Ocean Pollution Clean Up Experiment

We tried this experiment with our girls on Earth Day and it really struck a cord with our troop. We first showed the girls this video.

Take a Garbage Walk

We then took a walk around the neighborhood and collected trash on the streets. We connected how this trash could easily get in the sewers or nearby river (which leads into the Mississippi River--->and then into ---> the Gulf of Mexico.


Water Clean Up Experiment


  • Garbage (food wrappers, paper, plastic straws or can rings cut up, plastic wrappers, dirt, sand, veggie or olive oil, banana peel, etc.)
  • Plastic shallow tubs filled with 3/4 water
  • Things to help clean up such as:
    • small strainer
    • plastic sandwich bags
    • paper towels
    • tweezers
    • tongs
    • flour sifter
    • cups
    • coffee filters
    • ladle
    • anything else you can think of
  • sterile rubber gloves (enough for each girl)


Fill your plastic tubs up with 3/4 of the way with water. I had 4 tubs and broke the girls up into teams of 2 and 3. Place your garbage into the water to resemble pollution. I used a couple tablespoons of olive oil and cut the plastic into small particles. I tried to make the tubs identical as possible.

Price out the different items the girls can use to cleanup their water. The easier items like strainers were higher priced. I priced items from $25 to $500 keeping in mind that I was going to give the girls a budget of $500. All of my items including the plastic tubs I was able to purchase from the dollar tree or I already had it in my house.


1) Break the girls up into teams (of 2 or 3) and assign them each a polluted water tub. Explain that water clean up can be an expensive project which is why a lot of the pollution is still left today. Explain that it is easier to clean up after ourselves and not pollute than it is to clean it up later.

2) Let them know they have a budget. We gave the girls $500 a group. Show them the items for sale (clean up items). Have them discuss as a team which items they would like to purchase. When they are ready have them come up and purchase their items and get to cleaning up their water bins. Have them put on gloves before they start the experiment.

3) After 10 minutes we had the girls step back and we examined each of the bins and talked about the methods they used to clean up. We took a vote as to which group did the best clean up job.

They really had fun with this experiment and it helps break down the problem of ocean pollution. They learned how bad it really is, how our daily habits impact pollution and the challenges organizations face with clean up efforts. Overall a successful Earth Day!!




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