One Plastic Bag – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

As teachers, one of our primary goals is to help children discover their passion for reading. One Plastic Bag: The Story of Isatou Ceesay by Miranda Paul provides an excellent opportunity for us to do just that!

This book is a tribute to recycling, sustainability, and community — values we strive to instil in our students.

Following this engaging narrative reveals themes such as compassion, resilience and determination – all essential qualities we can emphasize in young readers.

In this article, you will find helpful tools & resources, including a synthesis chart; guiding questions; writing prompts; differentiated activities focusing on multiple literacies & prior knowledge pathways, as well as classroom discussion topics and much more!

Related: For more, check out our article on Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman  here.

One Plastic Bag

One Plastic Bag Storyline Overview

In Miranda Paul’s One Plastic Bag, the author tells the true story of a woman named Isatou Ceesay who lives in Njau, Gambia. The book follows Isatou’s journey as she becomes increasingly frustrated with the plastic bags that litter her community and harm the animals there.

With determination and creativity, Isatou decides to do something about it. She rallies her friends, and together they start collecting discarded plastic bags from around their village.

They then clean, cut and crochet them into purses they sell at local markets.

As their business grows, so makes their impact on the environment as they help reduce the amount of plastic waste in their community.

Through Isatou’s inspiring story, readers are encouraged to take action and make a difference in their communities by thinking creatively about how to solve environmental problems.

Themes and Characters

One of the main themes in One Plastic Bag is environmental activism. Isatou Ceesay and her friends take it upon themselves to clean up their community by finding a creative solution to the plastic bag problem.

The book highlights the importance of taking action and proactively preserving our environment.

Another theme is perseverance. Isatou faces many challenges along the way, including scepticism from others and difficulties in learning how to crochet. However, she doesn’t give up and continues to work towards her goal despite setbacks.

The characters in the story are also important. Isatou is a strong and determined woman who takes charge of the situation when she sees a problem in her community.

Her friends are supportive and help her collect and crochet the bags. Together, they make a positive impact on their environment.

Overall, One Plastic Bag is about taking action, persevering, and making a difference in your community. The themes and characters inspire readers to think creatively about how they can solve environmental problems in their own lives.

a plastic bag floating in the water

Guiding Questions

  1. What is the main problem that Isatou Ceesay and her friends are trying to solve in their community?
  2. How does Isatou show perseverance throughout the story?
  3. What creative solution do Isatou and her friends propose to address the plastic bag problem?
  4. How does Isatou’s community benefit from her efforts?
  5. What themes are explored in One Plastic Bag, and how do they relate to environmental activism?
  6. What impact can one person or a small group of people have on their community when they take action to address an environmental issue?
  7. Why is it important to reduce plastic waste, and how can individuals make a difference?
  8. What lessons can readers learn from Isatou’s story about taking action, persevering, and positively impacting their environment?

Writing Ideas

  1. Write a persuasive essay arguing the importance of reducing plastic waste in your community.
  2. Imagine you are Isatou Ceesay and write a diary entry about your experience creating a sustainable business.
  3. Write a news article about Isatou’s efforts to reduce plastic waste in her community.
  4. Please write a letter to your local government officials urging them to take action to reduce plastic pollution.
  5. Create an infographic that shows the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and ways individuals can reduce their use of plastic.
  6. Please write a short story about a fictional character who takes action to address an environmental issue in their community.
  7. Research other environmental activists and write a biography about one of them, highlighting how their efforts made a difference.
  8. Write a poem or song lyrics inspired by Isatou’s story and the theme of perseverance.
  9. Create an educational poster that informs people about the dangers of single-use plastics and encourages them to switch to reusable alternatives.
  10. Write an interview-style script where you ask questions as if you were interviewing Isatou Ceesay herself, then answer as if she was responding to each question.

Prior Knowledge Required

Students should have a basic understanding of environmental issues, particularly the impact of plastic pollution on the environment. They should also know African geography and culture to understand better the setting and context of Isatou Ceesay’s story.

Additionally, students should be familiar with entrepreneurship and how it can be used for social change. Prior knowledge about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals may also help students better understand the larger global context in which this story occurs.

Classroom Discussion Ideas

  1. What did you learn from Isatou Ceesay’s story about the impact of plastic pollution on the environment?
  2. How did Isatou Ceesay use entrepreneurship to address a social issue in her community? What can we learn from her approach?
  3. Why is it important for individuals to take action on environmental issues? What role can everyday people play in creating change?
  4. How does Isatou Ceesay’s story demonstrate the importance of perseverance and determination in achieving a goal?
  5. How can our school or community reduce its use of single-use plastics? Brainstorm ideas and discuss potential challenges.
  6. How might the plastic pollution problem differ in other parts of the world? Research and compare different regions’ approaches to addressing this issue.
  7. Reflecting on our prior knowledge, how do environmental issues impact marginalized communities differently than more privileged ones?
  8. What are some potential long-term solutions for addressing plastic pollution globally?
  9. Analyze how storytelling was used to create awareness about plastic waste and inspire change in Isatou Ceesay’s case.
  10. Discuss the role of governments, businesses, and individuals in addressing environmental issues like plastic pollution, and explore ways these groups can work together towards a common goal.

Plastic Pollution Research

Here are some examples of how different regions approach the plastic pollution problem:

  1. Europe: The European Union has implemented a ban on single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, and plates by 2021. The EU also requires member states to reduce the use of plastic bags and increase recycling rates.
  2. In Kenya, producing or selling plastic bags can result in up to four years in jail or a fine of $40,000. South Africa has introduced a tax on plastic bags to discourage their use.
  3. Asia: China is one of the largest producers of plastic waste but has recently banned importing foreign waste, including plastics. India has banned single-use plastics in several states and plans to phase them out nationwide by 2022.
  4. North America: Some US cities have banned certain single-use plastics, such as straws and utensils. Canada is working towards banning harmful single-use plastics like bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stirs sticks by 2021.
  5. Oceania: Australia has introduced a national scheme for recycling used packaging materials called the National Packaging Targets, which aims to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. New Zealand aims to achieve zero waste by 2040 by increasing recycling rates and reducing landfill waste.

These are just a few examples of how different regions are approaching the issue of plastic pollution through policies and regulations aimed at reducing its impact on the environment.

One Plastic Bag Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: The Impact of Plastic Pollution on the Environment


Students will understand the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and explore ways to reduce their use of single-use plastics.


  • One plastic bag
  • Pictures and videos related to plastic pollution
  • Markers, paper, and other art supplies
  • Handouts with information about plastic pollution and its effects


Introduction (10 minutes):

  • Show students pictures and videos about plastic pollution in oceans, rivers, and landfills.
  • Ask students what they know about plastic pollution and how it affects the environment.
  • Explain that we will focus on one single-use plastic type: plastic bag.

Activity 1: Plastic Bag Investigation (20 minutes):

  • Give each student a plastic bag.
  • Ask them to examine it closely and describe its properties.
  • Have them brainstorm ways this bag could be used or repurposed instead of thrown away.

Activity 2: Art Project (30 minutes):

  • Provide markers, paper, and other art supplies for students to visually represent the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment.
  • Please encourage them to use their creativity to develop a powerful message about reducing single-use plastics.

Discussion (15 minutes):

  • Ask students to share their artwork with the class.
  • Discuss how small actions, such as reducing our use of single-use plastics, can significantly impact the environment.

Conclusion (10 minutes):

  • Distribute handouts with information about plastic pollution and its effects.
  • Summarize key points from the lesson and encourage students to reduce their use of single-use plastics.


Students will be assessed based on participation in activities, completion of the artwork, engagement in class discussions, and understanding demonstrated through written responses on handouts.

Extension Activities:

  1. Research different types of biodegradable or compostable alternatives to traditional plastics.
  2. Plan a school-wide initiative to reduce single-use plastics such as straws or water bottles.
  3. Write letters or petitions advocating for policy changes in reducing waste from single-use plastics.
blue labeled plastic bottles

The themes of compassion, resilience, and determination present in the narrative don’t just make for an engaging read, but also serve as stepping stones for character development. Can you imagine the profound impact these themes might have on young minds?

Moreover, with the tools and resources provided in this article – from synthesis charts and guiding questions to writing prompts and differentiated activities – aren’t we well-equipped to create an enriching learning experience?

These resources cater to various learning styles and build on students’ prior knowledge, making learning more personalized and effective.

And let’s not forget the potential for sparking lively classroom discussions! The book’s focus on recycling, sustainability, and community offers ample opportunities for meaningful conversations.

Don’t you think these discussions will deepen understanding and encourage students to think critically and empathetically?

So why wait? Let’s harness the power of One Plastic Bag: The Story of Isatou Ceesay to ignite passion for reading and foster essential values in our students. After all, isn’t that what teaching is all about?

Website Resources

  1. This website provides teaching resources for the book “One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia” by Miranda Paul. The resources include lesson plans, discussion questions, and activities for students to learn about plastic pollution, recycling, and entrepreneurship.
  2. This website offers a variety of activities related to the book “One Plastic Bag,” such as creating recycled paper beads, making reusable bags out of t-shirts, and writing persuasive letters to advocate for reducing plastic waste.
  3. This blog post provides additional resources related to “One Plastic Bag,” including videos about Isatou Ceesay and her recycling project in Gambia, as well as links to other books and websites about environmentalism and social activism. It also has discussion questions for using the book in a classroom setting.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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