Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Trash Talks!

In my last Blog I described a long-term project that any Peace Corps Volunteer could attempt regardless of sector: the creation of an Environmental Education Center. This week I want to share an activity that is quick, fairly easy to make, and has been an effective tool in the Philippines for teaching Solid Waste Management (SWM). This idea can be used in other countries where Environmental Education and Outreach is on-going. This activity has been great for all ages and the board can be made at little cost! The Trash Decomposition Board serves as an introduction to SWM discussions, and the activity helps the learner become aware of concepts such as bio-degradable, organic, and non-biodegradable. The activity helps the child understand that highly processed items such as plastics take a long time to break down compared to things organic.

To make a Trash Decomposition Board you will need the following materials:
A large piece of ¼ inch ply wood 
Paint and paint thinner (optional)
Marine Epoxy
9-10 pieces of dry trash
Permanent Marker
Colored Paper

Step One: Use your saw and cut your plywood to a  good size. Mine is about  2ft X 3.5ft. Smooth down the edges with sand paper.

Step Two: Paint your plywood the color of your choice! You will need paint thinner to clean your hands and brushes later.

Step Three: After the paint has dried glue 9-10 different trash items to the board using Marine Epoxy. Dry trash only - nothing wet or gross. Wait 24 hours for the Marine Epoxy to dry.

Step Four: Use the permanent marker (or paint) and write the decomposition time frames on your board under each trash item (See next section).

Step Five: Cover these time frames up. If you want to go cheap use tape and paper, but you will have to replace these regularly. Because our LGU is teaching over a thousand kids a season and durability is a necessity - we laminated ours and attached Velcro. I printed a question mark on yellow paper just to make our Trash Decomposition Board a little more fun.

Step Six: If you laminate the cover cards as we did then you must use Marine Epoxy to glue the Velcro (Magic Tape) on to them. Hot Glue doesn’t seem to work well. Use Marine epoxy to glue the Velcro’s mate to the board. Use sand paper to give the surface a rough surface before applying glue. Allow 24 hours for Marine Epoxy to dry.

Step Seven: Create answer cards! This is what the kids hold up during the activity. We have 5 different sets and each is a different color for up to 5 teams. There are usually about 10 kids per group. Again, these answer cards were laminated to ensure durability over the years. You are now ready to teach!

How To Play!


 Divide your students into groups. Each group is given a set of answer cards with the different periods of time either written or printed on them (See Below). The teacher will begin by talking about trash and the problems of trash in the community or around the world. The teacher can explain terms such as “biodegradable” and “non-biodegradable” and can write these words on the board. The teacher can also define the term “decomposition rate” and explain how certain trash items take longer to fall apart or decompose compared to other trash items. To begin the game the teacher should ask “How long does it take for an apple core to decompose?” The students will discuss this question in their small groups and they should examine the cards. After 1 minute a representative from each group will hold up the card the group believes is the right answer. After all groups have held their answers in the air the teacher can reveal the correct answer on the Trash Decomposition Board. At this time the teacher can then go into more detail about that specific trash item and talk about both local and global solutions.

Time Frames:

Apple Core:                          3 Weeks
Paper:                                   1 Month
Cardboard:                           6 Months
Cigarette Stub:                     5 Years
Plastic Bag:                          50 Years
Tin Can:                               100 Years
Diaper:                                 500 Years
Plastic Water Bottle:            1000 Years
Styrofoam:                            Immortal
*Mainland Highschool (2009)


Trash Time-Line: Use the different sets of cards and tape them to the pavement outdoors. Have the groups race to place the different trash items along the time-line in the correct order according to how long it takes for them to decompose. Great for youth camp situations where outdoor space is available.

Trash Jeopardy: Use this style for when you have an audience of 200 or more people and can’t break up into groups. Invite 3 contestants on stage to work as a team against the audience. The 3 contestants will hold their answer card up in the air. The teacher can then ask the audience if they agree or disagree. This is super fun if candy is involved. If the 3 contestants get 7 out of 10 correct they get the candy. If the audience wins then the candy is instead thrown out to the large group.

Small Group Matching: Give each group a bag with 10 different trash items. The group has 5 minutes to match their 10 answer cards with the 10 different pieces of trash. This activity promotes small group participation. At the end the teacher can go through the answers as one group. Keeping score adds to the excitement.

Reference: Mainland Highschool (2009) www.mainland.cctt.org/istf2010/Plastic.asp

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