Ducks Overboardby: Ingrid Weiland and Caroline Sheffield

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The story of rubber bath toys falling off a cargo ship provides an opportunity to make multiple connections to crosscutting concepts and to integrate science and social studies under the auspices of environmental education.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:12 AM

I reviewed this resource again tonight as I am thinking about a cross curricular project I want to do concerning the history and science aspects of the Battle of Bunker Hill for a Society of the Cincinnati project. I believe this article may be a good tool to use with my team teacher in this activity combining Social Studies with Science - an unusual mix.

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:33 PM

In “Ducks Overboard: Understanding Cause-and-Effect Relationships Through Marine Debris”, Ingred Weiland and Caroline Sheffield outline a thematic unit for third through fifth graders based on the true story of thousands of bath toys which fell off a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean. The week-long unit integrates science and social studies, and facilitates exploration of concepts including the movement of goods, world geography, decomposition of objects, and flotation. The unit also explores the human impact on the environment and the environmental consequences of a global versus a local economy. Some of the activities include reading a book about rubber ducks, watching a video about the Great Garbage Patch, predicting and testing items to see whether or not they float, analyzing where discarded household items are made, and looking critically at a photograph of a local polluted river. The unit meets several science and social studies standards, and has the potential to meet writing and reading standards as well. I really love the idea of this unit. I am always looking for ways to promote environmental awareness and stewardship in my classroom. This unit, in my opinion, has everything. It invokes a child’s natural curiosity, and it is collaborative, hands-on, and engaging. The activities are diverse, which is important for meeting the needs of a diverse group of students. The unit moves from a global focus to a local one, which makes the learning more relevant to the students, and also has the potential to empower students to make changes in their lives which will benefit the natural environment. There is also a great deal of opportunity to extend this unit to also meet reading and writing standards. More time can be spent reading the Eric Carl book mentioned in the article, with students reading with partners, learning and practicing new vocabulary words from the book, and taking summary notes and writing down questions and thoughts as they read. Students could write a story about the travels of some object that they choose, or they could write a letter to the mayor about the importance of picking up garbage and protecting the local waterways. This article provided me with a great starting point for a thematic unit. I look forward to customizing it and expanding it to suit the needs of my students.

Kirsten Tuhus
Kirsten Tuhus

  • on Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:30 AM

This article contains a lesson plan for grades 3-5 about objects floating in our waterways and the oceans. It starts out with the story of all the rubber bath toys that went overboard from a cargo ship. To bring this lesson closer to home the children analyzed pictures of the Ohio River where debris had floated together. The students also collected trash from home and tested it for floating. This lesson teaches students how objects dumped in our waterways can cause ecological problems.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

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