On the day before I begin the actual teaching of this unit, I am going to distribute one or two plastic grocery bags to students and ask them to collect all of their personal waste (with the exception of food) during the course of one day. When the students return the bag to class, they will fill out an inventory of all of the items in the bag. The inventory will ask the students to list the waste under recyclable or non-recyclable. It will also ask the students to explain the reason for throwing the items away. Could any of these items have another use for them or someone else? This will give students an opportunity to see just how many things they discard in the course of the day and to consider what they could have done to change the amount of things they collected. It is important for students to understand these options. My hope is that they will see recycling bins that say reduce, reuse, recycle and actually understand and apply what they mean, instead of being immune to them. I am hoping to repeat this exercise with students at the end of the unit to see if there is any difference in the amount of things they discard.
As a class, we will work on computers and visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website, which has many links for students. There are many resources for students to explore. Students can read a comic book about the life-cycle of garbage, do a crossword puzzle about reducing, reusing and recycling, as well as, read about green shopping, the life cycle of CDs, cell phones and soccer balls. This knowledge will empower students to feel that everything they do can and will make a difference. These resources have so much information and will enable students to find creative ways to implement the 3 R's (reducing, reusing and recycling) into their lives and the lives of those they know. We will also visit the National Recycling Coalition website, which has a recycling "conversionator". This tool enables the user to drag a recycled material, such as; aluminum can, into the "conversionator". This tool then produces a fact about the material. An example of one of these facts is "every 3 months, Americans landfill enough aluminum cans to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet."(11) This website will give students an opportunity to find out their own facts based on the material they choose.