Global Learning Programme Wales

World Oceans Day 2018

To download this resource in word format, click here

On 8 June, countries around the world celebrate World Oceans Day. This year’s theme is ‘Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean’.

The Global Learning Programme Wales (GLP-W ) has developed literacy and geography lesson ideas and activities for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 to support pupils’ learning around the concepts of sustainability, poverty and development, and interdependence

The resource also supports the teaching of PSE, art, science and design and technology and will enable teachers to stimulate pupils’ critical thinking skills on global issues linked to sustainable development.

Life below water is under threat, and World Oceans Day is an opportunity for teachers to make their pupils aware of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more specifically Goal
Life below water, which pledges to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.

Why is life below water so important? What are the challenges it faces in the 21st century?

If you are still stuck for activities for World Oceans Day, GLP-Wales have compiled 12 activities for you to use in your classroom. Click here to download the activity sheet!


Learning objectives

This resource will particularly support teachers in developing:

Activity 1: Introduction: interconnectedness

The following brief films are all about the theme of interconnectedness. Depending on time available, these films could be used as a stimulus for a community of enquiry, using a methodology such as Philosophy for Children (P4C) or as a quick warm-up activity.

If you decide to use them as a starter, before you show one film, ask pupils: ‘What do you think of when you hear the word “interconnectedness” – what does it mean to you?’ Pupils can discuss this in pairs and then feed back to the class. Search and watch one of the following one-minute films from YouTube:

Invite responses from your class:

Activity 2: ‘Flip Flotsam’

Check pupils’ existing knowledge of our oceans (i.e. name the five oceans/guess what percentage of the world is covered by oceans, etc. – see an infographic below (also available to download here).

Ask pupils: ‘How many pieces of plastic are thought to be floating in the oceans?’ and elicit guesstimates. Give pupils one estimate – 5,250 billion – and ask them to think of further questions about this statistic that can either be answered now or parked for research later. What kind of plastic or other waste have pupils seen on British beaches and how might it have got there?

The poem ‘Flip Flotsam’ by Edinburgh-based poet Elspeth Murray looks at a beach in Kenya where rubber flip flops get washed up on the shore. (For EAL learners you might wish to first show a picture of a flip flop or add your own to the poem to make sure it is understood. In some languages they are referred to as ‘Hawaianas’ or ‘Pata-pata’).

What devices does the author use to make her poem so powerful (alliteration and possibly onomatopoeia of ‘flip’ ‘flop’ and ‘snap’)? In the last two verses, the poet asks two questions posing alternative scenarios. Ask pupils:

Activity 3: A flip flop’s journey

Go to YouTube and search ‘What happens to your flip flops when you lose them in the sea?’ Show pupils the 26-minute film, which is based on the east coast of Kenya.

Lamu Island and Kiwayu Island are part of the Lamu Archipelago – a string of unspoilt islands along the Kenyan coast, encompassing the Kiunga Marine National Reserves, rich in coral reefs, mangroves and endangered sea turtles. The film shows the location on a map, but you may decide to locate the national reserve or Kiwayu using Google Earth® first.

In the first few minutes of the film, pupils will hear the Elspeth Murray poem but with a different last verse.

Pause at this point (after ‘something worth much more’) and ask them: ‘Can you think of ways that these flip flops might be collected and re-used or recycled?’

Give pupils a few minutes to work in groups and come up with a few ideas for how to recycle the flip flops. Each group chooses their best idea and presents to the class, with peers voting on the best idea.

Watch the rest of the film and, with pupils working in small groups, discuss the following question: ‘What did you find: funny/shocking/most surprising/most interesting?’

Then discuss as a class:

There are many options for follow-up literacy activities: pupils could

Activity 4: Plastic waste on Welsh and British beaches

© Jane Carpenter Global Thinking.

It is often said that in the UK nobody lives further than 70 miles (100 Km) from the sea. Whatever the truth is (your pupils may want to fact-check this for Wales), most/many of us have been to the coast at some point. Ask pupils to tell each other in pairs which beach(es) they have been to in Wales. What do they like or dislike about this beach? What would be their ideal beach and why? And their nightmare beach?

Using classroom resources from the Marine Conservation Society and other conservation websites, for homework or as a classroom task, ask pupils to find out some statistics on litter and plastic waste on UK beaches. general website and good for KS3 research Cool Seas Explorer activities for Foundation Phase and Key Stages 2-3 The Keep Wales Tidy site has useful maps of award-winning Welsh beaches and details of litter campaigns news story from Wales Online.

Using their learning, pupils can decide how they wish to present their findings, perhaps with a numeracy, art, D&T or PSE focus. Pupils could do this in groups by creating their own infographics to represent what they have learnt. Pupils can peer-assess each other’s work giving the three stars (for strong or positive aspects) and a wish (one aspect that could be improved) method.

For ideas and inspiration, see the Marine Conservation Society’s Our Seas our Future: Strategy 2015–2020, from which the infographic below is taken:

© Marine Conservation Society

What steps are needed to ensure that Welsh seas and beaches are clean? What part can pupils play in this?

For an art-focused activity, pupils can research British or global artists working with beach waste and then create their own piece of art.

Pupils could explore artists like:

For STEM KS2 and 3 activities, see Practical Action STEM Challenges such as the Plastics Challenge or for a range of activities.

For D&T, KS3 pupils could research the invention by Dutch teenager, Boyan Slat, who thought up an idea to rid the oceans of plastic waste and developed his idea further as part of a school science project.

At KS3 see also DeZeen for some fantastic ideas for using plastic ocean waste. Could pupils come up with their own design to reduce the problem?

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched an Innovation Prize to help keep plastics out of the ocean.

Lastly, for PSE, show the one-minute film by WWF: Together Possible (available on YouTube).

In class or for homework pupils can look into campaigns run by many different organisations (see links), and either decide whether they would like to join or support one of these OR create their own campaign or action. The groups can then pitch their ideas in a whole-school assembly on World Oceans Day, or a class ‘Dragon’s Den’-style competition could be held to peer-assess ideas with a prize for the winner.

Activity 5: Is plastic the biggest danger to our oceans?

There are thought to be around 5,250 billion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean. There is concern that, by 2050, the estimated volume of accumulated plastic could be greater than fish, and the global plastics sector could account for 15% of the global annual carbon budget. Is plastic the biggest danger to our ocean?

Ask pupils if they have heard of Henderson Island. Introduce this place by showing this video to class: (The Guardian, May 2017).

Pupils should watch the video and note down their answers to the following:

o   Bottle 1: How long does it take for this bottle to decompose?

o   Bottle 2: What is a gyre? What happens at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

o   Bottle 3: How does a plastic bottle become a classroom chair?

Ask pupils to consider how much plastic packaging they think they’ve used in the last week. Show them this document and ask them to reconsider their answer.

Introduce the idea of ‘the missing 99%’ – what is this? Tell pupils that scientists have suggests that around 99% of plastic in the ocean is untraceable:

Have pupils underestimated how much plastic they use in their everyday life and how it might end up in the ocean in various, and sometimes hidden, ways? What can they do to raise awareness?

Pupils could research and design a poster from what they have learned, encouraging their school to recycle plastic bottles. The poster should display some of the facts and processes about how plastic gets into our oceans.

Take a look on YouTube at ‘The Ocean Clean Up’ for positive ways this issue is being challenged

See also interactive activity 6 ‘How did a water bottle from Germany end up on Henderson Island?’

Support for activity 5

 Activity 6: How did a water bottle from Germany end up on Henderson Island?

This card-sorting activity will help to promote understanding of oceans and waste, and critical thinking with Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils.

The activity is based on information by the campaigning organisation Plastic Oceans (see links) and a report of a scientific expedition that appeared in The Guardian. The information is organised into cards – you will need to print and cut these up beforehand. The cards contain a range of information, including some potential red-herrings, for pupils to consider; you could differentiate by reducing the number of cards for some pupils to work with (e.g. from 24 to 18 cards).


Ask the question: ‘How did a water bottle from Germany end up on a Henderson Island, a tiny uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?’


Create ‘a need to know’, for example by:




Plastic Oceans Foundation

The Guardian newspaper article, based on a scientific paper (Lavers and Bond, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

United Nations: ‘Oceans, the source of life’

European Environment Agency press release; Welsh Government press release

World Bank

Marine Insight

How did a water bottle from Germany end up on Henderson Island?

Scientists from the
University of Tasmania visited Henderson Island
and surveyed the amount
of rubbish there.

A scientist said what she found on Henderson Island was ‘tragic’ and plastics in oceans were ‘the new climate change’.

300 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide
each year. Most is very
long-lasting and floats.

On Henderson Island scientists found a plastic bottle from Germany, Canadian containers and a New Zealand fishing crate.

Scientists found 98% of the rubbish on Henderson was plastic – the highest density of plastic debris recorded anywhere on Earth.

Scientists found 27% of the rubbish came from South America. 8% of the rubbish came from fishing, e.g. nets, floats.

Henderson Island is 5,500km from the South American coast. It is located in the centre of the South Pacific gyre.

In 2015, 7% of Germany’s imports came from China, including electronics, machinery and plastics. Most came in containers on ships.

Henderson Island is a tiny uninhabited coral island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its untouched, diverse ecosystem.

Henderson Island is one of the most remote islands in the world. It is one of the Pitcairn Islands group.

Hamburg is Germany’s biggest container port and the second biggest in Europe.

A study of Indian Ocean turtles found 51% had eaten debris like rope and bottle caps. 96% was plastic.

Time taken for waste materials to break down in water: cardboard – two weeks; aluminium – 200 years; plastic – 400 years.

According to the Plastic Oceans Foundation, the mass (weight) of plastic is six times that of plankton in the most polluted parts of the ocean.

An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic each year enters the ocean from fishing and ships, and litter from beaches, rivers and sewers.

According to the European Environment Agency, Germany recycles 62% of rubbish, compared with 39% in the UK. The figure for Wales is 64%.

Currents in the southern hemisphere flow anticlockwise around the oceans. In the centre of this circular flow, loops or gyres form.

Ocean currents move warm and cold water around the world’s oceans. Some are thousands of kilometres long. They connect to form a global system.

Nearly all plastics are
made from oil. Oil is a
non-renewable resource.

Plankton are tiny creatures that are at the bottom of the food chain. They are eaten by fish.

A simple ocean food chain: plankton > eaten by fish > eaten by birds and other fish > eaten by humans.

When sea creatures eat plastic, most stays in the gut. Some chemicals in the plastic are absorbed in the body.

Scientists found up to 671 items of plastic per square metre. They estimated 38 million items weighing 18 tonnes on the island.

More than half the world’s population lives close to the sea. 60% gets its protein from the sea (UN).


Activity 7: Is the Great Barrier Reef dying?

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s biggest structure made from living organisms. It generates an annual revenue of AU$6 billion for tourism and AU$1 billion for fishing. What is coral bleaching and how is it affecting this unique ecosystem?

Ask pupils what they know about the Great Barrier Reef and coral more generally. How would they describe it? What does it look like? Where have they learnt about this important ecosystem?

Pupils should then watch the video above and note down their observations and answers to the following questions:

Ask the pupils why the coral has lost its colour. This process is known as coral bleaching:

Pupils could research the reasons for the 2016 bleaching event that affected the Great Barrier Reef and explain why global sea temperatures are rising. This could be illustrated using data and graphics taken from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Support for activity 7

Further links and background reading

General links

World Oceans Day site: includes promotion materials, ideas for events, photos, videos and resources for all ages

World Oceans Day ideas from WWF to mark World Oceans Day:

WWF Protecting Wales’ Coasts and Sea

Keep Wales Tidy: site includes information about waste and recycling, coastal awards and details of the Eco Schools award.

Life below water infographic produced by the RGS for the GLP-W  

NASA The Oceans: Animation from satellite imagery; commentary describes the importance of the oceans and explains currents

NASA Perpetual Oceans: animation of global ocean currents with no commentary (You Tube)

NASA Climate Kids: site for younger pupils explaining ocean currents, the link with climate and the impact of climate change

NOOA Ocean Service has a number of videos including ocean basics, ocean life and tides and currents

Oceans: WWF website including features on UK seas and the Arctic, together with the challenges of ocean management, fishing, oil and gas, shipping and climate change (with an invitation to adopt a polar bear or turtle)

Ends of the Earth: resource pack from WWF to investigate life near the poles and the impact of climate change:

Digital Explorer: education site with comprehensive resources to support science, geography and English. It includes:

Looting the Earth: series of lesson plans linked to a short video on the Reframing Rio website, focused on overfishing in the Pacific Ocean

Ocean waste, pollution and plastics

The Keep Wales Tidy litter toolkit is available in Welsh and English; it has survey formats, background information on plastics and litter, and examples of campaigns by Welsh Schools

Plastic Oceans education and campaign website, centred on a documentary film that you can book for a screening at your school. The website includes useful infographics, video clips and lesson plans.

Alternative 7-minute You Tube video from the UN: search ‘Plastic Ocean UN’

British Council English vocabulary and comprehension/recall lesson based on the Plastic Oceans trailer

Plastics Pollution Coalition campaign website, based on striking images of pollution and links to a range of videos It includes an education area with lesson plans; one such is a series of science/geography detailed lesson plans, resources and videos for age 8-12 from Anchorage Museum.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: charity promoting the circular economy; includes New Plastics Economy animation and infographics on plastic production, waste and recycling.

Washed Ashore: charity website aiming to raise awareness of ocean waste through art; it includes ideas for art/sculpture projects built from ocean waste, together with photos, videos and some background information about plastic waste

NOAA Marine Debris Program website, including information about coral reefs, waste and ocean processes; the resources area includes factfiles, puzzles and activities, information booklets and a video; and

NOAA Oceans Service Ocean Facts education website for teachers and pupils includes a wide range of maps, charts and interactives, photo library, quizzes and lesson ideas

Marine Tracker: website that maps marine debris worldwide, with the opportunity for pupils to download the app and log data from their own beach survey

Imperial College Grantham Institute website including video, podcast and briefing paper for older students

Ocean Cleanup: a possible technological solution to ocean waste

Practical Action plastics challenge: pupils investigate the properties of plastics, and find solutions to problems caused by plastic waste

The British Plastics Federation School Zone has information and videos about plastic manufacture, sustainability and recycling

Ten tips to reduce your plastic footprint: animation from WWF

BBC Newsround has a number of short clips about plastics, waste and recycling

The British Plastics Federation School Zone has information and videos about plastic manufacture, sustainability and recycling

Coral reefs

NOAA Oceans Service site includes maps, images and background information about coral reefs and

BBC Newsround clip about coral bleaching

Reef Check Australia: comprehensive website for Key Stage 2–3 focused on saving the Great Barrier Reef

Teach Ocean Science: site based on a series of webquests investigating coral reefs

WWF Tagalaya – the fish market You Tube video about reef fishing and conservation in Indonesia


Ice-locked ship to drift over North Pole: BBC article focused on investigating the decline of Arctic sea ice and climate change

Plastic on Henderson Island:

This resource was developed by Jane Carpenter and Global Thinking, the Geographical Association, and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), in association with the Global Learning.