Timber Trail fifth grade teacher Kristen WardBrown presents students with the contents of classroom trash cans collected in a 24-hour period. The trash was used to present students with the challenge of finding ways to reduce the trash load at the school.
By Lisa Crockett; photo courtesy of Timber Trail Elementary School
Fifth graders at Timber Trail Elementary are being challenged to change the world, and it all started with a pile of trash. Piling the contents of classroom trash cans collected in a 24-hour period into the library, teachers provided a strong visual representation of what is happening in the students’ community, and then challenged them to come up with a solution.
“We want students to come away from this unit feeling inspired to make a change in our communities, even if it is small and slow,” said fifth grade teacher Amanda Smith. “I also want them to realize that looking at the world and designing sustainable solutions to environmental problems is something we are all responsible for and something we all benefit from.”
Fifth graders have been divided into teams of four or five students and tasked with finding ways the trash load at Timber Trail can be reduced. After five weeks, students will present their findings and ideas for solutions to the school’s principal, Michele Radke, with the goal of persuading her to implement their solutions at school.
“Students will use their knowledge of renewable and nonrenewable resources and sustainability to create their proposals,” said Smith.
In addition to their submissions at the school, students will also enter a nation-wide competition called the “We Can Change the World Challenge,” an annual event sponsored by Discovery Education. The event encourages elementary school students to find novel, sustainable solutions to local problems.