Students at Garrard County Middle School have been studying the problem of floating plastic litter getting into our water.  The force of gravity and flowing stormwater can pull pollution, like litter, into our local waterways. The debris follows the path of the creeks and rivers and eventually empties into the ocean. Our educator, Kara Sayles, provided lessons to help students understand the detrimental effects littering can have on aquatic habitats and water quality and then posed the question, “How do we remove this litter from the water?”

Using the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Concepts, the students created a device to clean the floating plastic litter out of the water. In this process, students identified a need, researched the problem, imagined solutions, planned by selecting a promising solution, created a prototype, tested the process, and improved their designs. They used critical thinking and built their teamwork skills while developing solutions.

Students studied litter-trapping devices that are in use today before creating their models. They enjoyed making a prototype, but the real excitement was counting how many pieces of litter their device could retrieve from the water. It was a wonderful learning experience for all!

This activity is part of Bluegrass Greensource’s Water/Litter Abatement Environmental Education Program for Middle School. To learn more, visit