How Can You Clean the Ocean?

The ocean covers over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, and holds over 96 percent of our water. It also helps to drive our climate and weather, and is home to at least (but likely more than) half of all life on Earth.

When you consider how important the ocean is, it becomes clear that pollution (from plastic, to garbage, to oil spills and beyond) can create a big, big problem for life in the water and beyond (e.g. if sea life accidentally eats or gets stuck in the garbage, or if it settles on and destroys habitats, like the coral reefs).

In this experiment, we’ll explore how you can come up with ideas to clean up the ocean.

Let's Learn How You Can Clean The Ocean


  • Large clear container
  • Water
  • Beads
  • Food colouring
  • Marbles
  • Small pieces of paper
  • Optional: Rubber fish or something that symbolises ocean life
  • Materials to build a device to clean up the ocean. We recommend the following, but these can be switched out for others:
    • Plastic cups
    • Popsicle sticks
    • String
    • Pipe cleaners
    • Wax paper
    • Hot glue gun and glue sticks and/or tape


  1. Fill the clear container with water (and optional rubber fish or items you’ve chosen to represent ocean life). Then add in your pollutants: place beads, pieces of paper, food colouring, marbles., etc.
  2. Take the materials you collected and use them to clean up the pollution from your water. For instance, run a pipe cleaner through the water and see if it picks up any of the pollution. 

    Bonus challenge: Can you clean the water without catching any of the fish or marine life? Use your creativity and imagination as you try to clean the ocean!

  3. Try using your clean up materials to make a device that can help you clean the water. For example, try glueing a popsicle stick to the end of a plastic cup to make a scoop. 

    Make multiple different devices to understand why each one of them might work better in specific scenarios. For example, some devices may be better for small pieces of pollution, while others may be better for bigger pieces. Try out different designs to see which ones work best for the different kinds of pollution.

The STEM Behind the Fun

Pollution is dangerous for life below the waves, whether it’s the ocean, lakes, streams, rivers, ponds and beyond. So when waste gets into the water, it’s important that we find a way to clean it, without hurting, catching or disturbing the creatures and plants that live there.

But cleaning water can be very tricky.

In this experiment, you were tasked with collecting and cleaning different types of pollution (waste), which all behave differently when added to water. For instance, some sank, while others floated. This is exactly what happens when real waste gets into the ocean, and why not all of it can be collected or cleaned at the same time, or in the same way.


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