Elementary Science

Upcycling Project

I am trying to come up with a cohesive project based unit plan about upcycling. I want the students to be thinking about how they can help the community by upcycling instead of throwing everything away. Getting started, they would be doing some research about where our trash eventually ends up, and recording data about what common items are thrown away regularly at home and at school. From there, I hope to begin a project where the students come up with ideas of new products they can create out of old used items, leading up to a catalog of upcycled items for sale. When it's all over, we could have a big fair to display our products and invite parents and members of the community to come learn about how they can upcycle some things at home. I think it would be awesome if the money earned from our sold items could be used for a special green cause, but what? Any ideas? Has anyone ever undertaken a project like this? Where can I refine it? Does it fit the PBL route? 

Julie Homans
Julie Homans
495 Activity Points

Wow, that is an amazing idea, Julie. I've read some on PBL, specifically from the Buck Institute. I think your idea would fit because it is learning that will extend beyond the classroom and could affect change outside of school. You could challenge your students to come up with some ideas in a brainstorming session. Have community leaders from the city come in to answer questions, take a field trip to a local recycling center, and find out what the number one type of trash is the most prevalent problem in your area. One of my friends is a teacher in middle school and her students started a program like this. I don't know all of the details but I do know it started with concerns about the environment and my friend is our regional representative for NEED.org NEED does workshops for teachers about energy consumption. So you can imagine they teach abour alternative forms of renewable energy. One of the cool things my friend does is collect aluminum cans. Each week her students are lined up along the drive at school and people all over the city drop off their cans to her school. They turn them in to earn cash and decided to use the money to purchase solar panels for the school. That has made a huge impact on their energy usage and cut their electricity bill dramatically. She told me there are times that the city pays them for the energy they produce! There are many other things her students do, but you have to start with one thing at a time. Research what has worked in other schools and fit it to your needs. Who knows, your students might build a more efficient can crusher (if you decide to recycle cans) and they can sell their invention to the people in your community.

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
85844 Activity Points

Julie, I think this is such an important topic to teach children! I will have to remember this one for when I'm finally a teacher! This is something I think everyone should be more aware about and willing to help and participate in! Thank you for sharing this!

Alexis Martinez
Alexis Martinez
2970 Activity Points

I'm so glad you like the idea! That is so awesome that the class in your example sold cans and bought solar panels. That is a real change that the class initiated in their school. The awesome thing about these projects is that they can lead to such bigger things!

Julie Homans
Julie Homans
495 Activity Points

You're so right, Julie. Once the parents and community see that the kids are serious about the project, they may step up and offer more assistance. You are welcome to contact my friend to find out more. She loves to share. When we see each other I tell her that when she retires the school will experience a black hole situation. She is training the elementary science teachers so hopefully, that won't happen. https://app.oncoursesystems.com/school/webpage/11507114 Her name is Judy Guillory Reeves and the school is St. Margaret Catholic School in Lake Charles, LA. They also have a facebook page.

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
85844 Activity Points

Thanks so much! And thanks for the link! She seems like an awesome lady. :)

Julie Homans
Julie Homans
495 Activity Points

Hi Julie, There is a "Market Day" at my daughter's school in Miami where the gifted students are asked to create products and then sell them on "Market Day". The students are asked to create a product proposal where they sketch out what they want to make, the item's purpose, the price, etc. Once they get the approval from the teacher the students can begin creating their products. They are asked to create 25 of the items to sell on Market Day. The students also have to create their own marketing tools (posters, flyers, coupons, etc). My daughter has done this for the passed 3 school years. It's a really great experience for the students. Good luck!

Cynthia Garcia
Cynthia Garcia
2745 Activity Points

Hey Julie! I'm from your class! I love your idea, and I especially love how involved the parents and community would have to be. I think that you could also do something like a Trash Talent Show, where students find different ways to use trash to play games, to make clothes and/or shoes and accessories, and to do tricks (like making a trash-ket-ball hoop to shoot in, etc). Students would present their Trash Works on stage- ticket sales from parents would be plentiful, because they have to bring their student in! The school could even put up a display case for the things your students created so that they aren't being thrown away afterwards. Good luck!!

Alyson Whitmore
Alyson Whitmore
555 Activity Points

I really like your ideas. My twins just did a similar activity for their third grade class. They did not grasp the whole concept about why they were doing the project though. I tried my best to explain to them the purpose, but I do not think that I was very successful. Originally, the prompt was to create something that could help mankind, but then they were just re-purposing our recycling for a piece of artwork. I do not know what background they received from their teacher, but I would think that third graders could grasp the concept.

Tessa Sharafat
Tessa Sharafat
1175 Activity Points

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