The Zero Waste Project

4th graders in Susie’s class embarked upon a special project recently: charting how much food, recycling, and trash that students produce as their “Zero Waste Project.” As students embarked upon this endeavor, they looked at the school’s mission statement. Students held discussions and made connections between their project and Rainbow’s mission.

Zero Waste was part of a larger unit on electricity. Students explored energy use and human impact across the domains.

electricity unit

At the beginning of the unit, Darrah, a Rainbow parent, came to speak about solar panels and energy use. She shared with 4th grade how solar panels have a negative charge and those negatively charged electrons run off the side of the panels to a conductor. Relatively big batteries fuel the panels and are “better than ever” at holding electricity for longer periods of time, such as when there are cloudy days.

electricity usage

After talking about solar panels, 4th grade moved on to talking about Zero Waste. For about two and a half weeks, students calculated in ounces how much food waste, trash, and recycling the class collectively generated each day. They recorded that data into a graph.

day one

Day 1: The Introduction: students put food, waste and recycling into the pitchers and weighed them at the end of the day.

 

electricity unit

After 11 class days, students had the graph filled out and made some great observations.

Charting this kind of data had an assortment of learning opportunities, as you can imagine. Students learned about decimals, taring the scale, how to accurately graph data and interpret the results. They understood that certain food waste went into the pitcher, but things like banana peels and apple cores did not. Those could be composted and were things that people normally didn’t eat.

Any bits of sandwiches from lunch or leftover snacks (that students wouldn’t eat later) all went into the pitchers for measuring. For paper recycling, students were able to rip up pieces so they could fit into the pitchers. Since the school has pizza on Thursdays, they also started to brainstorm about how to use a pizza box in different ways.

Part of the idea behind this project was to allow students to just become aware and more mindful of their actions and their impact with regard to food, recycling and trash.

How It All Ties Together

In their electricity unit, students saw how the consumption of resources was related to electricity, to water, and to the planet. They saw how they could take advantage of opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They talked about the use of reusable bottles, how they might decline the plastic straw at restaurants, turn the faucet off while brushing, turn lights on only when necessary, eat all their food off dinner plates (and store the rest), and more.

An Electricity Feast

The end of this special unit was marked with an “electricity feast.” Students and their families brought in food to enjoy together, but only after 4th graders demonstrated their learning at different stations.

demonstrating electricity

All around the classroom were signs of learning about electricity.

The creative and mental domains were an integral part of this unit. Students created electric game boards. If you answered a question correctly, the circuit would connect and light up (with the help of a knowledgeable 4th grader).

lighting up

Closing the circuit resulted in the light bulb glowing.

Themes for morning centering during the unit allowed students to reflect on how their own light shines in the world. Students also reflected on world leaders and what light they bring to the world community.

how can you be a light to the world?

Students reflected on the idea of personal enlightenment and leaders who changed the world with their light. This touches upon the spiritual domain.

The 4th grade classroom was “alight” with the energy of community, learning, light and love as families came to see all the students present their portfolios.

electricity feast

After everything was finished, everyone joined together for a blessing. There was a lot of gratitude for the feast. They understood that what we eat ultimately comes from our beautiful planet.

food from our planet

At least several students in 4th grade reported on how they wanted to keep trying to measure their food, recycling and trash to stay mindful of their consumption of resources. Beyond the unit, others have mentioned changing habits at home and being more mindful of their impact on the planet and on the world’s resources.

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