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What a Dump!

Elementary, Middle

Description

In this STEM activity, students learn about environmental, civil, and sanitation engineering by designing and building model landfills that hold the most garbage, minimize costs, and prevent trash and contaminated rainwater from polluting the nearby city.  Teams test their landfills, and graph and compare designs for capacity, cost, and performance.

Students will:

  • design and build model landfills using materials similar to those used by engineers.                                        
  • test their landfills with a rainstorm and other erosion processes.
  • attempt to create a landfill that holds the most garbage while spending the least amount of money
  • learn about environmental damage by attempting to keep trash and contaminated water inside their landfill
  • compare their designs for capacity, cost and performance

 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

This resource teaches the following skill:

  • following a budget

Strengths

This resource has the following strengths:

  • good background information for the teacher
  • pictures within the lesson plan to help illustrate the steps
  • real world applications of the problem
  • extension activities included
  • suggestions for altering the lesson for older or younger students
  • links to illustrations of different landfill types

Weaknesses

The resource has the following weaknesses:

  • no suggestions for students who may need accommodations
  • no assessment tools provided

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This activity is an excellent resource for a STEM group or teacher who is discussing waste management with their class.  It is most suitable for upper elementary and middle school students.

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      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with whole numbers and decimals
        • Data from the results of an experiment can be used to predict the theoretical probability of an event and to compare and interpret
        • Linear relations can be identified and represented using expressions with variables and line graphs and can be used to form generalizations
        • Mixed numbers and decimal numbers represent quantities that can be decomposed into parts and wholes
        • Properties of objects and shapes can be described, measured, and compared using volume, area, perimeter, and angles
    • Grade 7
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      • Math
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        • Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with integers and decimals
        • Linear relations can be represented in many connected ways to identify regularities and make generalizations

Themes Addressed

  • Waste Management (1)

    • Solid Waste Disposal
  • Water (1)

    • Watershed Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The resource is structured in a way that biases are not really stumbling blocks.  The students are approaching the landfill problem scientifically so in that vein there is no need for differing opinions or points of view.  It is simply a fact of does the landfill function properly or not.

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 Very Good
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 Very Good

The students are faced with the challenge of building a functional landfill all the while keeping the cost of the project as low as possible.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The activity in this lesson does not provide an opportunity to make a change in the community; however, the material discussed can help the students to become more aware of their generation of waste and the impact it has on the environment. 

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 Poor/Not considered

This is not the aim of the resource.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

This is not a focus of this activity.

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

At the end of the activity students will be able to explain the alternatives to dumping human-made garbage in landfills and ways to decrease the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

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 Poor/Not considered

While the resource does not have a local focus, a teacher could easily make this connection for the students by including a field trip to a community based landfill to see how the problem is addressed in their own area.

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 Satisfactory

While the resource addresses the current situation in terms of waste management, the teacher could extrapolate the ideas of the past and the future by discussing how waste management was dealt with in the past and how this is an important topic moving forward as our population and the demand for land both increase.

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

The students are asked to design, build and test their own model of a landfill without any teacher influence.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Very Good

As this lesson is a STEM activity the subjects are well integrated.

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 Very Good

The students need to assume the responsibility for the plan of the landfill and how to solve any problems that arise with their design.

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 Good

There are no strategies provided for learners who may experience difficulties.

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
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 Good

Within the resource there is a Roles and Optimization worksheet that is provided.  This worksheet outlines each team members roles and responsibilities. A teacher could take this one step further and develop a self or peer evaluation sheet based on the criteria set out in the worksheet.  Another option would be to develop a rubric of participation for each role.

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 Poor/Not considered

There are no tools or suggestions made for assessment and 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 Poor/Not considered

This is not addressed in this lesson.

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 Satisfactory

Although there aren't thorough descriptions of real events provided, there are a number of links to graphics of actual landfills that are used in different cities.

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 Satisfactory

The students are able to choose how they wish to build their landfill, what materials to use and how much; however, the other elements of the lesson have been decided for them.

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.