Lifecycle of Stuff

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School:  McKim Elementary

Steph Spensley and Jaimee Pichette’s grade 5/6 class is diving into the Beyond Recycling program again for 2021/2022. The students are one of two McKim Middle School classes embarking on multi-month learning journey where they will learn all about energy, water, food, transportation from a middle school kid’s perspective.

The first unit is all about waste. Before going beyond, we must learn about recycling and other disposal methods for the things we use. In the Garbology lesson, we took a look in the classroom garbage bin and identified which items are true waste, and what should be recycled, reused, or composted. The second lesson took the students on a walk back through time, exploring how human’s waste has changed over time. Did you know that in the time of hunter-gatherers, humans made 0kg of actual waste? Everything they used was natural materials and biodegraded – very different than the 2.1kg of waste per person per day we make now! “That’s a huge difference, and it’s mostly plastic” one student observed.

To take a closer look at the raw materials and processing involved in modern everyday items, the class then studied the lifecycles of stuff. In small groups, students learned all about batteries, pencils, glass bottles, aluminum cans, soccer balls or jeans. Additionally, some also created new items using waste materials found in their homes. The students also learned some valuable lessons about group work and public speaking, culminating in short presentations on their findings.