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In this comprehensive STEM resource students investigate the properties of plastics and find solutions to problems caused by plastic waste globally. The increased use of plastics is creating a huge environmental challenge for both industrialized and developing countries and these materials highlight the need to rethink our choices as consumers and our waste reduction strategies. The resource looks at world poverty and the role we all must play to improve the quality of life for everyone and students learn to apply STEM skills by completing an enterprise project.
Using an inquiry based & hands-on approach related to real-world applications, the activities encourage critical, and creative thinking, problems solving, and team work as students develop products made from re-used plastic.
The resource is divided into four sections, each with several activities. These include a 'starting point' activity to build empathy and generate interest, a section containing several investigations to learn more about the plastics we use in our everyday lives, a product design and entrepreneurial project section, and a wrap up plenary activity, which includes the creation of a video.
After examining a photographic case study focusing on how poverty forces thousands of people in Nepal, including children, to make a living collecting garbage from the streets and sorting that garbage to re-sell plastics for re-use and recycling, students perform eight investigative activities that explore a wide range of issues. These include comparing properties of different plastics through testing, using a key to sort plastics on the basis of their properties, looking at the chemical structure of plastics, investigating which materials take the longest to decompose, examining the life cycle of a plastic drink bottle, exploring the efficacy of the 4Rs to reduce the environmental impacts of plastics, and the efficacy of recycling plastics into usable items. Students also make plastics in the classroom and research the difference in environmental impact between oil-based and bio-based plastics.
Following these activities, students are encouraged to use their STEM skills to develop solutions for the big impacts of plastics. Suggestions include making products from bio plastics and developing products from waste plastics to sell for enterprise. These "designing and making" activities involve examining consumer wants and needs, establishing criteria, designing and creating the product, collaborating with others to improve designs and evaluating marketing and selling strategies.
After creating a video to share their entrepreneurial journeys, students reflect on their values and what they have learned in a Belief Circle activity.
This resource highlights a cross-discipline approach with interesting activities, strong links to videos/video clips, links to useful websites and many easy- to-use black line masters.
This resource can be used to address science outcomes associated with habitat loss or in geography and social studies classes to emphasize the link between human activity, and environmental and economic sustainability. Business studies classes could use this package as an entrepreneurship activity with real world connections. It could be used as a project for a STEM expo or as enrichment for an environmental club.
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||Good|
Students gather facts and information from experiential learning opportunities, case studies, and research. They are encouraged to reach their own conclusions regarding the issues of plastic waste, and to brainstorm their own solutions.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Very Good|
The resource effectively links the environmental challenges associated with the overuse of plastics in society with the choices made by consumers. The "convenience" of plastics has implications on a global scale but the recycling of these plastics and developing useful products for resale has potential for improving the quality of lives in both the developed and developing world and in reducing habitat loss around growing landfills.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Very Good|
Students are given the opportunity to design and develop a product from waste plastic that could be sold for profit. This would not only help reduce plastic in landfills but the product design could be taught to the people in developing countries and perhaps generate a small income which could improve the quality of their lives.
|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
The final "Belief Circle" activity gives opportunity for all students to clarify their values and opinions on the excessive use of plastics as well as finding ways to help the environment and improve the quality of life of the poor.
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Very Good|
The starter activity showing the photographs of children in Nepal sorting through huge piles of garbage to find plastics provides a powerful set induction and fosters empathy. It will also motivate the students to learn more about plastics and be part of the solution to not only decrease the amount of plastics heading to landfills, but also to improve the lives of others.
|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||Good|
The photographs of the landfills of Nepal, the product life cycle analysis and the research on oil-based and bio- plastics all highlight the huge environmental impact of waste plastic and the need for planet stewardship.
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
Students quickly realize the huge amount of plastic products which are present in all areas of their everyday lives. Their consumer choices play a role in the global problem and this may motivate them to re-access the use of these products and to find innovative ways to re-use and re-cycle them.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Good|
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
|Integrated Learning||Very Good|
The attention to integrated learning contributes to a deeper understanding of the far reaching effects of plastics-use and the inter-relationships with the environment, the global economy, and the quality of life of people in the developing world.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
|Inquiry Learning||Very Good|
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
The resource has a wide variety of instructional approaches including videos, Power Point presentations, hands on learning opportunities, research projects, product design and production, and also includes useful graphic organizers, T-tables, and comparison charts.
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
|Experiential Learning||Very Good|
Excellent hands-on learning opportunities are provided involving both scientific investigations and the design of a recycled plastic product as part of an enterprise project.
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Satisfactory|
Students are asked to do a group evaluation on their recycled plastic product and a rubric is supplied. There are no other assessment tools provided to assist in evaluation.
|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: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
The starter activity offers an authentic case study which is effective in fostering empathy and motivating further inquiry. There are also additional video links provided with mini-clips of other real-life situations.
|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||Very Good|
Students have complete control over their entrepreneurial project, and creativity is encouraged.
|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.|