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In taking hundreds of years to decompose, plastics present a major challenge in the effective management and disposal of solid waste. In response, researchers have been developing new materials that decompose more quickly for use in the manufacture of many household items. In this guided inquiry students will construct a cold (indoor) composter to test the efficacy of some biodegradable alternatives to plastics found in commonly used products. In completing the project students will discover the benefits of recycling nutrients through composting as well as the role played by organic material, microorganisms and other factors in the process.
This project will serve as a valuable extension to the study of nutrient cycles, solid waste (pollution & management) and applied chemistry across a number of subjects and grade levels. Students could choose to test (in addition to the materials identified in the procedure) other common products identified as as biodegradable ('poop' bags, garbage bags, printer paper, toilet paper)
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives||Very Good|
Students are provided with a wide range of information to independently assess the findings of their inquiry.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Satisfactory|
The environmental concerns related to the issue of handling solid waste and recycling materials via composting are dealt with explicitly. Students are specifically asked to consider the question 'why compost', providing an excellent opportunity to also discuss the economic and social considerations related to the use of plastics and waste management.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
The ample information available to students in support of their inquiry adequately addresses the scope and complexity of the problems and solutions related to a reliance on plastics in manufacturing.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Poor/Not considered|
While no attention is given to applying what has been learned for the benefit of the community such a project would seem a natural and doable next step.
|Acting on Learning: |
Learning moves from understanding issues to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community, or for the planet
|Values Education||Poor/Not considered|
Opportunities for reflection exist throughout the inquiry but there are no explicit instructions for students to do so.
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Poor/Not considered|
|Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).|
|Personal Affinity with Earth||Satisfactory|
More attention could be given to the extent of the problem created by plastics in the environment
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
The inquiry examines familiar products and an issue that is highly relevant to their own experience.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Satisfactory|
Some attention is paid to the past, present and future role of plastics in the manufacture of many everyday products. Students should complete this project with optimism in the progress being made through increased use of biodegradable alternatives and composting.
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
|Open-Ended Instruction||Very Good|
The project is built on scientific inquiry. Students design an experiment to find answers to a question. What happens, happens.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
|Integrated Learning||Poor/Not considered|
There is limited overlap or blending of subject areas in this scientific inquiry.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
|Differentiated Instruction||Poor/Not considered|
There is little effort made explicitly in this project to address a range of learning styles or abilities. Any modifications required will be the responsibility of the teacher.
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
This highly 'hands-on' project deals with familiar materials in a real-world context.
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
Although not explicitly stated, the inquiry design lends itself to being carried out in cooperative groups
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Poor/Not considered|
Suggestions and tools for assessment/evaluation are not included with the resource.
|Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.|
|Peer Teaching||Poor/Not considered|
|Peer Teaching: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
Several applicable case studies are included in the background material for teachers and students.
|Case Studies: |
Relevant case studies are included. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore concepts in an authentic context.
|Locus of Control||Good|
Like other 'science buddies' projects, ideas and opportunities for student-driven investigation are provided in the "make it your own" section of the resource.
|Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.|