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Turn Milk Into Plastic

Middle

Description

The science of polymers is brought to life in this innovative STEM resource that has students creating casein plastic from milk.  As they examine the polymerization process students are actively engaged in an applied investigation where they:

  • Describe the properties of substances.
  • Conduct an experiment to test hypotheses about how plastics are formed.
  • Investigate how polymers are created from monomers.
  • Determine how plastics can be derived from natural sources.
  • Consider the environmental benefits of reduced synthetic plastic consumption.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Experimental design
  • Experimental analysis
  • Presentation
  • Goal setting

Strengths

  • Strong emphasis on science skills like conjecture, observation and communication
  • Contains an accompanying PowerPoint presentation to introduce students to important terms.
  • Includes an assessment tool in the form of a quiz that can be used as a formative or summative assessment.

Weaknesses

  • Some of the chemistry content could be very difficult for students with learning difficulties and no accommodations are provided

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson supports science outcomes related to properties of materials, molecular structures and chemical changes in mixtures.  There is also a strong emphasis on scientific literacy with students describing experiments, analyzing results and making predictions based on data.  A natural extension of this lesson could have students investigating the reaction of casein plastic and synthetic plastic to variables like moisture or heat.

 

The resource also supports environmental learning about the impacts of plastics on ocean ecosystems.  Students could develop a community stewardship project that has the class campaigning to reduce plastics in their municipality with simple initiatives like handing out reusable shopping bags at a local supermarket.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Mix and Flow of Matter
  • British Columbia
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 6: Everyday materials are often mixtures
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Elements consist of one type of atom, and compounds consist of atoms of different elements chemically combined
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: The behaviour of matter can be explained by the kinetic molecular theory and atomic theory.
  • Manitoba
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Particle Theory of Matter
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        • Fluids
  • New Brunswick
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        • Mixtures and Solutions
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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      • Science
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        • Mitures & Solutions
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
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        • Fluids
  • Northwest Territories
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    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Mix and Flow of Matter
  • Nova Scotia
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Science 7: Mixtures and Solutions
      • Technological Education
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        • Technology Education 7: Innovations and Inventions
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      • Science
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        • Science 8: Fluids
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        • Technology Education 8: Innovations and Inventions
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        • Mix and Flow of Matter
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Mixtures and Solutions
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        • Fluids
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Science 7: Physical Science: Mixtures and Solutions
    • Grade 8
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        • Science 8: Forces, Fluids,& Density
  • Yukon Territory
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 6: Everyday materials are often mixtures
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Elements consist of one type of atom, and compounds consist of atoms of different elements chemically combined
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: The behaviour of matter can be explained by the kinetic molecular theory and atomic theory.
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Techology Education: Production

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Science and Technology (1)

    • Alternative Ways of Doing Science
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

An inquiry based process sustains knowledge based learning that enables students to formulate new ideas based on evidence and experimentation.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Students gain a new awareness of a manufacturing process that uses toxic materials like oil to create plastic. This leads to an enhanced understanding of the complexities associated with balancing economics and human needs with environmental conservation.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The content supports the development of a natural curiosity about plastic which will result in questioning and discussions about the value of community initiatives such as recycling programs in diverting plastic pollution.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

This unit establishes a framework for many school-based action projects that could reduce the amount of plastic used locally and increase awareness of the harmful effects of plastic garbage in oceans. 

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

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Plastic has become an indispensable convenience to society but plastic pollution harms marine wildlife.  Students actively discuss how  consumer choices can positively or negatively impact the environment and define personal sustainability strategies.

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 Poor/Not considered

An outdoor component where a class collects and quantifies plastic litter from a local green space could provide an opportunity for students to deepen their connection to nature by observing human impacts on ecosystems.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

This unit develops awareness of the personal plastic use while encouraging introspection about how personal choices can improve the environment on a local level.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

Plastic production and use are one of the most serious environmental issues of our time.  Students describe concerns related to ocean pollution and subsequent impacts on ecosystem health, human food availability and economic costs.  They will be motivated to consider how they can positively impact the sustainability of our planet through environmental protection.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

A key strength of this resource is the emphasis on guided questioning that develops autonomous thinking related to the learning goals and provides a framework for independent investigation. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The robust science lesson also compliments Social Studies discussions about sustainability, changing technologies and global issues.  Math skills like measurement are supported by this activity.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students use science process skills such as inference and prediction to actively engage with the content and deepen their understanding of their responsibilities as environmental citizens.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Although there are no specific adaptions for differentiation the hands-on approach will appeal to a wide range of learners.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

Direct investigation using an experimental approach provides an authentic and meaningful learning experience.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students work in groups to strategize, collect and evaluate experimental data.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The resource includes an introductory slideshow and student worksheets that establish a communication framework for informal assessment.  A student quiz is also included as a tool to formally evaluate student learning.

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 Satisfactory

Students present and describe experimental results.  Group discussions related to sustainable consumption support personal action goals that students can use at home to educate others about plastics and the environment.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Plastic pollution is a relevant and current environmental topic affecting all communities.  Many Canadian municipalities are currently exploring ways to reduce plastic use and improve recycling programs.

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

There are many opportunities for students to expand their learning by changing variables within the experiment and analyzing results.  Students will also be motivated to define strategies for reducing plastic use within their own lives.

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.