Lesson of the Day: ‘When the Ocean Gives You Plastic, Make Animals’


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Featured Article: “When the Ocean Gives You Plastic, Make Animals” by Alex V. Cipolle.

The Washed Ashore nonprofit collects garbage on the Oregon coast and creates sculptures of animals whose health is endangered by the trash they are made of.

In this lesson, you will learn about the organization’s efforts, and in a Going Further activity you will examine and respond to various examples of political art.

What do you know about ocean pollution?

In her winning 2019 Student Editorial Contest essay, “Nothing Gets Between Me and My Sushi … Except Plastic, Maybe,” Sophie Lee writes:

As an Asian-American self-proclaimed millennial foodie, imagine the shock I experienced when I discovered a horrifying truth — plastic cuisine. Ubiquitous plastic extends beyond our surroundings — and invades our guts — through what we eat and drink. I first learned that sushi is chock-full of microplastics. There’s so much plastic in the water, churned down to the size of rice grains or smaller, and fish gobble it up. When the fish end up on our dinner plates, guess what? Our bellies receive an unsettling supplement that wasn’t on the menu.

In fact, a National Geographic study found microplastics in 114 marine species — with over half of them regulars in restaurants — meaning that my tummy acquires some uninvited non-digestible additives.

Even water isn’t safe! My parents often tell me to drink more water to wash down my food — but did they know that I was ingesting plastic too? A 2017 study by Orb Media found microplastic contamination in 83 percent of global tap water — with the highest amount, 94 percent, found in the United States!

What is your reaction to this student essay excerpt? Does it make you more concerned about the problem of ocean pollution? What questions does it raise? How do you think we as individuals and as a society can help alleviate the problem? How can we better educate ourselves and others on the issue?

Read the featured article, then answer the following questions:

1. The article begins, “Angela Haseltine Pozzi stands shoulder to shoulder with Cosmo, a six-foot-tall tufted puffin, on a cliff overlooking the blustery Oregon coast.” Who is Cosmo and what is he made of?


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