Theme 2: Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Household Waste

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Overview:

Information from Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey revealed that household waste is a significant issue for Canadians.

In this theme, students will explore the impact that different kinds of household waste have on the environment and investigate solutions for reduction and disposal. They will explore and assess ways of disposing of unwanted electronic devices and discuss what to do with old batteries. They will investigate solutions to manage wastewater and think critically about solutions to reduce plastic bag waste.

Suggested Grade Level:

  • Grades 1-3

Topics:

  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Science and Technology
  • Language Arts

Cross-curricular Connections:

  • Arts
  • Health and Safety

Materials:

Lesson 1: Unwanted Cell Phones

  • Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones
  • Handout: Cell Phone Survey
  • An old cell phone (optional)

Lesson 2: Battery Powered

  • Simplified Survey Data: Battery Disposal
  • Handout: My Favourite Toys

Lesson 3: Wastewater

  • Simplified Survey Data: Municipal Sewer System
  • Video or online resources about municipal wastewater treatment after use

Lesson 4: Reusable Bags

  • Simplified Survey Data: Reusable Bag Usage
  • Variety of bags, both disposable and reusable

Theme: Solutions for Household Waste

  • Rubric: Out of Sight, Out of Mind Theme Rubric

Assignments:

  • Create a pictograph of cell phone disposal practice.
  • Practice and perform a newscast about cell phone disposal.
  • Create an educational poster about healthy habits and choices.
  • Create a bar graph of wastewater disposal methods.
  • Draw an illustrated diagram of waste water treatment.
  • Write and produce an informational pamphlet about reusable bags.

Theme Rubric

Theme Rubric
Table summary
This table displays the results of Theme Rubric. The information is grouped by Level 1 (appearing as row headers), Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 (appearing as column headers).
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Extracts information from data presented in a graphic organizer with support. Extracts information from data presented in a graphic organizer and draws some conclusions with support. Independently extracts information from data presented in a graphic organizer and draws general conclusions. Independently extracts detailed information from data presented in a graphic organizer and draws insightful conclusions.
Describes general attributes of objects. Describes general attributes of objects and sorts them by physical characteristics. Describes several attributes of objects and sorts them into physical characteristics and usage. Describes specific attributes of objects and sorts them into novel categories.
 
Identifies some services in the community. Identifies and describes several services in the community. Identifies and describes services in the community and makes general connections to daily life of people who use them. Identifies and describes services in the community and makes insightful connections to daily life of people who use them.
Describes personal and family practices. Describes and assesses personal and family practices. Describes and assesses personal and family practices with some supporting evidence. Describes and assesses personal and family practices in detail with strong supporting evidence.
 
Demonstrates superficial knowledge of technology used for household waste disposal. Demonstrates knowledge of technology used for household waste disposal. Demonstrates general knowledge of technology used for household waste disposal and assesses impact with some supporting evidence. Demonstrates detailed knowledge of technology used for household waste disposal and assesses impact with strong supporting evidence.

Lesson 1: Unwanted Cell Phones

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 2+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Mathematics

  • Demonstrate an understanding of data displayed in a graph.
  • Gather data to answer a question, using a simple survey with a limited number of responses.
  • Display data in a pictograph with appropriate titles and labels.

Social Studies

  • Formulate and pose questions to investigate the relationship between the natural environment and the ways in which people live.
  • Gather and organize information about the way people live and choices they make regarding technology.
  • Interpret and analyse information relevant to an investigation.

Language Arts

  • Use speaking and listening to interact with others for the purposes of gathering data.
  • Use writing or speaking to present a central idea with supporting details from discussion or investigation.

Assignments:

  • Create a pictograph of cell phone disposal practice.
  • Practice and perform a newscast about cell phone disposal.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by discussing cell phone use in the families of the students in the class, talking about who has cell phones in their family and how they are used (e.g., for work, to speak or text with friends, to play games).

Using an old (or new) cell phone as an example, have students make observations and talk about the material used to make cell phones (metal, plastic, glass, special chemicals, batteries). Ask students what they think should happen with a cell phone when someone doesn’t want it any more. How will these choices affect their community and the environment?

Next, distribute Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones. Have students review the different ways in which people disposed of their cell phones.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do most people dispose of an unwanted cell phone?
  • Is this a good thing to do? Why or why not?
  • What kind of information do people need to know when they have an old cell phone they don’t want or can’t use?
  • What do you think people should do with cell phones they don’t want or can’t use anymore?

Review the Handout: Cell Phone Disposal Survey for complete, clear, concise questions about cell phone use and disposal that they would like to ask their parents, guardians, or other adults they know. Have students practice asking and responding to the questions to prepare them to speak with others in their own community.

Have students use their class-generated questions to complete a survey of 10 parents, guardians, or other adults in the school community. After the students have conducted their survey, have students visually represent their findings by creating a pictograph of their results. Where possible, have them compare their findings with the data in the Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones. Use their findings and the survey data to talk about different ways cell phones can be reused or disposed of, providing opportunities for students to talk about the impact of each choice on their community and the environment.

Use the Guiding Questions below to help students interpret the results of their survey and consider what they feel is the best way to dispose of an old cell phone. Have them present their ideas by a role-playing the part of a journalist on a local news program. Have the students act as journalists to select and present interesting results of the survey they conducted in their own community. Students should also share their suggestions for cellular phone disposal in their broadcast.

Guiding Question:

  • How did most people you surveyed dispose of their unwanted cell phone?
  • Is this a good thing to do? Why or why not?
  • What kind of information do people need to know when they have an old cell phone they don’t want or can’t use?
  • What do you think people should do with cell phones they don’t want or can’t use anymore?
  • How did your survey compare to the one we looked at earlier? Were the people you interviewed more or less likely to dispose of their cell phones in a responsible way?

Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones

How many people have an old or unwanted cell phone in their home? How do those people get rid of them?

This table shows how many households in Canada and in each province had an unwanted cell phone in their home, and how they chose to dispose of them. Each icon represents one household out of ten, therefore if you see this: cell phone, it means one household from a group of ten households had an unwanted cell phone.

Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones

Description for Simplified Survey Data: Unwanted Cell Phones

Handout: Cell Phone Disposal Survey

Name:

Survey Questions/Survery Answers:

  1. Do you have a cell phone?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. How long have you had your cell phone?
    • 0 Months - 6 Months
    • 6 Months – 1 Year
    • More than 1 Year
    • More than 2 Years
  3. What did you do with your old cell phone?
    • I put it in the garbage.
    • I donated it or gave it away.
    • I still have it in my home.
    • I took it to a Drop-Off Center.
    • I repaired it or sold it.
    • This is my first cell phone.

Lesson 2: Battery Powered

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 2+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Mathematics:

  • Read primary data presented in a tally chart.
  • Distinguish between numbers that represent data values and numbers that represent the frequency of event.
  • Pose and answer questions about class-generated data.

Social Studies:

  • Describe and assess personal and family uses of energy.

Language Arts:

  • Produce an informational text for an intended audience, using appropriate conventions and techniques.
  • Use familiar words and phrases to communicate relevant details.

Assignments:

  • Create an educational poster about healthy habits and choices.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having students consider some of the electronic devices they use every day. Present students with the Handout: My Favorite Toys and ask them to complete it individually. Survey the class to determine how many students have 0, 1, 2, or 3 favourite toys that use batteries. Track the results on the board with a tally of how many students said the following:

  • All three of my favourite toys use batteries.
  • Two of my favourite toys use batteries.
  • One of my favourite toys uses batteries.
  • None of my favourite toys use batteries.

Guiding Questions:

  • How many students have favourite toys that do not use batteries?
  • How many students have one or more favourite toys that use batteries?
  • Do you think your parents would have had favourite toys that used batteries?
  • What about your grandparents?

Hint: If time allows, split students into small groups and have each group ask the same survey question of a different demographic in the school, such as students in different grades or classrooms.

Next, focusing on Question #2 on Handout: My Favorite Toys. Use a tally chart to total the number of batteries the class would need to use if everyone wanted to play with their three favourite toys in one day. Ask the students what they should do with all of those batteries when they stop working.

Use the Simplified Survey Data: Battery Disposal or the data from the Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey to talk about some of the ways people in their home-province dispose of their old batteries.

For each disposal option, have students talk about the positive or negative impacts of each choice (e.g., It’s free. It puts bad chemicals in the ground. It doesn’t get rid of them at all.) Talk about some of the safety precautions required when keeping old batteries at home, such as keeping them somewhere younger siblings can’t find them and swallow them, or not touching the dangerous chemicals that are released if an old battery bursts.

Have students complete a survey of students or adults in their school community, asking how they dispose of their old batteries and compare the results to the choices other people make in the home-province. Have students brainstorm a list of “Healthy Battery Habits and Choices,” such as choosing toys without batteries, keeping old batteries in a safe location, asking for adult help when a leaky battery is found, using rechargeable batteries, or disposing of them properly.

Have students create an educational poster (using paper or digital presentation tools) explaining and illustrating one of the habits or choices that can be posted in the school community or on the school’s website.

Simplified Survey Data: Battery Disposal

How many people have old or unwanted batteries in their home? How do those people get rid of them?

This table shows how many households in Canada and in each province had unwanted batteries in their home, and how they chose to dispose of them.

Each battery icon represents one household out of ten, therefore if you see this: battery, it means one household from a group of ten households had unwanted batteries.

Simplified Survey Data: Battery Disposal

Description for Simplified Survey Data: Battery Disposal

Handout: My Favorite Toys Worksheet

  1. Draw a picture of your three favourite toys.
    • Favourite Toy #1:
      • Number of Batteries Used:
    • Favourite Toy #2:
      • Number of Batteries Used:
    • Favourite Toy #3:
      • Number of Batteries Used:
  2. If you wanted to play with all three of your toys, how many batteries would you need?
  3. What happens to these batteries when they are taken out of your toys?
  4. Is this a safe thing to do?

Lesson 3: Wastewater

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 1+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Mathematics:

  • Display data in a bar graph with appropriate titles and labels.

Social Studies:

  • Gather and organize information on the interrelationship between people and the natural and built features of their community.
  • Identify ways that needs are met in communities.

Science and Technology:

  • Investigate ways in which air, water, and soil interact.

Assignments:

  • Create a bar graph of wastewater disposal methods.
  • Draw an illustrated diagram of waste water treatment.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having the students work in pairs or small groups to brainstorm a list of different actions they take every day that create wastewater, such as taking a shower or bath, brushing their teeth or flushing the toilet. Next have them draw a picture or write a journal entry about what they think happens to the water when it goes down the drain.

Talk about the region where students live. Is it an urban or rural region? What types of services are provided to people that live in urban and rural communities. If possible, refer to student experience with Theme 1: Water Use and Conservation, Lesson 1: Where Does your Water Come from.

Use the Simplified Survey Data: Municipal Sewer Systems or the data from the Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey to show students that most household wastewater is directed to either a sewer system or a septic system and ask students what they know about each kind of system. Have students create a bar graph using the table provided.

Provide text, video or online resources to investigate what happens to the water they use in their homes and at school. Discuss the difference between the two systems and some of the reasons why different regions use different systems.

A sewer system uses long stretches of pipes underground to cycle wastewater by separating it, treating it at large facilities that use both technological and natural filtration processes to clean it and return it back into the water supply.

A septic system is self-contained and uses time and natural processes and the interaction of water with elements in the ground to treat waste water in many rural areas where homes are spaced too widely apart or the terrain does not allow for sewer systems.

Have students ask their parents if their home is connected to a sewer system or a septic system. Compare the class’s findings the next day by setting up two jars at the front of the class, one labeled “Sewer” and one labeled “Septic.” Have students, one-by-one, place a token in the jar that corresponds to the wastewater system they use at home. After all students have placed their token, count the markers in each jar. Have the students create a bar graph to visually represent this information and compare this to provincial data.

Hint: Depending on the area, some classes may find that every student uses the same wastewater disposal system. If this is the case, discuss with the class why that might be.

Finally, have students choose a specific activity that uses water and use the Handout: Wastewater Disposal worksheet to draw a step-by-step, labelled diagram representing what happens with the water they use. Most students’ diagrams should follow a progression similar to:

  • Water at its source, like a lake, river, or ocean
  • Water entering the house through a tap or other fixture
  • Water being used by the student
  • Water going down the drain
  • Water being treated or cleaned
  • Water re-entering its source

Simplified Survey Data: Municipal Sewer Systems

How many households are connected to a sewer system? How many use a different method to dispose of their wastewater?

This table shows how many households in Canada and in each province use a municipal sewer system to dispose of waste water and how many households use a septic or other system.

Each data point has been adjusted to show the information as if the total population was a group of ten households.

Simplified Survey Data: Municipal Sewer Systems
Table summary
This table displays the results of Simplified Survey Data: Municipal Sewer Systems. The information is grouped by Area (appearing as row headers), Municipal Sewer System and Septic System (appearing as column headers).
Area Municipal Sewer System Septic System
Canada 8/10 Households 2/10 Households
Newfoundland and Labrador 8/10 Households 2/10 Households
Prince Edward Island 5/10 Households 5/10 Households
Nova Scotia 6/10 Households 4/10 Households
New Brunswick 6/10 Households 4/10 Households
Quebec 8/10 Households 2/10 Households
Ontario 8/10 Households 2/10 Households
Manitoba 9/10 Households 1/10 Households
Saskatchewan 9/10 Households 1/10 Households
Alberta 9/10 Households 1/10 Households
British Columbia 8/10 Households 2/10 Households

Handout: Wastewater Disposal Worksheet

What happens to the water you use at home?

Handout: Wastewater Disposal Worksheet

Description for Handout: Wastewater Disposal Worksheet

Lesson 4: Reusable Bags

Lesson

Estimated Completion Time: 1+ hours

Learning Objectives:

Mathematics:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of data displayed in a graph.
  • Organize objects into categories using two or more attributes.

Language Arts:

  • Use age-appropriate vocabulary to describe objects and materials.
  • Produce an informational text for an intended audience, using appropriate conventions and techniques.

Assignments:

  • Write and produce an informational pamphlet about reusable bags.

Activity:

Begin this lesson by having students work in pairs or small groups to brainstorm a list of different bags that they use day to day, such as plastic bags for groceries, paper bags for lunches, reusable shopping bags, backpacks or book bags, lunch or snack bags.

Provide each group with a varied collection of bags and challenge them to work together to sort them into two categories in two minutes. Each group may sort the bags by slightly different criteria, such as size, material, weight, purpose, colour, or age of the item. When two minutes have passed, have each group share the categories they chose for their bags and talk about the criteria they used to create those categories. Repeat this challenge two more times so that the students have sorted and described their bags in three different ways.

If students have not already done so, ask them to sort their bags into two new categories: disposable and reusable. Discuss the meaning of these two words with students and have them make observations about the bags they have on the Handout: Reusable Bags Worksheet.

Ask students why it might be a good idea to use reusable shopping bags, considering the durability of the material they are made of and the environmental impact of plastic bags.

Use the Simplified Survey Data: Reusable Bags or the data from the Statistics Canada’s 2011 Households and the Environment Survey to investigate the use of reusable bags in different provinces. Prompt students to use the graph to determine:

  • In which province are reusable bags used most often for grocery shopping?
  • In which province are reusable bags used least often for grocery shopping?
  • Does your home-province use reusable grocery bags more or less often than your neighbouring provinces?

Ask students why they think some people may choose not to use reusable bags for their grocery shopping? Some reasons include:

  • You have to buy them.
  • People forget them to bring them to the store.
  • Reusable bags are inconvenient to carry.
  • Plastic bags can be used for garbage or cleaning up after a dog.

Encourage students to think of solutions for each of these challenges, such as sewing bags out of old t-shirts so they don’t need to be purchased, or keeping them in the trunk of the car.

Have students create an informational pamphlet including images and text using paper or digital desk top publishing tools, sharing some of their knowledge about reusable bag use in their province, and providing helpful suggestions to increase the use of reusable bags in their community.

Handout: Reusable Bags Worksheet

  1. What does the word “disposable” mean?
  2. Draw a picture of something that is “disposable.”
  3. Write words to describe bags that are “reusable” and “disposable” in boxes below.
    • Reusable Bags
    • Disposable Bags
  4. Why might a person decide to use a reusable shopping bag for their groceries?
  5. What makes this a popular choice?

Simplified Survey Data: Reusable Bags

Have you ever used reusable bags to carry your groceries?

This graph shows how many households in Canada and in each province used reusable bags to carry their groceries.

Each icon represents one household out of ten, therefore if you see this: 1, it means one household from a group of ten households used reusable bags. Additionally, if you see this: 5, it means that five households from a group of ten households used reusable bags.

Handout: Wastewater Disposal Worksheet

Description for Simplified Survey Data: Reusable Bags

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