LESSON PLAN

THE CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Unplastify

The Unplastify Challenge invites high school students across the world to explore the complex issue of plastic pollution by connecting emotionally with the topic, reflecting about their own relationship with the material, and inspiring them to get involved.

Purpose

The Unplastify Challenge invites high school students across the world to explore the complex issue of plastic pollution by connecting emotionally with the topic, reflecting about their own relationship with the material, and inspiring them to get involved.

BENEFITS

  • Gain critical understanding an global environmental  issue.
  • Exercise self-reflection skills.
  • Understand the connection between social and environmental problematics.
  • Creative brainstorming with peers.
  • Collaboration with peers.
  • Exercise presentation and communication skills.
  • Learn how to design a systemic change of products and ser

STEP 1: EXPLORE – EMPATHIZE The problem of plastic pollution and you

Prior to viewing the films, introduce the SIFT Worksheet. This is a graphic organizer designed to help students keep track of their reactions while viewing the films. Using the worksheet during the film viewing, ask students to notice and record any physical SENSATIONS, any IMAGES that are particularly evocative, any FEELINGS that they experience, and any THOUGHTS that occur to them. Be sure to supply one worksheet per film for each student. 

In addition, ask your students to write down any thoughts and questions they had while watching the films.

Screen the film(s). After watching each film, allow time for students to discuss their reactions either as a class or in small groups. 

Hint: This reflection is a critical step in learning from the film as it allows an opportunity for participants to make an emotional connection to the issues through the storytelling.

STEP 2: CRITICAL THINKING How might we make a change?

Pair your students into groups of 4-5 members to answer the following questionnaire:

About the films: 

  • Which was your favorite and why?
  • Which fact was the most shocking to you?
  • What is your personal relationship with plastic? 
  • What plastic items do you use every day? (Make a list)
  • Which of these plastics are single use plastics?
  • How many of these single use plastics do you use per week (the most repetitive 2 or 3 items)?

What can we do as a group to change this?

  • Choose one of these single use plastic items listed and make a group commitment to stop using it. 
  • Calculate how much plastic you would avoid in a year if you stop using that item as a group. (Example: If there are four students in the group, and each student drinks a bottle of soda each day, then the group consumes 28 bottles per week. If those four students change to a reusable bottle, they would eliminate 1456 plastic bottles each year.)

What can we collectively do to change this?

  • Choose a single use item (it can be the same as before or a different one), and design a strategy to eliminate it from your school community. The strategy can be about communication, replacement, ban or a blend of strategies.
  • Each group should write their idea (strategy) on a large sheet of paper in sentence form. They may also feel free to illustrate their ideas to aid in their presentation in the next activity.

Hint: For more information about the environmental impact of plastics, check out Unplastify.com.

STEP 3: CIRCULAR BRAINSTORM How might we collaborate?

Ask each group to choose one representative to briefly share their group’s ideas from STEP 2. After each presentation, hang the large papers on the walls around the classroom.

Once all of the papers are posted, send each group to one of the papers, though not to their own. The group should read the ideas generated by the previous group and then add a check ( ) next to the ideas they agree with or especially like, an (X) next to the ideas they disagree with or don’t like, and a question mark (?) next to ideas they are not sure about. Encourage students to add new ideas or add to existing ones. After a couple of minutes, tell the groups to rotate clockwise to the next sheet. Continue having groups rotate until each group returns to its original position.

Once in their original position, group members can read the ideas and responses of their classmates and ask questions to better understand the ideas. Invite the whole group to discuss the key ideas they generated about plastics pollution using the following prompts:

What was it like going through this process? 

What new ideas surfaced that you liked or gave a check ( ) to? Why?

What ideas surfaced that you didn’t agree with or gave an X to? Why?

How did it influence your thinking about plastics? What new ideas emerged for you?

How might you use what you have learned here in the future? How might this experience integrate into your life or your behavior going forward?

Finally, create a collective list of viable actions that can be taken to combat the plastics problem.

Hint: During these discussions, make special note of what topics raised by the films seem to be of most interest to your students and the most common solutions. Hopefully this will lead to natural working groups to take action in STEP 4.

STEP 4: TAKE ACTION Make a change, be the change

In this final step you will guide students to design collaborative strategies to “unplastify” their school community. Drawing from the list generated in STEP 3, form working groups and guide them to complete their action plan:

Set clear goals:

What are the short-term goals of your project? What would you like to accomplish right away? 

What are the long-term goals of your project? What changes would you like to see after your project is completed?

Check your goals using the SMART method. Are they Sustainable, Measurable, Attainable, Relative, Timely?

How will you track your progress? Document the state of affairs when you started, and decide how you will track any changes that result from your project.

Hint: If the main goal is related to reducing or eliminating the use of a certain plastic on the campus, begin by estimating the current use, and establish periodic check-ins on any reductions using the same method of measuring.

Gather resources:

  • What resources do you already have for the project? 
  • What additional resources do you need? 
  • How can you leverage your existing resources?

Hint: Resources may be material, monetary, human, technological or community (such as existing events). Encourage students to think out of the box!

Establish a timeline:

  • When will you begin and what activities will take place during each day of the project? Activities may include planning meetings, developing materials, marketing or advertising an event or educational information, presenting an event, or celebration, etc.
  • Consider school holidays and events that may help or heed your project.

Create roles or tasks for each group member:

  • What skills and interests do group members have and how can they best be utilized?
  • Who will do what and by when?
  • How will the group be accountable to each other?

Prepare the final impact report, comparing outcomes with the initial data:

  • Which single use plastic did you choose?
  • What does your project consist of?
  • Where did you implement the project?
  • How much plastic was avoided with the changes that were implemented?
  • How many people were involved with the initiative and are aware of the problem?
  • How many people have changed their habits after the project?

Replication opportunities: The best way to generate more positive impact is by scaling up. Think about where you can replicate this project, and the potential impact.

Hint: As a source for inspiration, share some of the innovative ideas in the following films from SIMA Academy:

Also, see these amazing projects from the Unplastify Challenge for Schools 2019!

Duration

The timeline can range from two weeks to a month, to allow ample time for research into the issue associated with the film’s topic, production and presentation.

Preparation

Review the resource links at the end of this lesson plan and familiarize yourself with the concepts. Select 2-3 of the following films from the related to the problem of plastic pollution:

  • Out of plastic
  • Anthropocene: Dandora
  • Story of Stuff
  • Voices of the sea

Bonus Option

Want to take the learning further? If your students are between 15 and 16 years old, become their guiding educator and invite them to take the Unplastify Challenge and lead collective action for good. Learn more here.