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Racine students get hands-on experience learning about microplastics in Great Lakes with 'Blue Paradox'

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Posted at 6:58 AM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-12 13:55:54-05

RACINE — The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago is taking it's Blue Paradox exhibit into Racine schools with help from a grant from SC Johnson.

The exhibit at the museum teaches visitors about the impact of plastic pollution in the ocean and other bodies of water, like Lake Michigan. The education team from MSI is taking some of that knowledge and presenting it during "water labs" at three Racine Unified School District middle schools: Gifford, Mitchell and Jerstad-Agerholm.

On Monday a group of students at Mitchell got to learn about what make water, well, healthy. During the lab students learned about how water is filtered, the minerals in water and how water can be treated.

"We use water everyday. It's something we might take for granted, but there's a lot of science that goes in to making sure the water we use is healthy," said MSI Senior Manager of Student Experiences Jason Dupuis.

But there's one problem scientists around the world are still trying to figure out.

"There's a lot of micro plastics and lot of waste in the water that we drink," said 8th grader Keyannah about what she learned during the water lab.

The issue of micro plastics is what the water lab focused on, and it's something that impacts the racine students directly. According to the MSI's Blue Paradox exhibit, 11 million pounds of plastic enter Lake Michigan each year and nearly all the Fish in the lake have ingested micro plastics.

"It's harmful to the animals and to us because we have to drink that water that's in Lake Michigan," said 7th grader Selena after the lesson.

But Dupuis said that ultimately both the exhibit and the water lab are hopeful in nature.

"It sounds kind of doom and gloom if you think it's just about ocean plastics and micro plastics and how they're everywhere, but it goes into what's being done and how we can help as individuals and corporations and entities can all do something to make sure our waters are clean for future generations," Dupuis said.

The students at Mitchell were able to see some the solutions, although not perfect, for removing plastic from our water. Some of the solutions include specialized filters and magnetizing the plastic.

"It was cool because we go to see it. It's more of like a hands-on project instead of just seeing it on the screen," said 8th grader Jazmine about the lesson.

The students will also have the opportunity to see the Blue Paradox exhibit in person later this school year, and they just might be inspired enough to be part of the solution.

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