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Managing our solid waste has become an overwhelming task. The costs of disposal are rising, related environmental degradation is occurring, and controversies are arising over siting of new landfills and incinerators. Our community faces the dilemma of what to do with it's solid waste. The local landfill will be at capacity within the next few years. Can we develop a plan to recycle and/or reuse most or all of our solid waste? Laws are being implemented to ensure sound solid waste planning and minimize problems such as these. There seems to be a lot of work for everyone to do, and you can help!

As citizens of this community, we have an important task ahead. You are the next generation of decision-makers. The future of our community is in your hands. So, how can you help? One way is by recycling, and/or reusing our waste products. Information and habits that emphasize reducing and recycling the amount of waste we produce must be shared with all community members. Everyone is responsible for this problem. Can you develop a plan to recycle all or most of your solid waste products in your school building?


In the beginning...

Students will be presented with the challenge to develop a recycling program for their entire school. The teacher will introduce the problem by reading a letter (above) from the chamber of commerce alerting the public of the problems the town is facing with it's waste disposal. Continued increases in the cost of disposing of waste products and the threat of the local land fill reaching capacity has caused the town to turn to its citizens for a solution. Each business and company is being solicited to generate ideas for recycling. The challenge is presented for the middle school to be able to recycle all of it's own waste products.

A general discussion will begin and everyone in the class participates in it. "Can't we find another site to dispose of our waste?" one student asks. "That would only be prolonging the problem," another responds. "What can we do with the stuff? What stuff are we talking about?" Maybe first, we need to figure out just what types of waste we are dealing with. A student is chosen to make a list of these products. Lists are then combined in general categories: computer ink cartridges and printer ribbons are in one category, xerox, printer, and notebook paper is another general paper category, etc. "Ok, how do we research these products, what are they made up of chemically, structurally? What makes them so hard to dispose of?" Well, we have the library. Another student suggests using the Internet, because new discoveries are made every day on the handling of waste products.

The conversation now turns to "Do we know of any other schools that have developed their own recycling plan?" No, but wouldn't it be great to find out if any have ideas we can use. Sure, we could use the Internet and e-mail other schools. We can also use the Internet to investigate what other communities do about their waste products.

The next day is spent getting organized and developing a general plan of attack to meet the challenge. Students discuss how information gatherers are needed, communicators to contact other schools will be necessary also. What do we do first? Can we do both tasks at the same time? The class decides on forming groups and sharing tasks and rotating roles every other day. Gathers work to find information, communicators write to schools.

Students are gathering information on recycling and waste management, while others are developing a communique to send to other schools. A list of questions to be answered about each particular product is generated by the whole group before inquiry begins. The communique is agreed upon. It will be the same basic message to each participant contacted.

After the teacher explains the role they are to take. As a large group, we must approach this problem as if we were responsible for the future of the town and everyone in it. However, for purposes of investigation, we must assume roles of scientific investigators, communicators and general researchers. It will be necessary for the purpose of thorough investigation for different roles to be assumed at different intervals of our project.

Students are grouped according to a particular type of waste product (from the lists generated on the first day). Groups of 4 or 5 are formed and then split into 2 fact finding sections: one to research waste information, and the other to contact schools for their ideas.

As students begin to receive information, they find it necessary to organize their findings. The teacher suggests taking a break from research and everyone learn how to manage information in a simple data base. After showing the class the benefits of this application program, the class votes on using this program to organize their information. The vote is unanimous for using the data base and a simple data base is set up by each group for their particular product.

Daily assessment sheets and journals will be kept for each student in this project. These sheets will be used to keep track of and help the teacher to monitor and facilitate the project. Each student's assessment sheet will contain the particular job that was done for that day, where the student worked, what information was generated from the day's work. Did the student e-mail another school, did the student work on researching a particular waste product, or did the student work on updating the data base of information? These daily assessments will determine the future focus of the project and if any changes will be necessary.

Another important part of this process is for daily group coming together to share what everyone else has found. Questions arise from these daily discussions which will determine the direction for finding possible solutions to the problem.

The students will spend the first 7 weeks (or so) doing the gathering, data processing, and research. Once a sufficient amount of information has been generated the whole group needs to come together again to talk about the progress of the research and the direction we need to go next. (This coming together may happen at other points in the project as a way of refocusing, if necessary.)

Toward the end...A sufficient amount of time must be set aside for the development of the power point presentation. This presentation will outline the primary parts of this project. The presentation will be presented to the chamber of commerce. The presentation will highlight everything that happened in the process of developing a plan to recycle all waste products generated from the school site.

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Graphics: http://www.clipart.co.uk/, Mega ClipArt CD by SoftKey

Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermilab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NCRTEC) which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).


Author(s): Mary A. Warren
School:  Lemont-Bromberek S.D. 113, Lemont, IL  60439
Created: May 14, 1998- Updated: May 15, 1998
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w98/projects/mwarren/scenario.html