Dr. Gary O’Bireck
In response to the more than 8 million tons of plastic that ends up in our oceans every year, National Geographic has instituted a new GeoChallenge called ‘Planet or Plastic?’ Coinciding with September’s annual return to school, ‘Kids vs Plastics’ invites and challenges students in grades five through eight to develop a creative solution to this growing real-world problem of single-use plastics polluting our oceans. While single-use plastic items like water bottles, straws, take-out containers, cutlery, coffee cup lids, grocery bags and even microbeads seem to be cemented into our everyday lives, they do not magically disappear when we are finished with them. Instead, most of these items find their way into waterways where marine animals ingest, are suffocated by or become entangled in them.
National Geographic has also invited students to arrange four to six-person teams with classmates around the country in the 2018 GeoChallenge ‘Tackling Plastic!’ In this forum, students will be able to sign up to collaborate, conduct research and develop real-world solutions to this plastic waste problem. By studying how to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that students are taking back to school, team members will be actively contributing to a healthy, sustainable planet and cleaner world while investing in their own futures. National Geographic Explore, Kakani Katija, will provide guidance.
National Geographic Education is also devoting its September theme of the Explorer Classroom program to ‘Ocean Plastics.’ Through this program, students worldwide will be able to digitally connect with actual National Geographic Explorers who are conducting empirical research on the ocean plastic problem. Student learning should be extensive as they pose questions and discover how their assistance can be utilized. By joining and participating in the ‘Planet or Plastic?’ initiative, students and families will play an important role in reducing the plastic pollution that is infesting our oceans and making life difficult for marine animals.
By using their youthful skills of research, collaboration, creativity, and communication, our young people may be able to create current real-world solutions to this increasingly pressing problem. National Geographic gives them this chance to excel.