The View from the Classroom Window

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plastics in Our World: Day 4

So, we have learned what happens to plastic trash that finds its way to the ocean. But what happens to the plastic trash that stays on land?

With your kids
1. Start a journal or research folder to record some of the things you are learning about plastics. On one page start a vocabulary list of words you are learning. (For example, the words our family has come up with so far: marine debris, nurdles, gyre, food chain)

2. Add a couple of new words to the list, look them up, and discuss:
phalates (I suggest you visit this wikipedia link, and jump to the section called "Health Effects--Exposure")

3. Start a science experiment to observe how plastics biodegrade in comparison with organic materials:
--Make a space outside where you can set up some containers. Use whatever you have on hand--yogurt tubs, flower pots, etc. A great way to repurpose some of your unwanted plastic! ; )

--With your kids, select a variety of things natural and plastic to bury in dirt, one item in each pot. You can also bury the items directly into the ground, if you prefer, but be sure to mark what is buried where. Our family buried one plastic candy wrapper, eggshell, a pine cone, a stick, a watermelon rind, a piece of old towel, a piece of paperboard, a fresh tree leaf. (It would be ideal to include a supposedly biodegradable plastic, which I am going to add to our collection when I can.)

--Water your "garden" and then sit back and see what happens! Ideally this project you would keep going all summer--or as long as your kids are still interested. You can dig up the items whenever you and the kids think a reasonable time has passed to see what is going on. Consider with your kids how conditions like dry or wet soil, heat or cold might contribute to the biodegrading.

(If you are composting, an alternate project could be throwing one or two plastic items into the mix for easy comparison.)

For further investigation
Watch Pt. 5 of "Addicted to Plastic" on youtube--let it buffer and then jump ahead to 1:56--and Pt 6.

And then read this article, and be sure to check out the related photo gallery.

Website of the day
Gumdrop Bin (Be sure to have your sound turned on! : )

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