Unit 2 – Water Basics

Lesson 4 – Water Pollution

Hello, welcome to Evergreen Elementary Environmental Education, the website that creates lesson plans for you to teach your child about environmental science using STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Today, we are wrapping Unit 2, Water Basics, by talking about one of the most extensive problems the world faces with water; pollution. 


Start the day by reviewing some of the basics we learned throughout the last three lessons. In Lesson One, we compared saltwater to freshwater. See if your students remember if we have more saltwater or freshwater? Now see if students remember the basics of the water cycle. Lastly, check and see if they remember the difference between Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans (Oh my!).


With how little water is on Earth, we must also think about the quality of the water, or how good the water is. Ask students if they like drinking polluted or dirty water. Now ask them if they know how to clean water once it’s polluted. Can they name and describe the different types of water pollution? You can also show them this Interactive Google Slides Set before starting this lesson! 

Types of pollutants found in water:

  • Litter – plastic, trash, and other one time use items
  • Microplastics – tiny plastic pieces that have broken apart, but have not disappeared
  • Chemicals – human-made liquids, particles, and gases that dissolve into water and become a part of the water
  • Oils – toxic liquids that cannot easily separate from water



  • Clear Water bucket
  • Water
  • Dirt
  • Leaves
  • Ripped up paper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
  • Sponge
  • Cotton balls



  • Toothbrush
  • Feathers
  • Coffee Filter
  • Paper Towel
  • *Biodegradable* glitter (optional)
  • Rags (to clean with)
  • Cup to discard trash and water into


  1. Take the bucket and fill it water.
  2. Next, add ingredients. While you are adding the “pollutants” to the water, explain what each item represents.
    1. Dirt and leaves (human pollution and waste).
    2. Sugar (to represent chemical pollution).
    3. Vegetable oil (to represent oil spills).
    4. Bird feathers (to represent wildlife in the water).
    5. Ripped up pieces of paper (to represent trash)
    6. *Biodegradable* glitter (to represent plastic)
      1. (If you do not have BIODEGRADABLE glitter, please do NOT use regular glitter. That is a microplastic and will eventually go into the water supply)
    7. Have students clean the water with different materials sponges, cotton balls, a toothbrush, paper towel, and a coffee filter. Make sure only to allow them a limited amount of space to discard waste after. Remind them that everything we pull out of the ocean must go somewhere else, and that is usually a landfill.
    8. Wash up and discuss with your students about how the project made them feel? Was it easy cleaning up the ocean? Would they want to drink that water? Remind them that everything we drop on the ground eventually ends up in the water, which is the thing we need for life!
    9. Have students journal about today’s experiment in their Science Journal.
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