Marine Wildlife and Harmful Trash
- Grade Level:
- Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
- Biology: Animals, Earth Science, Environment, Language Arts, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management
- 45 minutes
- Group Size:
- Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
- National/State Standards:
- Standard 7: Students examine organisms’ structures and functions for life processes, including growth and reproduction. (ASDOE Elementary Science Standards: Grade 4-8, pp. 41-73)
OverviewStudents listen to descriptions of marine wildlife and identify marine debris items that could harm them. Students perform an experiment in which they wrap a rubber band around their fingers and across the back of their hand and try to disentangle them. As a class, students discuss their thoughts and reactions and relate to real animals.
Students will be able to:
1. Define the vocabulary terms entanglement and ingestion.
2. Learn about the characteristics of marine wildlife that can make them susceptible to the hazards of marine debris.
3. Learn about entanglement and ingestion by experiencing what it might be like to be a marine animal trapped in debris.
4. Identify what marine trash items can harm marine wildlife.
Marine debris can have serious impacts on both marine wildlife and humans. Debris can entangle, maim, and even drown many wildlife species. Animals can also mistake some debris for food; once ingested, these materials can cause starvation and/ or choking. Although almost any species can be harmed by marine debris, certain species – including seals, sea lions, seabirds and sea turtles – are more susceptible to its dangers than others. For humans, marine debris can be a health and safety hazard. The impacts of marine debris can also result in economic hardships for coastal communities related to tourism and the fishing industry.
The two primary threats that marine debris poses to marine wildlife are entanglement and ingestion. Entanglement results when an animal becomes encircled or ensnared by debris. Some entanglement occurs when the animal is attracted to the debris as part of its normal behavior or out of curiosity. For example, an animal may try to play with a piece of marine debris or use it for shelter. Some animals, such as seabirds, may see fish caught in a net as a source of food, and become entangled while going after the fish.
Entanglement is harmful to wildlife for several reasons:
a. It can cause wounds that can lead to infections or loss of limbs.
b. It may cause strangulation, choking, or suffocation.
c. It can impair an animal's ability to swim, which may lead to drowning, or make it difficult for the animal to move, find food, and escape from predators.
Ingestion occurs when an animal swallows marine debris. Ingestion sometimes happens accidentally, but generally animals ingest debris because it looks like food. For example, a floating plastic baggie can look like a jellyfish, and resin pellets (i.e., small, round pellets that are the raw form of plastic, which are melted and used to form plastic products) can resemble fish eggs. Ingestion can lead to choking, starvation or malnutrition if the ingested items block the intestinal tract and prevent digestion, or accumulate in the digestive tract and make the animal feel "full," lessening its desire to feed. Ingestion of sharp objects can damage the digestive tract or stomach lining and cause infection or pain. Ingested items may also block air passages and prevent breathing, causing the animal to suffocate.
Marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, fish, and crustaceans all have been affected by marine debris through entanglement or ingestion. Unfortunately, many of the species most vulnerable to the impacts of marine debris are endangered or threatened. Endangered species are plants or animals that are in immediate danger of becoming extinct because their population levels are so low. Threatened species are plants or animals that may become endangered in the near future.
1. Small-to medium sized (thin) rubber band for each student
2. Styron-Foamed plastic cup/plate/bowl pieces (one of each)
3. Fishing line or rope
4. Six-pack ring
5. Plastic shopping bag
6. Chalk board or white board
Handouts & Worksheets
1. "Animal Tales"
2. "Animal Entanglement"
Introduce Inquiry Question?
How does trash affect marine wildlife?
Ask: Have you ever heard the term trash? If yes, explain where or how they heard the term? If not, what do you think it means? Write the term on the board and explain how to understand its meaning. Explain that trash is materials that have been made or used by people and discarded. Tell students that marine trash can have a serious impact on marine wildlife. Trash can entangle, harm, and even drown many wildlife species. Wildlife can also mistake some trash for food. When trash is ingested it can cause starvation and/or choking.
Ask: Have you ever heard the term entanglement? If yes, explain where and how they heard the term? If not, what do you think it means? Write the term on the board and explain so that students understand its meaning. Explain to students that entanglement is the looping of a piece of trash around part of an animal’s body. Entanglement can impair swimming and feeding, cause suffocation, decrease ability to elude predators, and cause open wounds.
Ask: Have you ever heard the term ingestion? If yes, explain where and how they heard the term? If not, what do you think it means? Write term on the board and explain so that students can understand its meaning. Explain to students that ingestion is the consumption of a piece of trash by an animal. Ingestion occurs when an animal swallows marine trash. Ingestion sometimes happens accidentally, but generally animals ingest trash because it looks like food. For example, a floating plastic baggie can look like a jellyfish, and resin pellets (i.e., small, round pellets that are the raw form of plastic, which are melted and used to form plastic products) can resemble fish eggs. Ingestion can lead to choking, starvation or malnutrition if the ingested items block the intestinal tract and prevent digestion, or accumulate in the digestive tract and make the animal feel “full,” lessening its desire to feed. Ingestion of sharp objects can damage the digestive tract or stomach lining and cause infection or pain. Ingested items may also block air passages and prevent breathing, causing the animal to suffocate.
Tell the students the two primary threats that marine trash poses to marine wildlife are entanglement and ingestion.
Prior to activity, teacher should have all the Styron-foamed cups, plates, bowl on the floor. Tied the ribbon to a used balloon and put it on the floor. Put shopping bags, six-pack ring, fishing line on the floor for activity.
Activity 1: Harmful Trash
1. Pass out handout of “Animal Tales” to each student. Place the items of debris on the floor in the middle of the classroom and have students form a circle around the items. Read the description of the turtle on the “Animal Tales” handout, or ask one of your students to read it to the class.
2. Choose a volunteer to be a turtle and ask him or her to go into the center of the circle and pick up an item of trash that can harm a turtle. Ask the “turtle” to tell how and why it might become injured by this piece of trash. Encourage students to think how wildlife could become entangled and ingestion in the trash and how animals might eat the items, mistaking the trash for food.
3. Repeat this procedure for the remainder of the animals on the handout. When finished, ask the students if they can associate any other pieces of debris with one of the animals in a way that the class has not yet discussed.
4. Explain that many species of mammals, sea turtles, birds and fish that encounter marine trash are endangered or threatened. Ask students how marine debris could pose special problems for these species. End your discussion by helping students to understand that any animals that lives in the ocean or along the coast can be affected by marine debris
Activity 2: All Tangled Up
1. Discuss how animals need a healthy environment in which to live, just like we do. This includes a habitat that is free from pollution.
2. Distribute the rubber bands to students and have them follow the procedure below. (NOTE: As an alternative, you may want to have one or two students come up to the front of the room and perform the exercise with rubber bands as a demonstration; then include the entire class in the discussion.)
· Hold your left hand up in front of your face, with the back of your hands towards your face.
· Hold the rubber band in your right hand and hook one end of it over the little finger of your left hand.
· Hook the other end of the rubber band over the left-hand thumb. The rubber band should be taut and resting across the bottom knuckles on the back of your left hand.
· Place your right hand on the bottom of your left elbow, and keep it there.
· Try to free your hand of the rubber band without using your right hand, teeth, face or other body parts
3. Take a look at you "Entanglement" handoutWhile the students are struggling, ask the class to imagine that they are animals that have gotten pieces of fishing line, abandoned net or other trash wrapped around their flippers, beaks, or neck. Tell them imagine that you are birds that unable to eat until they are free from the trash. Ask the students the following questions:
· How would you feel after struggling like this all morning?
· How would you feel after missing breakfast?
· What would happen if you continued to miss meals and spent all of your strength fighting to get free?
· What would happen if a predator was chasing you?
Encourage students to share their thoughts and feelings about being entangled. Remind them that their experience is similar to that of a bird or other marine wildlife that becomes entangled in debris.
Conclusion with Inquiry Question
How does trash affect marine wildlife?
Do your part to keep our environment clean at all times. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.