Runtime: 76 minutes
Directors: Atsuko Quirk, Debbie Lee Cohen
Stars: Students, Teachers and Staff of P.S.15, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NYC Department of Education Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Park Ranger Dan Meharg, Dr Marcus Eriksen, Dr. Eric Angel Ramos, Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Jennifer Kline, Rachael Miller, Judith Enck, Stephen O’Brien, Carolina Salguero, Members of the New York City Council, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
Narrators: Maggie Dalencour, Skylene Morales
By Joan Amenn
Microplastic is a term that refers to a type of degraded plastic pollution that can be inadvertently ingested by animals and humans. The implications of this is the stuff of nightmares and yet “Microplastic Madness” (2020) is an upbeat and even inspiring documentary about a group of fifth graders taking on the horrors of waste contamination. Their energy is engaging, their commitment is sincere and quite simply, they’re adorable so it’s fun to join them on their exploration of the environment.
The students of P.S.15 of Red Hook, Brooklyn are not playing around in taking action to address the damage done by waste plastic. We see them studying samples of sand from their local beaches, interviewing scientists for insights into how the food chain is impacted by pollution and lobbying their local representatives for laws prohibiting plastic implements in public schools.
The true heroes of this documentary are the teachers and staff who build their lesson plans around enabling their students’ belief in their own agency to enact change. It would be so easy for children so young to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of so widespread a problem as pollution. However, we see these young people interact with adults, from teachers to scientists, with such confidence and determination. More than anything, “Microplastic Madness” is a reminder of how important a teacher is in a child’s life and how underappreciated they are in our society.
“Microplastic Madness” (2020) is an upbeat and even inspiring documentary about a group of fifth graders taking on the horrors of waste contamination.”
The film itself would be great family viewing, especially for parents who may be facing homeschooling their children this fall and might be looking for educational content. There are charming animations based on the children’s’ own artwork and most of the story is told in their own words. The teachers and scientists are never condescending in their answers to their young interviewers nor do they sugarcoat the seriousness of the dangers of plastics to animals and humans. The only quibble is that the pacing is a bit dragging in areas but overall, “Microplastic Madness” is a wonderful introduction to scientific discovery for kids.
Parents will learn some eye-opening facts about how prevalent microplastics are as well (Spoiler: they can be found in honey and beer as well as seafood). “Microplastic Madness” will be inspiring many family meetings about how to limit plastic usage and the students of P.S.15 will have accomplished yet another mission. Well done, kids.