Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tracking Trash:
Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
By Loree Griffith Burns
Great non-fiction for 5th through 8th graders

Alrighty, folks, it's time for a little non-fiction on the blog today. The book we're going to...wait, wait, wait! Don't switch to another site just because I said non-fiction. Yes, the stuff is good for you just like eating your vegetables, but it's actually pretty interesting and easier to read than you think. Probably a lot easier than eating spinach. So hang with me.....

Back in 1990, a ship carrying stuff from Korea to the U.S. got caught in a bad storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Five containers of Nike shoes (about 80,000 all total) were washed overboard. Somehow, the container broke open and out floated the sneakers. No one knew much about the spill until the sneakers started showing up on beaches along the California coast. Now, who loses that many sneakers when they're at the beach? The story made the papers and caught the attention of scientist Curt E.'s mom. She showed the story to him and asked him to figure out where the sneakers had come from (yes guys, his mom made him do it!). Being a scientist who studies ocean currents, Curt used his knowledge along with data from the ship's log to determine where the exact spill occurred. He put out a call for all beach combers to keep their eyes open for sneakers in order to determine how far they all had floated.

During his research, Curt met another scientist, W. James, who had written a computer program that figured out the movement of the ocean's surface currents. So much data about ocean currents had been gathered that together, the two scientists were able to track the movement of all 80,000 sneakers. When another spill occurred two years later, this time containers carrying bathtub toys, Curt and W. James were able to track exactly where the tub toys would end up.

Pretty cool, huh? There's more, too. More spills, more about ocean movement, more about the impact those spills have on animals (the photo of what was found inside a bird carcass will make you really sad) and more about the people that are working to clean up these spills. After reading 'Tracking Trash', you'll want to be a lot more careful with your garbage, even though we don't live by the ocean.
Bonus: If you read this book, you are guaranteed to come up with at least three ideas for your science fair project next fall. I'll give you one idea - you read the book and see if you can come up with the other two!
Idea No1. - Can your project answer this question - How fast does packaging dissolve in salt water? Packaging, or the paper/plastic/cardboard the stuff we buy comes wrapped in, doesn't always last a long time in the ocean. The salt water eats away at it. But just how long does it last? Is one type of packaging better than another?

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