Major funding for LOOP SCOOPS is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the information in these materials has been funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement 83447601 to WGBH, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.
In this lesson, students review the concept that materials in everyday products come from many different renewable and nonrenewable sources and can be classified as "biotic" or "abiotic." They watch an animated video about the materials in a juice box, then discuss the biotic and abiotic materials found in a common object. Students then create a biodegradation timeline on the floor, gaining a deeper understanding of how long different materials last. Finally, watching an animated video about garbage leads students to discuss how changes in their own behavior can reduce waste and pollution.
This lesson can stand alone or follow the companion lesson, Product Life Cycle. (See note in "Before the Lesson.")
This lesson can stand alone or follow the companion lesson, Product Life Cycle. If the lesson is to stand alone, students should first be taught the concepts of biotic and abiotic materials. Biotic materials were once alive; they include wood, paper, cotton, and wool. These materials can biodegrade (decompose). Insects and other decomposing organisms can turn these materials back into basic elements (carbon, nitrogen) that other living things can use as food and nutrients. Abiotic materials were never alive; they include metals, glass, minerals, and plastics. These materials cannot biodegrade. They can break into very small pieces, but they cannot be used as food by living organisms. Note: Crude oil is technically biotic (it is the decayed remains of plants and animals); however, processing affects the chemical structure and renders the plastic made from it resistant to decay.
Before class, use masking tape to create a timeline on the floor. Label one end "Now," and mark off 50-year intervals every three feet, for a total span of 500 years.
1. (Estimated time, steps 1–5: 10 minutes) Tell students that they are going to watch a video about a secret weapon. They are going to try to guess the weapon before the character in the video does.
2. Show the Juice Boxes Video. While viewing, pause the video just before the juice box is revealed. Ask students to guess what the weapon is. Then play the rest of the video. Were students surprised by the "secret weapon"?
3. Hold up the juice box, or pass it around the class. Ask students, What is a juice box made of? Are each of these materials biotic or abiotic? Write responses on the board. Note that students may not know much of the information. If this is the case, ask, Why don't we know this information?
4. Point out that a juice box is made of both biotic and abiotic materials. Ask students to explain how this affects how long the juice box will be in the landfill. (Some materials, like paper, decompose quickly, but it could take much longer for a juice box because it's coated in plastic.)
5. Transition to the biodegradation timeline by saying, Let's explore biodegradation further.
6. (Estimated time, steps 6–9: 15 minutes) Assemble students around the biodegradation timeline. Help students connect the ages on the timeline to things they know. Ask, Do you know anyone who's 50 years old? How about 100 years old? How old is the oldest building in town?
7. Pass out 10 items made of varied materials, both biotic and abiotic, such as a plastic bottle, glass bottle, aluminum can, cotton sock, orange peel, etc. Choose one as an example, and help students place it on the timeline to show how many years it will take to biodegrade or break into pieces in a landfill. Ask students to put the rest of the items on the timeline themselves. Reinforce the point that some materials, like glass and plastic, will eventually break into tiny pieces but won't biodegrade. (Optional: set up two timelines with two sets of items on opposite sides of the room.)
8. When students have finished placing the items on the timeline, reveal the answers and have students rearrange the items, as needed. (See Appendix: Decomposition of Litter for answers.)
9. Use the timeline as an opportunity to emphasize that abiotic materials, such as tin foil or glass, will never decompose.
10. (Estimated time, steps 10–12: 15 minutes) Now tell students that they are going to watch a video about a boy named Oliver and a big pile of garbage. Tell them to watch for biotic and abiotic items in Oliver's garbage pile.
11. Show the Garbage Video. After watching the video, discuss the following questions:
12. (Estimated time, step 13: 5 minutes) Conclusion: Ask students to share a story about recycling, reusing, or composting. The story could be about something they've done or plan to do, or about what someone else had done.
Ask students to label things around the classroom as biotic, abiotic, or mixed. Can they identify the best disposal option for different items, based on this knowledge?
You can also view a printable version of the Appendix (PDF).
Lesson developed in collaboration with Creative Change Educational Solutions.