Wave of Plastic

Student inquiry of plastic waste and its impacts on marine ecosystems


Welcome to the Wave of Plastic Project

Over the last several decades, plastics have come to dominate daily life. Their versatility, durability, and low cost have made them a favored material for a wide variety of products from eating utensils to medical equipment.
However, some of these same features make them amongst the most common and persistent environmental pollutants in the world today.
Every person can make a difference by making choices that reduce the use of plastics and their entry into our oceans.

About the CURRICULAR Unit

Wave of Plastic is a curricular unit helping middle school students make sense of the core ideas related to issues of plastic pollution (particularly those relevant to the Chesapeake Bay watershed) by engaging in authentic interdisciplinary practice culminating in comprehensive, student-driven, informed action projects. 

This unit has been designed to support:


The Wave of Plastic unit meets Middle School NGSS Performance Expectations that are part of the scope of the curriculum for grades six (St. Mary’s County and Charles County Public Schools, MD) and eight (Calvert County Public Schools, MD). The lessons are carefully developed to meet the needs of a broad range of grade level-appropriate and diverse learning needs. 

As part of the response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, UMCES is proud to provide the Wave of Plastic unit online for families and educators. If you utilize any part of the curriculum at home or for remote learning, we would welcome your feedback. Please visit the Contact us page to get in touch with the Wave of Plastic team. Please continue to visit this site as we add more information and resources.

Wave of Plastic UMCES Team: Helen Bailey, Ph.D., Nicole Barbour, Sarah Brzezinski, Amy E. Green, Ph.D., Michael Gonsior, Ph.D., Jenna B. Linhart, Jessica McGlinsey, M.Ed.,Carys Mitchelmore, Ph.D., Cat Stylinski, Ph.D., and Jamie Testa. 

Wave of Plastic represents a partnership between the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Calvert County Public SchoolsSt. Mary’s County Public SchoolsCharles County Public Schools, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Funding support was provided by the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET).



The Wave of Plastic Team would like to thank the following people for their contributions to the development, pilot, and implementation of this unit:

Charles County Public Schools - Ian Buter (Content Specialist for Science), Timothy Emhoff, and Gina Mccullough.

Calvert County Public Schools - Janel McPhillips (Supervisor of Science), Carol Bosarge, Alan Cook, Chelsea Gallihugh, Sarah Legge, Elizabeth Megonigal, and Kristin Skiados.

St. Mary’s County Public Schools - Jason Hayes (Supervisor of Science), Nennah Byle, Mary Beth Hamm, Amber Keesee, Kari Koch,  Andrea Kuehne, and Lee Musolino.