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Trash or Treasure?

Theme: 
Waste
Grade: 
3, 4
Essential questions
Why should we be concerned about what happens to our waste?
Why is it important to think of wastes in terms of organic and inorganic?
How important are our habits when thinking about waste management?
How can sorting our wastes help us reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill?
What would happen if no one paid any attention to the waste they create and threw every bit of it away?
How does keeping the 5Rs in mind give me a tool for managing my waste better?
What actions can I take right away to apply the 5Rs?
How can I share the 5Rs with other people?
If everyone practices the 5Rs, what impact will those practices have on our community? the world?

MODULE OVERVIEW: (Estimated total time needed: About five 50-minute class sessions)

This module includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-Activity: Little Landfill (Estimated time needed: Two 40-minute sessions plus five minutes per day for five days and one final 10-minute discussion.)
In this lesson, students learn that waste does not just go away after it is thrown in a trash can; it ends up in a landfill or a dump, or it is burned. Each of these systems solves the problem of getting the waste out of sight, but each also creates new problems along the way. As a result, many communities are adopting a zero-waste vision for the future, which involves rethinking how much waste we create and what happens to it. Students explore these concepts and how waste is handled differently in different places. Then they conduct a scientific simulation of a mini landfill to answer this question: Which kind of waste lasts longer in a landfill—organic waste or inorganic waste?

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: Building Bins (Estimated time needed: Two 50-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students learn the difference between organic garbage (which comes from natural sources and readily degrades) and inorganic garbage (which comes from human-made sources and can take a very long time to degrade). They learn the value of sorting different types of wastes so that those wastes can more easily be managed in a sustainable way. Finally, students make recycling bins and learn advocacy skills as they educate the school community about the purpose and value of the bins.

Lesson 3: Eco-101: The 5Rs (Estimated time needed: 50 minutes)
The 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are commonly used to help people remember to be responsible with their waste. In this lesson, students expand the 3Rs to the 5Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and Reflect. The term rot helps them remember the importance of composting. Students explore the term reflect to learn how to be aware of and question their personal behaviors and more global issues related to waste. Students demonstrate what they learned by working together to create a set of posters they can share around the community. In this way, they also learn how to be advocates for social change.

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