Project-Based Science

Grades 4–6
California Montessori Project
Elk Grove, CA

Major Objectives

  • Educate students, staff and parents about the importance of reducing single-use plastic and provide ideas for plastic alternatives
  • Reduce single-use plastic by 30 percent on campus


California Montessori School in Elk Grove started its project with a student and staff assembly and parent night to help educate students and staff on the importance of reducing single-use plastic and alternatives to single-use plastic items. First, baseline data was collected by fourth through sixth graders on how many pieces of plastic they found in the trash. A couple of months later they started counting plastic items each week. They disseminated their plastic data through the school newsletter, website and hallway posters. In March, they used the data to create a plastic-reduction challenge that focused on the types of plastic they were finding. Two weeks were focused on reducing plastic bags, then reducing single-use food containers, followed by water bottles and juice containers, and finally utensils and straws. They also participated in park and beach clean-ups and created upcycled plastic art and displayed it at their annual art walk. In the end, they noticed a decrease in the amount of plastic they found.

  • Project Length:
    4 months
  • Outreach:
    400 students
  • Community Partners:
    Elk Grove Parks and Recreation, local earth-friendly businesses
  • Related Aquarium Teacher Program:
    Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit

Notes from the Field

"This is an advanced topic to explain to fourth and fifth graders. I need to tread lightly so they don't feel like the weight of the world is on them."