A Year Outside

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Summary:
Back in August, I began an experiment. And students did not find out about it until 9-10 months later. Behind my classroom, I buried five items: a piece of paper, a plastic grocery bag, a plastic water bottle, a Styrofoam lunch tray, and an apple core. Today, we went outside and dug them up. The results can be seen below:

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As you might expect, the piece of paper and the apple core were entirely decomposed. Well, mostly. The apple did leave its sticker behind! The plastic bag, the water bottle, and the Styrofoam tray were almost completely preserved (with the exception of the paper label on the water bottle). It’s good food for thought. The next time my students throw a water bottle in the trash, or see a plastic bag on the side of the highway, I hope they remember this lesson. Because those objects will be polluting our planet for a very, very long time.

*Update: The 2018 version of this experiment did not go as planned. We never found the Styrofoam tray, and I’m not sure why! Were we digging in the wrong spot? Did someone remove the item as a prank? Did Styrofoam manufacturers recently change their formula? Did some of the mealworms (or bacteria) in the ground evolve to be able to digest polystyrene? I’m so intrigued, and so very confused. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the bottom of this one.

Resources:
May 19 -A Year Outside (pg707).docx

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