We Can Make a Difference (2010)
As part of a unit on conserving natural resources, we held class discussions about our role and responsibilities as individuals, in this case fifth grade students, in the conservation of the planet. Each student developed and implemented a personal project for the conservation of water, energy, and the proper disposal of garbage. Students had to make observations in their homes or communities and find the most important problems related to the three areas. They did research about the importance of using energy and water in a responsible way and the most effective methods of garbage disposal. Once the problems were identified, the students developed their own personal plan or strategy to improve or solve the problem. The plans included ideas to help their family or community save water in daily activities such as taking showers, doing dishes, brushing teeth, washing their hands, the responsible use of energy such as unplugging electric devices that are not in use and implementing or improving recycling programs in their homes, condominiums, or communities. This first phase of the project took the whole quarter: students submitted their plans and presented their ideas to the class in a Power Point presentation. The project counted as a cumulative assessment for the unit. Before the end of the school year, students need to go back to their project and include the results of their plans so far and their conclusions.
Parallel to the research and development of the project, we continued working on different ways to reduce and reuse garbage. We started working on several activities involving reusing. The guiding question we used was, “How can we treat garbage as a resource rather than waste?” Students learned how to make several crafts with reusable garbage. They made bracelets, headbands, and bookmarks out of soda can tabs and bulletin board trimmers out of cookie wrappers, wallets out of milk cartons, and several art projects out of plastic bottles. All of the projects used materials that are considered garbage and would have ended up in the dump.
Also, as part of the service learning project of the school, the whole the 5th grade developed a project to raise awareness about the amount of plastic bottles used in our school. The students first did research about plastic. They learned where it comes from, its effects, the importance of reducing and, ultimately, avoiding the use of plastic bottles. To help make the community aware of amount of plastic bottles used we planned a three day campaign. On the first day we dumped the all the plastic bottles the students and staff had thrown out in one day by the main entrance. The second day we put the bottles used in a week in the same place. The third day we put out all the bottles used in a month. When students, parents and staff walked in, the fifth grade students were there holding signs with statements about plastic and encouraging people to reduce the amount they use. All the posters were made by the students with reusable materials. We have recycling bins all around the school so the community knows the bottles are sent to be recycled, but we wanted them to see just how much we use and join us in reducing drastically that amount. My class also presented the campaign in a videoconference with a school in Rochester, New York.
The students also wrote a persuasive paper to convince our community to reduce, and eventually ban, the use of plastic bottles on our campus. We are currently scheduled to read our persuasive essays during a school activity with the parents in an activity called Kids Talk.
My class, 5A Coral Reef, has completely eliminated the use of plastic bottles. Students are only allowed to bring reusable bottles to class and we continue our efforts to promote sending garbage free lunch boxes to school.
As a result of the work done in this area, I was invited to be part of The Green Committee of Lincoln School. I will be representing the elementary school and, hopefully, playing a part in helping the school take important steps in lessening our negative impact on the environment.
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