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Posts Tagged ‘landfills’

Last month, we got kids thinking about where their trash ends up with Trash Talk and Loop Scoops. But let’s start at the beginning. Where does our food come from? How many places does the slice of cheese on our burger see before it ends up on our plate?

At Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we teach a program for school groups called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” We cover topics like proper recycling, energy efficiency, and sustainable food choices. The food activity splits kids into groups; each group is responsible for piecing together the life cycle of one ingredient on a burger. They’re given cards that each represent one phase in, for instance, the journey of a slice of cheese. Take a look:

The journey starts here at “Sunset Farm”. But why are we starting on a corn field if we’re trying to get to a slice of cheese? 

To feed the cows! Unfortunately, most cows in the US are fed corn rather than the tasty grass that their stomachs were built to digest. The cow’s milk then has to be transported to the cheese factory. That’s two big truck rides so far for one slice of cheese!

The cheese then gets stored in a large warehouse with other grocery goods. 

A truck picks up the cheese from the warehouse and takes it to the grocery store where it’s stocked on shelves and finally awaits your purchase.

Your cheeseburger can now be assembled and enjoyed! And now what? What about the packaging your cheese slice came wrapped up in? What about all your other food scraps? Where do they end up? 

Most of the time, they end up in a landfill.

Now, here’s the challenge: After students have pieced together the journey of their cheese (there are twenty cards or steps for the cheese alone!) they have to figure out how to remove pieces of the production-distribution-consumption-waste system to make the whole thing more sustainable. How can we get this slice of cheese to travel less? This activity can lead to great discussions on Farmer’s Markets, local food, and composting.

Want to try this activity with your class? Email GoGreen[at]Brooklynkids.org for a PDF version of the full set of Hamburger life cycle cards!

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If you have been teaching about waste management and would like a fun game to help kids understand, check out Landfill Bill!

Landfill Bill is a very simple game where waste materials come down the conveyor belt and Bill has to throw them to the correct bin: glass, plastic, paper, or metal. It is a surprisingly addictive yet very simple game. After students play it, here are some talking points:

  • Were any of the items coming down the conveyor belt trash? (no)
  • Were you surprised by any of the items that Bill recycled? Do you usually put those items in the trash? What could you do with them next time?
  • What happens if Bill didn’t recycle fast enough? (the items ended up in the landfill)
  • What happens when the landfill gets too full? (the game ends; there is no more space for any kind of waste)

While the game does not make this explicit, the whole point of recycling is to find a better use for waste than the landfill. Proper recycling keeps items out of the landfill, extending their life, and reducing the need for new landfills. Playing Landfill Bill is an engaging way to introduce that idea to your students!

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If you are teaching about recycling and other forms of waste management, check out the PBS Website, which has numerous ideas for educators and parents teaching kids about waste management.

Here are some ideas you will find there:

Zoom has instructions for making your own recycled paper using simple materials. There’s nothing like a good science project to help kids really understand that an old product can be made into a new one!

For younger learners, you can start with a litter campaign. Before kids can understand trash and recycling, litter is a starting point for thinking about the idea that used items have to be gotten rid of.

Eeko World’s Garbage and Recycling page takes students through an animated waste tour. The video is long, but kid-friendly, comprehensive, and detailed. There’s a great accompanying lesson plan to sort trash from recyclables including math extensions.

For these ideas and more, check out the PBS Teachers page on recycling!

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A while ago, we mentioned the amazing resources out there from the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED). In addition to resources on teaching about types of energy and its sources, they also have resources for teaching about trash.

One page from the flip book; the following page explains paper that cannot be recycled

The Trash FlipBook is a resource designed for K-4 teachers that comprehensively explains waste and ways to reduce it. It starts with what trash it and where it goes (apparently, in the United States, 54% of waste is buried, 13% is burned, and 33% is recycled). Then, the book covers options for waste other than burying and burning (reduce, reuse, repair, compost, and recycle). The guide ends with some more advanced technical information for older students about plastics and landfill design.

A more advanced page for the interested class and teacher

Each page has an image on the front for students to view and ideas and talking points on the back for teacher use.

The Trash FlipBook is designed to be taught mostly through pictures. If you have older students (grades 3+) and would like your students to learn the same material through reading, check out Talking Trash, the upper elementary guide.

Finally, many of the NEED guides are now available in Spanish, if you have a bilingual class. The NEED materials are fantastic and free – check them out if you’re planning to teach about trash or energy!

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We have already offered suggestions for books about recycling and composting. Here are some ideas for books about garbage as well as other forms of waste disposal:

Smash! Mash! Crash! There Goes the Trash! by Barbara Odanaka is a rhyming book for early childhood. The book follows the men (in this case actually pigs) who pick up the trash and just how much of a mess their job is. This book is an appropriately silly introduction to where trash goes for young children.

For a non-fiction option, try Garbage Trucks by Marlene Targ Brill. The book explains the parts of a garbage truck, what it does, how it works, and gives facts about garbage. It’s a simple book as an introduction for your students.

Where Does the Garbage Go? by Paul Showers follows the garbage beyond the truck, looking at the landfill, the incinerator, and the recycling center. The book also covers reducing waste and ocean dumping, a process kids may know little about but are likely to have strong feelings about.

Loreen Leedy’s The Great Trash Bash is set in Beaston, where the animals have a problem – trash everywhere. Mayor Hippo visits the town dump, incinerator, and landfill and learns about the pros and cons of each, before investigating other options like recycling.

For experiments, check out Garbage and Recycling: Environmental Facts and Experiments by Rosie Harlow and Sally Morgan. The book could be read independently by upper elementary students or could be a reference manual for teachers and parents, both for content information about waste and for experiments to do with children.

Do you have any other favorite garbage books?

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So, for the past two weeks we have been talking about what to do with waste to avoid trashing it – you can reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and mulch. But, eventually, some things are just plain trash.

To help kids get engaged in the need to avoid trash, it’s important to talk about where trash ends up… everything you put in a garbage bin eventually gets picked up by a garbage truck and from there taken to a landfill. Landfills are big places – and big is a hard idea for kids to imagine.

… so instead of starting with a landfill, start with the waste generated in your classroom in only one day.

Give each student a plastic bag and tie one end of it to their belt loops (have some lengths of string available in case they don’t have loops). For an entire day, have them throw everything they would normally put in the trash, recycling, or compost bin into the plastic bag. Do throw away smelly items and have students draw a picture of those items and keep the pictures in the plastic bag (e.g., a picture of an apple instead of carrying around the apple core).

At the end of the day, have each student dump the items out on a surface in the classroom. Have each student tally, list or draw the waste they generated. In addition to counting items, you could weigh, graph, or measure your waste in other ways. Once finished, pile all the waste from the entire class together and hold a class meeting. What will happen to these things when we really throw them away? Do students think they have generated a lot of waste or very little? Is there any way to make less waste tomorrow?

By now, students may already know about compost and recycling… finish the activity by asking – what happens to the things that can neither be recycled nor composted?

Use an image like the one below from Managua, Nicaragua to explain where trash ends up (click it for a higher resolution image).

CHURECA7The combination of collecting their own trash and this image should help students better understand trash and landfills. Check back in the next few days for more activities designed to do just that.

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Compost!

Back in October, we talked a lot about compost, but since it’s such an important part of waste management, there’s no harm in talking about it again.

Compost makes for happy worms!

Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm.

The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

For more information about the science and sustainability of compost and about composting with kids, check out our previous posts on the subject, all tagged as compost.

By the way, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is closed tomorrow (December 25th) but open again on Monday (December 26th). Teach Green in Brooklyn will be back on December 28th with more great information about waste and what to do with it.

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