- Elementary School
"I wonder why there’s so much paper and tissue in the trash?" asks Yang. But he's not the only one. Second-grade students have many questions as they are confronted with a week’s worth of waste collected from bins in the Elementary School.
Embarking on their Super Unit, “Smart Consumers,” grade 2 students are being challenged to think about their own impact on the environment and the resources we all share.
When the bags of waste, collected from bins in the Elementary School during one week, are emptied onto a tarp, students gasp. Once the initial surprise dies down, students reflect on where the trash will go from here. “Burned”, “oceans”, “rivers” and “dump truck,” are a few of the answers.
Instructional coach, Kattina Fox, challenges the students to find ways to reduce the amount of waste we generate with the question “I wonder what other choices we have as Smart Consumers that would mean a happier ending for these materials and make a happier Earth?”
Students are eager to find answers. Beginning with what materials they use, and whether or not the environment changes those materials, they sort the trash and learn what types of materials are thrown away at school.
But the work does not stop here. With their newfound knowledge, the students’ curiosity leads them to collect trash from their snacks for the following week.
The trash is classified by material, then counted, and weighed. The exact approach students take, will differ in each second-grade classroom, as the work is driven by the students’ own inquiries.
Their data collection is supplemented with a visit to the school cafeteria, where students see the type of waste the school makes. They also learn how it, too, is classified. Some will go to compost, for example.
Towards the end of the first week, the students are already reflecting on their individual impact and begin coming up with ways to use materials more responsibly.
And although the end of this Super Unit is not until March, we can’t wait to attend the “Consumer Cafe,” when a new batch of “Smart Consumers” share their learning with the community at the zero-waste event that they will host!