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This event is based around the documentary “A Plastic Ocean”, but can be adapted for any kind of science-related documentary that encourages behavioural change. A shortened version of this documentary (approx. 20 minutes) can be integrated into a double lesson for a school activity, combined with a related activity to reinforce the lesson objectives and the message shown in the documentary.

Using a multi-pronged approach to learning, and adapting the activities for different ages/subjects, means that this is a versatile event to run and can benefit a wide range of school audiences.

One goal particular to Plastic Ocean is tackling a societal challenge and learning about the underlying science of oceans and the impacts of pollution. This is achieved by watching a documentary that presents these challenge and combining it with an activity that reinforces the science behind them. The activity should be centred around inquiry-based learning, a form of active learning that starts with the problem scenario presented in the screened documentary, and allows for the participants to ask questions and come up with potential solutions to the problem.

For the organiser (or a volunteer going into a school), this can help the participants to engage with these social issues. By interacting with their audience and allowing them the freedom to try and solve the problem in their own way, an element of co-creation and knowledge sharing is introduced allowing for a deeper understanding of the subject to all involved in the activity.

Target Audience
  • Children 7-12
  • Teenagers

You can do it with all those groups, but we did it with professionals from different fields like public engagement or the cultural and creative sector.



The idea of inquiry-based learning is now deeply rooted in the mind of many science educators, and a recent meta-analysis of studies into the efficacy of inquiry-based learning confirms that there is a positive effect on learning outcomes (1), and allows for the particiapnts to tke a more active role in their learning. To facilitate this process the organiser can use an engagment tool, for example Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats: one group manages the discussion; one group focuses purely on facts, another purely on emotions; one group applies logical thinking to potential benefits, another applies it to potential concerns; and finally, one group takes care of creative, outside the box thinking (2).

1)Lazonder, A. & Barbagallo, F. & Harmsen, R. Meta-analysis of inquiry-based learning: Effects of guidance. Review of Educational Research. 86(3), 681–718 (2016).

2)De Bono, Edward. Six Thinking Hats (Book). Penguin (2016)


Project Timeline

Time Activity
Months in advance
  • Develop lesson plans centred around a documentary, to match your national curriculum, using help from teachers
  • Make contacts at local schools in your area to gauge interest and start organising the outreach events.
Weeks in advance
  • Prepare individual workshops / demonstrations. Inquire with the schools what resources are available to them, and if required purchase any additional materials needed
On the day
  • Meet teacher before the lesson to discuss how any final details that need to be covered and how the teacher can facilitate the activity.

Single Event Structure

Time Activity
30 mins
  • Screening of documentary extracts, short initial discussion
60 mins
  • Demonstrations or extended group discussion/activites to help participants come up with solutions for problems posed in documentary

Personnel roles

Person Activity
Core Team
  • Develop lesson plans and liaise with schools
  • Set up the classroom with film / experiments
  • Moderate discussion and engage children in a dialogue about societal challenge and the underlying scientific concepts
  • Can assist in facilitating discussion as they know the students best; e.g. can help split into groups as well if needed


While the Plastic Ocean documentary is available via Netflix, find more information about the process behind it, along with more about the foundation “Plastic Oceans”, on their website:

An education and resources guide for the A plastic Ocean documentary can be found here:



A similar documentary can be found for free on Youtube