Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Environmental education activities in elementary school

The fourth graders posing in the middle of putting together their half of the trash decomposition timeline.
The other half of the fourth grade with the other half of the timeline---the second half, or the pieces of trash that take longer to decompose than those in the first half

I love this photo. I don't know what he was telling his buddy.

Fifth graders sharing their trash decomposition timeline hypothesis with the other half of the class. They like to goof off for the camera. Instead of saying "cheese", they say "whisky!" I still haven't figured out why. I found it strange even when I was in Ecuador back in 2003, because they say the same there.
Me with the fifth graders
Half of the fifth grade class with the first half of their trash decomposition timeline.
Putting it together


Fourth and fifth grade boys playing soccer on recess. Their recess is from 3-3:30 pm each day. They start class at 1 pm and end at 5 pm.
Pre-escolar, or preschoolers. I don't teach in their class but they were cute so they deserve a place here.
Which one is mine? ;-)

The bathrooms, separate from the school

The flagpole

About three or four weeks ago I started teaching environmental topics in the 4th and 5th grade natural science classes. The first Tuesday afternoon I taught about the difference between organic and inorganic waste and different types of trash within those categories (plastic, glass, rubber, electronic waste, etc.). The following week we learned that in Paraguay, on a daily basis, the average person within the metropolitan area of Asuncion produces 1 kilo of trash. That means 6,500,000 kilos of trash a day, meaning that we could fill the Paraguayan national soccer team stadium to the brim in less than ten days. I broke it down a bit further, giving stats: 70% of waste generated is organic, 10% plastic, 8% "other" (batteries, aerosols, lightbulbs, CDs, etc.), 7% paper and cardboard, 3% glass and 2% metal. They learned about the three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And last week was the trash decomposition timeline. The materials were clothesline, clothes pinzas (I can't remember what they're called in English! Crazy!), 15 different types of trash and scraps of paper with different periods of time written on them, from 3 weeks to millions of years. The kids had to pin the pieces of paper on the clothesline, starting with the least amount of time to decompose and ending with the longest amount of time. Next step was to place the piece of trash accordingly next to the amount of time it takes to decompose. Thank goodness that the 4th grade teacher helped me to explain this partially in Guarani; it helped the kids understand better. Furthermore, at the end of the activity, when it is essential to summarize, I couldn't articulate well the importance of what the kids had just done. Why is it important to know how long it takes for a plastic bottle or plastic bag to decompose? How will this make us change our daily life, if it will at all? I was delighted when the teacher summed it all up, thereby showing them that the topic was also important to her. I was so happy that she was on board with me and that she liked the activity. That is when you have "a good Peace Corps day", when you feel like you're not working alone and flying solo, but rather other people care and want to work with you. That was a good day.


  1. The kids are adorable---looks like they really got into the activity! Good idea Karen!

  2. Hi Karen,

    I teach science in Olympia, WA. I'm going to use your lesson next week. Thanks for serving.

    Paul Rocks