Article – The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge

The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge – Dr Stephanie Matthews

The Young Darwinian aims to inspire young people about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), to feed and nurture their natural curiosity and to lead them to the excitement of making a discovery

This is done by encouraging and supporting the young people to do their own science projects. In doing these projects, they develop the discipline of scientific method and in some of the young people will become the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. 

The current focus for the projects is microplastic pollution in the environment. 

The projects in the Challenge describe how to make and find microplastic fibres in the environment. This could be in the drinking water, foods and drinks, rivers, sea water, sand, soil, dust: in fact anywhere. 

Ideas and advice on how to achieve this are given in this website. 

Further aims are:

Some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is ‘The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge’?

To look for microplastics in the environment and investigate the effects of this pollution.

Who can take part in the Microplastic Challenge?

Anyone can take part but it is especially for young people

Am I too young to do the challenge?

No one is too young, but young children will have to be supervised. This must be acknowledged.

Why take part in The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge?

Where can the The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge be done?

Everywhere: Rivers, lakes, beaches, puddles, dust, in any country in the world.

When can the The Young Darwinian Microplastic Challenge be done?

NOW – Whenever it is safe.

Why look for microplastic fibre, and not all microplastics?

Pieces of microplastic that have come from plastic bags, bottles, packaging, and many more origins, are small and irregular shaped objects. At the moment it is very difficult to identify these amongst other particles like sand and glass. The chemicals and specialised equipment needed for identification are not safe and too expensive to be used by school students. However it is possible to identify the microplastic fibres, therefore the challenge is starting with looking for these in our environment. 

How to detect microplastic fibres link

I don’t have a microscope. How do I access one?

Can I still submit other projects to ‘The Young Darwinian’ journal?

Yes, they are welcome and we would love to hear about them. The journal is for all science, technology, engineering and Mathematics. Submit your project using the ‘submit’ on the front page of the site.

Do I have to do it on my own?

No, it can be done alone, with a friend, with a group of friends, or with your class.

Can I get help?

Yes, ask a friend, a teacher, a parent, anyone to help. But you must acknowledge what help you have been given in your write-up.

How do I know how to search for and find micro plastic fibres?

Link to How to page

Where can I get ideas from for microplastic or other projects?

Microplastics projects page due shortly

Check out the ideas section link

Does it have to be written in English?

You can write up in any language but it will also have to be translated into English. Submit both language versions together. We can help to get your English translation right.

Can I get my work published?

Yes. Submit on the ‘submit’ form on the front page for the opportunity to publish on line and/or in the hard copy of the journal, ‘The Young Darwinian’.

The future

The Young Darwinian is working on making it possible for students to detect and identify fibre and non fibre microplastics. This is being done with the CALIN project.

Further experiments to investigate whether microplastics have any effects on plants, animals and humans, are being planned. Information about this will be posted as soon as possible. 

Do you have ideas for experiments using microplastics?

Let us know and we will try to help and advise. 

I have an idea for experiments using microplastics? How do I proceed?

Email us on and we will try to help and advise.

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