Microplastics in the Environment Experiment

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Learning Outcomes

By the end of this activity, learners will:
  • Develop proper sample collection techniques for water and sediment
  • Separate sample solutions to isolate for plastics via density separation
  • Visually inspect plastics with a microscope to identify plastic-type and colour

Curriculum Connections

Grade 8 Unit E: Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • 4 - Analyze human impacts on aquatic systems; and identify the roles of science and technology in addressing related questions, problems and issues
Grade 9 Unit C: Environmental Chemistry
  • 1 - Investigate and describe, in general terms, the role of different substances in the environment in supporting or harming humans and other living things
Biology 20, 30 All Units
  • STS outcome (science, technology and society): explain how science and technology have both intended and unintended consequences for humans and the environment


Grade 9 Biology (B1.2, B2.3, B2.4, B3.5)
Grade 9 Geography
  • B1. The Physical Environment and Human Activities: analyse various interactions between physical processes, phenomena, and events and human activities in Canada.
  • C1. The Sustainability of Resources: analyse impacts of resource policy, resource management, and consumer choices on resource sustainability in Canada

Length of Activity

1 - 2 hours

Materials List

  • Eco 360 notebook (we recommend asking learners to maintain a notebook for this program to write down reflections as they go through the program)
  • Water source
  • Plankton net (student grade with a mesh size between 25 and 150 μm diameter)
  • Meter stick to measure the water flow rate
  • PFDs or any other required safety devices
  • 1L glass bottle
  • Aluminum foil
  • Metal shovel
  • Glass jar
  • Scale
  • PE or PP plastic with a bright colour
  • 500 mL Beaker
  • Microscope (from 2x to 40x objective lens) or magnifier
  • Sediment, dirt, or sand
  • Saturated NaCl solution
  • Metal spatula
  • Sieve (300 µm mesh size)
  • Forceps

Online Lesson Format