Recycling!

Mini-unit Goals:

  1. The students will recall events from Dr. Seuss’ story, The Lorax, and make connections to environmental issues affecting their lives.

  2. The students will be expected to reflect on the facts of the story and respond verbally stating the inferences they made in order to devise alternative endings or possible solutions.

  3. During the science talk, the students will verbalize their knowledge and feelings relating to the aesthetics of the environment and the effects of mass consumption and pollution. 

  4. Students will make judgments and begin to observe positive actions that will preserve the condition of the earth.

  5. The students will gather their information from their “Litter Logs” and discuss their findings among their peers.

  6.  The students will collaborate with one another and determine similarities in their observations.

  7.  The groups will summarize their ideas and create a poster board in which they make a collage and articulate or illustrate their ideas.

  8.  The students will make distinctions between items that are classified as garbage, plastic, paper, and aluminum by sorting and placing the items in the correct container.

  9. The students will reflect upon the activity in a class discussion and identify the main ways garbage can be minimized.

  10. The students will recognize their role in protecting and conserving the environment by responding to questions prompted by the students and teacher.

Correlation to the National Science Standards:

Content Standard C:  As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of…

Inquiry Content Standard A:  As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop the abilities necessary to do a scientific inquiry and an understanding about scientific inquiry.

Correlation to the PA Proposed Academic Standards for Science and Technology:

3.5.4.A. - Pennsylvania’s public schools shall teach, challenge, and support every student to realize his or her maximum potential and to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to recognize the earth’s different water resources

3.2.4.C. - Pennsylvania's public schools shall teach, challenge and support every student to realize his or her maximum potential and to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to recognize and use the elements of scientific inquiry to solve problems.

Content:

Before I began to collect information about recycling, I already had a good idea about the structure of my unit.  I knew the general manner in which the unit was to be taught, therefore, I created lessons that would correlate to the inquiry approach.

As I looked for sources, I chose ones that either gave me the background knowledge I would need to teach or ones that listed ideas for lesson plans.  The first source I found was on the internet.  Within the website, there were tons of lesson plans related to recycling.  I was able to find four sources that correlated with the approach I would be taking.  Many of the lessons focused on the students creating new products out of recycled items.  While I found those to be a nice way to incorporate “hands on” activities, it was not the direction I intended for the unit.  Other lessons required the students to collect trash and sort the items into categories.  I thought that these lessons addressed the topic of recycling in the most appropriate way for fourth graders.  What I concluded after I viewed each lesson was that my unit touched on all the ideas discussed.  Seeing this reassured me that my unit would be valuable and effective in the science classroom.

Web address:  www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/enved/Rec_Lessons

For my second source, I used the third edition of the, Project Wild K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide.  I felt very fortunate to have received the book when I did because there were several activities pertaining to recycling.  I found one, in particular, called “Litter We Know” on pages 434 and 435.  The lesson itself was very good, but I decided to use the lesson for the background information that it provided.  Reading the information helped me to recognize some secondary effects that result from not recycling.  The need to discuss the implications garbage has on wild life became more prevalent.  The way I decided to include that information was to pass it on to the students during the summary and hope that it will be yet another proponent for recycling.  

Misconceptions:

  Several misconceptions people have relating to recycling are…

* note: children’s misconceptions could not be found.

  1.    Recycling should be free.

Many people believe that they should not be charged to recycling services because it is “the right thing to do” or because the waste companies are making a significant amount of money from selling recyclables.  Although people are making the right choice when they recycle, their recyclables still need to be collected by special vehicles, processed at facilities that cost millions of dollars to build and transported markets that are as far away as Asia.  All this requires equipment and labor, which translates into cost.

2.    If a package says “recyclable” or if it has “chasing arrows” that it is recyclable in your community.

Not all materials that are “recyclable” are able to be recycled…  Thus, it is extremely important to find out what materials can be recycled in your community’s recycling program and purchase products that can be recycled.

  3.    “Recyclable” and “recycled-content” mean the same thing.

“Recyclable” means that the material has the potential to be recycled, but is only recycled after it is collected, processed, marketed and manufactured into a new product.  “Recycled-content” means the product is made out of recyclables that were remanufactured into new products.

*all information about the misconceptions came from, www.hcdoes.org/sw/3rfaq.htm

ENGAGE 1

Concepts to be learned:  This lesson will help students to identify their role in the environment as well as what they can do to impact the condition of the earth.

Rationale:  The students will discover the impact that their actions have on the environment through witnessing the actions of the characters in the book, The Lorax.

Objectives:  The students will recall events from Dr. Seuss’ story, The Lorax, and make connections to environmental issues affecting their lives.  The students will be expected to reflect on the facts of the story and respond verbally stating the inferences they made in order to devise alternative endings or possible solutions.

Materials:  The teacher will need the book, The Lorax, and a note card with the discussion questions.

Lesson Management: 

  1.  Timing – reading the book (15 min.), and discussion (15 min.)
  2. Organization – The teacher will pre-read the book and write the discussion questions on a note card.

  Beginning the lesson:

  1. Focus Event – The teacher will inform the students that she will be reading the book, The Lorax, aloud to the class.
  2. Connection – The teacher will inform the students that the book will be address some issues dealing with the upcoming recycling mini-unit.

  Body of the lesson:

  1. The teacher will read, The Lorax, aloud to the students.
  2. The teacher will discuss the book by asking the students to think about the following questions:

Do you think that you have ever acted like a Once-Ler? If so how?

Do you agree with the Lorax and his efforts to keep the land clean? Why or why not?

Is there any way that the Once-Lers could have made the Thneeds without being wasteful?

  1. The teacher will listen to the students’ responses and promote further discussion.

Ending the Lesson: The teacher will conclude by saying that tomorrow the students will learn more about how to protect the environment and conserve resources.

  Assessment: The students will be evaluated based on their verbal responses to the questions posed by the teacher relating to the book.

 ENGAGE 2 - SCIENCE TALK

Concepts to be learned:  This lesson will determine the amount of knowledge students have concerning the issue of recycling.

Rationale:  It is important for a teacher to assess students’ prior knowledge pertaining to a subject before a mini-unit is conducted.

Objectives:  During the Science Talk, the students will verbalize their knowledge and feelings relating to the aesthetics of the environment and the effects of mass consumption and pollution.  Students will make judgments and begin to observe positive actions that will preserve the condition of the earth.

Materials:  The teacher will need a poster board with the questions clearly written for the Science Talk.

Lesson Management:

  1. Timing – introduction of the lesson (2 min.), discussion (25 min.)
  2. Organization – The questions will be written out before hand and positioned so that each student can view them easily.

Beginning the Lesson:

  1. Focus Event – The teacher will ask if the students remember what issues they were discussing yesterday and inform them that a discussion will occur where the class will talk about how they can prevent themselves from becoming like the Once-Lers.
  2. Connection – The teacher state that the discussion will help the class identify the level of concern regarding environmental awareness.

Body of the lesson:

  1. The science talk will take place by the teacher asking the following questions:
  1. After the discussion concludes, the teacher will summarize the student’s responses.

Ending the Lesson: The teacher will tell the students that tomorrow they will need their “Litter Logs” because they will be doing an activity in groups that will help summarize their findings.

Assessment: Students will be evaluated based on whether or not they were actively engaged in the discussion and contributing opinions and/or ideas.

****************************************************************************************  Lesson:  Science Talk Since the students in my class had been collecting trash for a later activity, they were already aware of what my unit would entail.  Some of the questions that I had asked them to think about in their “Litter Logs” familiarized them as to what the mini-unit would be about.  Therefore, they had plenty ideas to offer in our Science Talk. 

I intentionally asked the kids questions that they might not have considered as they took notes in their Litter Logs.  The discussion questions were more thought provoking.  The students were encouraged to vocalize their ideas and explore their feelings regarding environmental awareness.

When I first began the lesson, I made references back to the book we had read on the previous day.  I opened the talk by asking them to recall the characters in The Lorax.  I encouraged them to select a character they best identified with and explain why.  This gave me an idea as to where they stood on issues pertaining to the environment.  The kids were very honest.  Many students admitted that they often act like Once-Lers, not thinking about how their present actions might affect the future.  Some of their comments were, “A lot of times I don’t mean to litter, but I do.”  Other students said that, “they forget or litter by accident.”  From there, I asked how they feel once they realize that they had littered.  Many said comments such as, "I feel bad.”  Others mentioned that they “go back and pick it up.”  Their honesty and openness along with their willingness to hold themselves accountable made me realize that my unit would build upon their convictions and hopefully, enhance their awareness.

To get them thinking about the positive differences that individuals can make to evoke change, I questioned them as to whether or not they were in agreement with the Lorax and his concern for the land.  All the children said that the Lorax was smart and a good predictor of the future.  They also said that the Once-Lers should have listened to the Lorax’s warnings and thought about more than immediate gratification.  When asked to describe the personality traits of the Once-Lers, they chose to use adjectives like, “greedy, self-centered, and careless.”

 The next step in the lesson was to lead them into the science talk questions.  I had the students form opinions and judge whether or not the Lorax was justified in his adamant opposition to the Thneed business.  The kids quickly responded in the affirmative stating that the business created pollution, harmed animals, and destroyed all the Truffala trees.  In order to relate the book to their lives, I asked the question, “What would the earth look like if all people acted like Once-Lers?”  The class used words like dirty, unclean, and harmful.”

 Based on those comments, I made a transition in the discussion from pollution to litter and garbage.  I asked, “Did your parents ever tell you, when your room is a mess, that you were ‘living in your own filth?’”  The kids laughed after I made that statement, which made me recognize that the level in which I was speaking was both age appropriate and relevant to their lives.  At that point on, we talked about littering in terms of how it happens, what course of action we can take to prevent it, and the affect it has on the earth’s atmosphere.

All of the students were in agreement that something must be done.  We talked about their Litter Logs and how it pertained to the cleanliness of the earth.  I asked them to reflect upon their findings as well as possible solutions to the problem.  Just as I had expected, several students mentioned the term, recycling.  Next, I urged them to define the word, recycle, in their own words.  Their definitions impressed me when I noticed that they said that recycling involves re-using products along with reducing the amount of trash accumulation.  The typical responses given, lended more to the idea of transforming old products into new materials than reducing or re-using materials.  This came as no surprise considering that most of the population thinks of recycling in much the same manner.

The end of the lesson came when I asked the kids what happens to trash when we recycle.  Again, the majority of the class was aware that trash does not disappear.  They said that recyclable products get separated and sent to treatment centers to be used again.  They also said that trash could be either buried or dumped into a new location.  One student, in particular, mentioned that her aunt lives near a “trash dump.”  To provoke further thought, I asked her and the rest of the class how her aunt feels living near the rest of the world’s trash.  She said that it is greatly upsetting to her aunt and the close proximity makes her disgusted.

To conclude, I posed the question, “So, is recycling a helpful concept or not worth the time that it requires?”  All the students’ responses were positive and in favor of increasing recycling on a large scale.  They even said that recycling could make the earth a nicer and more pleasant place to live in.  Overall, the kids felt strongly about preserving and protecting the earth’s ecosystem because it will prove to be beneficial for years to come.

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Science Talk: Critical Analysis

What did you note about their ideas?  

Claim 1:  The students already had an awareness regarding recycling and what it entails. Evidence: When I asked the kids to define what recycling could be defined as, they answered with the following responses,

“reuse again and again” “to not waste” “reuse, used products”

“being considerate by” (meaning conserving food and resources)

“handing down products” “not littering or being wasteful”

Each student seemed to form his or her own definition of what it means to recycle.  I noticed that when the first person mentioned reusing a product, many others included extending the life of a product as another component of recycling.

Justification:  It is important that students form a broad, yet accurate perception concerning recycling.  Students need to learn that recycling involves much more than sorting products and making new ones. 

  Having students see all the many forms of recycling might help reduce trash accumulation.  Even if students do not choose to take the time to sort and categorize their trash items, they will still be able to make a difference through their willingness to reduce and reuse products.  Hopefully, from listening to their peers’ definitions, they will see that recycling encompasses many areas and is not difficult to do.  Once children see the small changes that can evoke big differences, they will be likely to take a more active role and work for a cleaner and healthier environment.

  Any misconceptions you anticipated?

Claim 2: Some students expressed difficulty in their ability to distinguish items that are recyclable and those that can be reused.

Evidence: When I asked students what products are considered recyclable and which can only be reused, the kids responded with the following,

“soda cans can be reused”  “milk bottles are recyclable”  “present bags are a recyclable product”

This showed me that they were having a hard time separating recyclable products from those that can be reused.  What I was able to learn from their responses was that they may not give much thought to reusing or reducing products even though they included those ideas in their definition.

Justification:  This confusion did not surprise me at all.  In fact, many adults find it difficult to discern between products that are labeled recyclable and those that are not.  When I looked up common misconceptions about recycling, I found that many people think that “recycled-content” and recyclable are interchangeable terms.  This was precisely the problem the fourth graders were having.  For example, the milk bottle may have been made from recycled products or it could have been labeled a recycled product.  In general, recycled content products were made from recycled goods while recyclable items only have the potential to be recycled.

  Any misconceptions you did not anticipate?

Claim 3:  Several students stated the idea that trash gets dumped, buried, or burned “depending on what type of product it is.”

Evidence:  The students in my class seemed to think that the manner in which trash is dealt with depends on the kind of material each product is made from.  Once that is determined, the trash collectors decide whether they will dump the trash, bury it in a landfill, or burn it in an incinerator.

Justification:  I did not expect our conversation to get this in-depth regarding how trash is handled.  Therefore, what I told the students is that trash can be deposited in each of those fashions, but that it does not depend on the materials from which the original product is made.  Rather, the trash collectors use whichever method is most convenient to discard the trash.  Typically, trash products are not sorted in any particular fashion unless the people responsible for the trash sort and separate the products that can be recycled.

  I told the class that the most popular way to dispose of trash is to bury it in a landfill.  The kids preferred to call them “trash dumps.”  One student attested to this occurring when she mentioned that her aunt lives near a landfill.  Her personal anecdote further supported my claim that regardless of what products are made from, they all get dealt with in the same manner.

  What implications does your “findings” about your students have for your mini-unit?

Claim 4: Many students stated in the science talk that they were concerned with more than the immediate effects cause by littering.

Evidence:  During the class discussion many students pointed out how other things in the earth’s ecosystem are affected when people do not recycle.  This made me happy that they were thinking about more abstract effects that recycling has on the earth.  I learned just how in-depth their knowledge was when I asked them to reflect on the book, The Lorax and discuss whether the Thneed business affected the environment.  From there I asked what effect littering has on the environment.  Here are several of their responses:

“Littering hurts the animals in the trees, like the Lorax.”

“The air will get polluted and smoky.”

“All the fish in the water would die.”

“(Littering) pollutes the ground and the earth.”

Most of the students responded with very descriptive phrases stating the effects that can result if people do not take recycling more seriously.  Several students mentioned how littering affects animal life because all the toxins from the garbage get released into the air or absorbed into the ground.  Two students used the Lorax character as an example and said that he was removed from his habitat in the trees because there were none left.  Other students were concerned with water resources saying, “all the fish in the water would die” because garbage pollutes the ground and the earth.”  A third portion of the class chose to mention what occurs in the air from trash and how all other living creatures are affected when air becomes, “polluted and smoky.”

Justification: I was very pleased to see that the students were aware of the complexity related to recycling.  Their statements proved to me that they see the greater purpose and the relevance in acting today so that we can protect tomorrow.  After all, if students see any issue as isolated and trivial, they will become indifferent and less likely to advocate change in current practices.

EXPLORE / EXPLAIN

Concepts to be learned:  The students will learn how to collect and analyze data so that they can draw conclusions from their observations.

Rationale:  The students need to know how to work collaboratively and share data so that they can articulate their understandings and convey them to others via presentations.

Objectives:  The students will gather their information from their “Litter Logs” and discuss their findings among their peers.  The students will collaborate with one another and determine similarities in their observations.  Next, the groups will summarize their ideas and create a poster board in which they make a collage and articulate or illustrate their ideas.

Materials:  The teacher will need to bring approximately 10 pieces of poster board to class.  The students will need their “Litter Log” sheets, their trash bag collection, and their art supplies.

Lesson Management:

  1. Timing – introduction (5 min.), group work to discuss and create the ideas for poster board (20 min.), and time for the presentations (20 min.)
  2. Organization – The teacher will need to bring in all the poster boards, divide the class into groups, and direct the students to the supply area.

Beginning the lesson:

  1. Focus Event – The teacher will ask the students to retrieve their “Litter Logs” because they will need them for today’s lesson.
  2. Connection – The teacher will inform the students that they will be working in groups to create a poster board summarizing their observations from their “Litter Logs” and presenting the posters in front of the class.

Body of the lesson:

  1. The students will get into the groups that the teacher assigns and given directions for the activity.
  2. The students will work with their partners to create their posters.
  3. The students will design their posters so that they address these questions:
  1. The students will regroup as a whole class to present their posters.
  2. Each poster will be discussed upon the groups presentations.

Ending the Lesson: The teacher will remind the students to bring in their trash collection because they will be sorting and categorizing their trash into the appropriate bins.

Assessment: Students will be assessed based on their willingness to work in groups, the quality of their posters, and their participation in discussion.

**************************************************************************************** Lesson:  Creating Recycling Posters

For the third lesson in my mini-unit, I asked the students to bring in their Litter Logs.  I then, told them to group themselves with a partner in which they would like to work with.  My purpose for the activity was to have the students work collaboratively and analyze their data to find similarities.

Each Litter Log was treated as a journal.  All groups were expected to share their Logs with their partners and discuss what they observed during their to two-week trash collection.  After they made connections with their partners, I asked them to think about several questions posted on the board.  I did this to keep them thinking about concepts pertaining to recycling as well as staying on-task. To ensure meaningful interaction with one another, I instructed the students to converse for approximately five minutes before any illustrations were created.

I was happy to see how attentive the students were when I gave directions.  I’m not sure if it was because I had devoted so much of my time giving them suggestions for their posters and allowing them to ask questions, or if they were just excited to begin their work and use their creativity.  Regardless or why they worked so well, they did and the lesson was quite productive.

Once they began illustrating their posters, I saw their diverse views on recycling.  Some children chose to recount the process a recyclable product undergoes, others drew scenarios, and some coined environmental messages.  The class worked very hard to create posters addressing a variety of issues.  All the groups seemed to pick different topics related to recycling, but all the posters were in favor of environmental awareness and preserving the earth’s resources.

When they presented their posters, their feelings about the mini-unit were evident.  All the students advocated for a cleaner earth and the responsibility people have to make change.  After each group presented their posters and discussed their relevance to the unit, I tried to help them summarize how their thinking and awareness will contribute to society and create a better world.

I was very proud with how the lesson unfolded.  I also think that the kids were happy to have a chance to make sense of the material, draw conclusions, and vocalize their ideas.  Since the lesson was useful and the kids’ learning was apparent, I don’t think that I would change much.  One area that I could have worked on more was modeling example posters and providing them with numerous techniques or ways to express themselves.  Although I did mention several ideas for the posters, many chose to do traditional illustrations.  If I were to teach the lesson again, I would prepare several example posters for the kids to see.  Hopefully, doing so would encourage multiple learning styles and ways of interpreting global issues.

ELABORATE / EVALUATE

Concepts to be learned:  The students will learn how to distinguish between items that can be recycled and those that cannot.  The students will sort the items based on their characteristics and the materials from which they are made.

Rationale:  Students need to recognize how to sort trash items and which items can be recycled so that they will be more apt to recycle in the future.

Objectives:  The students will make distinctions between items that are classified as garbage, plastic, paper, and aluminum by sorting and placing the items in the correct container.  The students will reflect upon the activity in a class discussion and identify the main ways garbage can be minimized.  The students will recognize their role in protecting and conserving the environment by responding to questions posed by their peers and the teacher.

Materials:  The teacher will need one trash can, three recycling bins, gloves, trash bags, 20 copies of each of the three hand outs, and a note card with the discussion questions written clearly.  The students will need their trash collection and coats to go outside.

Lesson Management: 

  1. Timing – introduction and directions (5 min.), sorting activity (20 min.), class discussion and summary (15 min.)
  2. Organization – The teacher will organize and situate the items for the sorting activity prior to the beginning of the lesson so as to minimize confusion.  Discussion questions will be placed on a note card so that they are easily accessible.

Beginning the lesson:

  1. Focus Event – The teacher will inform students that they will be doing an activity in the mini-unit that will allow them to go outside and have a “hands-on” experience.
  2. Connection – The teacher will share that the activity will help the students learn how to sort trash and determine which products are recyclable.

Body of the lesson:

  1. The teacher will give directions to the class regarding the activity.
  2. Students will be informed to bring their coats and the trash collection outside.
  3. While outside, student will be given directions on how to sort and categorize their trash.
  4. The class will gather together to give feedback on the activity and summarize the day’s events.
  5. The class will reconvene inside to summarize, connect, and confer on the important concepts in the unit.  Questions will include:

Ending the lesson: The class will conclude when the teacher asks the students to summarize what they have learned.

Assessment: The teacher will evaluate the students by observing and monitoring their involvement in the sorting activity and their participation in the class’ discussion and summary.

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Lesson:  Sorting Trash  

The fourth day of the recycling unit was really fun.  The kids had been looking forward to it all week because they had worked hard to gather a trash collection in which they would use on the final day.  Throughout the week, students were approaching me asking if their trash items were acceptable, whether we’d be going outside, and exactly what the day would entail.

Friday came and the kids maintained their enthusiasm.  When I mentioned that the class would be going outside for the lesson, they grew even more excited.  Another thing that proved to me that they cared about the unit was the fact that no one forgot to bring in their trash collection.  Their Litter Logs were much the same.  The whole class was very conscientious and remembered the assignments I had given.

Before the lesson transpired, I had made sure that everything was laid out and ready to go.  Because the class was anticipating the activity, I knew that I would have to exhibit exceptional classroom management skills.  Or the final day would not be productive.  Therefore, once everything was ready, I asked the children to quietly get their coats, return to class, and volunteer to help carry the supplies outside.  Yet again, the kids impressed me with their behavior.  No one got out of line and everyone was very cooperative.

When we got outside, the kids wanted to act a little crazy.  I expected that to happen and overlooked some things until I was ready to begin the lesson.  All that I needed to do to regain their attention was to ask them to respect me as their teacher and behave as they would in school.  Since they were so excited to be learning via a hands-on activity, they responded to my request.

The activity was quickly underway and the kids proved to me that they were capable of learning in a different setting and working well together.  All the students complied with my requests and helped set up all the needed supplies.

Next, the actual trash sorting began.  Many of the kids were very eager to sort the trash and I noticed that the materials were not always placed in the correct recycling bin.  This was all right with me.  I wanted to see what they knew about sorting trash and what is capable of being recycled.

Overall, my goals for the unit were met.  I was able to create awareness concerning an issue that is not always thought to be prevalent in the levels of fourth graders.  However, I was reminded that young children are the most influential members of society and the most sensitive to the needs and well being of others.  The kids in Mrs. X's class confirmed my thoughts about kids.  They are truly the visionaries of the world and the people who are most likely to make a difference and work towards change.  I could not have asked for anything more.  Their involvement and concern for the world was quite impressive and gave me hope for the future.