Trash Talk

A book at the library caught my eye: Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion.

Studying ocean currents can be a little dry. But, like Charlotte Mason says, if someone is enthusiastic about a topic, the enthusiasm is contagious.When I read Tracking Trash with my kids, we definitely caught the enthusiasm about ocean currents.

View of Hudson River.
The story of Tracking Trash is that items like sneakers sometimes fall off huge shipping containers in the middle of the ocean, perhaps because a storm tossed a container overboard. What happens to the items after they are spilled into the ocean?

When a bunch of new sneakers appeared on the beaches on the west coast, an oceanographer tracked their route from the container spill to the shore. Intrigued by the project, he tracked more trash and more trash, and in the process, learned more and more about the patterns of the ocean currents.

Aboard The Bold, a ship of the Environmental Protection Agency.
My favorite part of the book: The oceanographer's mother egged him on to solve the mystery of the sneakers. She heard about the sneakers on the news and told her grown son to figure out why they were washing up on shore. He did solve the mystery....just like his mother knew he could.

My least favorite part of the book: Learning about the gigantic garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Floating trash in the ocean follows the ocean currents and eventually ends up on a shore or in an ocean garbage patch the size of Texas. The plastic doesn't disintegrate and the patch grows. 

The Bold on the Hudson.
Soon after reading the book, we found out that an EPA oceanographic ship was docked on the Hudson River, and we toured the ship with our homeschooling group. The timing was perfect.

The day was perfect, too, and we walked along river before the tour.

The ship was docked at a state park that is on top of a waste water treatment plant. Last week a fire at the treatment plant caused raw sewage to be dumped into the Hudson River. Our studies of our local water system, of the world oceans, and of trash made the sewage spill story pop out at us, and I think all of us in the family heard the news with different ears than we would have before our recent studies. We're very interested in the story not just because we spend a lot of time by the water and care about it, but because studying it made us care even more.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Interesting like always. My oldest has Rachel Carson's "The Sea Around Us" lined up this year, per AO Y6 suggestion. This might be a good follow up book to add to her basket : )

  2. Grace'n'Chaos - let me know if you use it and like it. We haven't read The Sea Around Us, but I have my eye on it.