Everyone is familiar with the recycling phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Fifth grade students at Stella Niagara Education Park are adding another word to the phrase, Rethink. After learning about marine debris, our students decided to take a deeper look at the causes of this pollution and rethink their own approach to the problem.
The students began with a personal analysis of their own garbage. During the month of January, the class collected all of the plastic bags their families received while shopping. Each week, the class counted the bags that were brought in and then charted the number for a visual representation. At the end of the month, the 15 students found that their families used 460 plastic bags. The reaction to this number by the students was unanimous, everyone was very surprised.
In addition to the bag collection, the students also did other research and experimentation. One activity was placing garbage in egg cartons to watch daily the decomposition of normal household garbage. They were able to see how some items began to decompose almost immediately while others had no changes over the course of the month. In addition, they had some fun playing a recycling game where they had to guess what items would take the longest time to decompose.
After the 5th grade students discovered the large number of plastic bags just their families used, they spent time brainstorming a solution to this issue. The class decided to design a reusable bag that their families could use while shopping. Each family will receive 2 bags to use for all their shopping in an effort to reduce their own contribution to the problem. Jenna Sweeney said “after I told my family that our class used 460 plastic bags, my mother can’t wait to start using the Stella Niagara bag.”
The 5th grade class at Stella Niagara will continue to rethink recycling throughout the year with more experiments and solutions to this problem. If they find the reusable bag is a success reducing plastic waste for their class, they will roll the solution out to the entire school!
A big thank you to Dr. Cumbo and the Cumbo family for the generous donation that allowed the purchase of the reusable bags.