by Marsha Rakestraw

A recent report notes that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in our world’s oceans.

And in the last few months there have been multiple reports of whales dying due to plastic ingestion.

With increasing news reports about plastic litter in our oceans, and efforts by changemakers like photographer Chris Jordan, who has shared images of marine bird bodies on Midway Atoll filled with bits of plastic, the public is becoming more conscious about the impact of plastic and trash on people, animals, and the earth.

Our free downloadable humane education activity, Whale’s Stomach, which is appropriate for grades four and up, helps students learn about the impacts of our “throwaway” society and connects directly to these recent stories.

In Whale’s Stomach, the presenter starts by dumping a plastic bag full of trash and plastics onto the floor in front of students and asking what those items have in common.

Students discover that the contents of the bag represent the stomach contents of a dying, 28-foot female sperm whale found on a beach in North Carolina in 1992. Veterinarians concluded that the garbage was a significant contributing factor to, if not the sole cause for, the whale’s death.

Students then spend time examining the items and asking questions such as:

  • Is this item recyclable or reusable so that it could have been kept out of the waste stream?
  • What creative ideas can we come up with to reuse these items?
  • How could people have prevented these items from winding up in the ocean?

Students then discuss how we humans can generate less trash and keep it out of our oceans and other natural areas.

Download the complete Whale’s Stomach activity.

For more humane education activities and lesson plans, check out our online Resource Center.