Data collection and managementTo make sense of their waste management audit findings and to represent them in a meaningful way, Vessna's students needed to learn specific skills related to data collection and management. Without these essential skills, their Experiential Learning would have been nothing more than an exercise in classroom garbage collection!
The students needed to make decisions about how to sort and separate the different types of waste. They negotiated and agreed upon the following categories: recyclable paper, recyclable containers, reusable materials, compost, and real garbage (waste that cannot be recycled, reused or composted). Within the category of real garbage, they added a sub-category, snack packaging
(including the Bear Paws wrappings!). The students were surprised to find several unopened containers of food and created another category: unopened
food packages. They created a Waste Audit Record sheet that listed all of these categories on which to record their findings.
The Grade 4s counted the number of individual items in each of these categories, except for the compostable waste, which they chose to weigh instead. Counting it was considered too difficult and "gross". Working in small groups, they sorted and separated each class' waste and recorded their
findings on their Waste Audit Record sheets.
Vessna saw an opportunity for the children to learn about graphing in a meaningful context, using their own data from an audit they had designed and implemented, and representing it as they saw fit. Some students created graphs that represented each of the larger categories, while others focused on the breakdown of the "real garbage" category. A few students created two different graphs because they thought it was important to illustrate both sets of findings.
However, the Grade 4s encountered a problem: how to represent the "compost" category. The other categories were measured by the number of units, but compost was measured by weight. The students did not want to exclude this category from their graphs because it represented a large proportion of school garbage that went to the landfill. In fact, they had vivid recollections of being overwhelmed by the enormity of compostable waste. The Grade 4s found a solution. They created one large graph depicting the compostable waste found in each classroom (See Photo 68). The Y-axis indicated weight in pounds, while each of the classes were represented along the X-axis.
The students analyzed their own and each other's graphs to determine whether the classes were managing their waste effectively. They found that a substantial amount of recyclable materials were ending up in the school's garbage bins instead of being deposited in recycle bins. All those recyclables were needlessly being sent to a landfill. Similarly, compostable waste also accounted for a significant proportion of school waste.
Turning waste into artThe waste audit opened the students' eyes to the amount of garbage that was being sent to the landfill, including waste that could be recycled, and even more importantly, reused or repurposed in some way. In partnership with a student from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), Vessna and the Grade 4s took on a project to beautify the school courtyard, creating sculptures from the school's recyclable waste.