Students read All the Way to the Ocean by Joel Harper and explore the impact of single-use plastic waste on their environment.

Learning objective

Students learn about how plastic impacts marine animals and the environment.

Curriculum links

Language for interaction
Expressing and developing ideas

Literature and context
Responding to literature
Examining literature

Interacting with others
Interpreting, analysing and evaluation
Creating texts

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Single-use plastic, marine life, litter, marine debris

This lesson explores how single-use plastics end up in our waterways and impact the marine environment.

Single-use plastic includes all plastic packaging that is intended only to be used once, then discarded. Reducing waste by avoiding single-use plastic fits into the avoidance section of the waste hierarchy. Single-use plastics are often difficult to recycle so these can end up in landfill where they may never break down.

Changing our habits to avoid using single-use plastics is a great way to start reducing the amount of plastic entering our environment. Many people ‘choose to refuse’ single-use plastics such as bottled water, drinking straws and plastic shopping bags. Options such as reusable water bottles, metal or paper straws and reusable bags are becoming more common.

In 2017, Keep Australia Beautiful and the Tangaroa Blue Australian Marine Debris Initiative reported that more than 75 per cent of the rubbish collected on Western Australian beaches was plastic.

Plastic bag and straw to show class.

Book All the Way to the Ocean by Joel Harper or access the online resource

  1. Brainstorm examples of plastic objects students use every day.
  2. Show students the plastic bag and straw. Discuss:
    • Who has seen these items on the ground? Where – at school, the shops? How do they get there?
    • What happens if they are not put in the bin or taken to a REDcycle bin (for recycling)?
    • How can these items harm the environment?
  3. Read All the Way to the Ocean by Joel Harper. You can access information and images relating to the book at
  4. Discuss the features of the book such as settings and how the plot develops.
  5. Ask students what they think a dilemma is and give examples from the book. Discuss new vocabulary used.
  6. Ask students to work in pairs and share a personal experience of seeing plastic rubbish at the beach or in their neighbourhood. How did these experiences make them feel? Share responses. Make connections between the story and students’ own experiences.
  7. Depending on their year level, students demonstrate what they learned by:
    • recreating the story by drawing a chosen scene on a poster
    • creating a short, informative story applying new vocabulary
    • creating a short, persuasive text using appropriate language features.