd - 5th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
26 pages
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Beyond Traditional Math


Go beyond coloring sheets and cleaning up the playground for Earth Day. Go deeper with students by studying important environmental issues.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an environmental problem in the Pacific Ocean. Discovered in 1997, it is still a largely unknown problem to the general public.

In this inquiry project students read and learn about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using information text (provided), write persuasive letters, and solve conservation math problems. It ends with a water pollution science inquiry experiment. It is perfect for Earth Day, but it can also be done any time of year.

A Reading Focus:

This is a mini informational text reading unit that focuses on the reading strategies of questioning, predicting, activating prior knowledge, and synthesizing. The purpose is for students to think using informational text features. There is a two page informational text about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch included in this resource.

A Writing Focus:

This is a mini opinion/persuasive letter writing unit. The purpose is for students to think about who they could write to, and to communicate what they’ve learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There is a graphic organizer, weak and strong sample letters, and a list of mini lessons to help you with this mini unit. The rubric attached focuses on three skills for the final letter.

A Math Focus:

There are 4 word problems to help students think about what they can do to conserve and discourage pollution. These problems are tiered and become more difficult, with the last problem being the most challenging.

A Science Focus:

The project ends with a water pollution experiment that is inquiry based. Students try to clean a basin of water with "pollutants" in it, using clean up utensils that you provide. The utensils are marked with different costs, forcing them to think about cost effective clean up. They extend their thinking by connecting it to how difficult the ocean is to clean up.

Included in this resource:

1. Unit introduction and detailed descriptions/lessons
2. Three learning targets for Readers Workshop
3. Three-six learning targets for Writers Workshop
4. Four deep math problems, ranging in difficulty to help you differentiate. (Includes two open ended problems.)
5. Reading is Thinking graphic organizer
6. A two page informational text with titles, headings, text boxes, photos, captions, graphs and a mini glossary. Titled: A Garbage Dump in the Ocean
7. Two letters, a weak and strong sample
8. Brainstorming: Thinking About my Audience graphic organizer
9. Answer key to math problems.
10. Marzano Scale for Level of Understanding
11. Writing rubric to score paper, for both student and teacher.
12. Water clean up experiment instructions and recording sheet.

All of my lessons and units are in the format of Jane Pollock’s GANAG method. This standards based lesson schema is for 21st century learners. This method is used to help teachers use a structure in their lessons that will give great results using formative assessment often.

I hope you can celebrate Earth Day in a meaningful way with this project!
Total Pages
26 pages
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
1 Week
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