Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Biodegradeable Packaging And The Rot-A-Torium


The vitamin pills above came in a neat biodegradeable package. In fact, it was so environmentally friendly that I ate it along with the cool green vitamin pills that were inside it. Now, as for the packaging below...

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This package also had tastey round things in it. Possibly not quite as good for me, but I ate a bunch just in case they were. I did NOT eat this package. I did use it though...

In my classroom, I have a "Rot-A-Torium". It is an old leaky aquarium now filled with garden soil. Up front, where they can be clearly seen through the glass, I buried a yellow M&M package, a banana peel from my lunch, and an orange peel (also from my lunch). For variety, I half buried a large tough magnolia leaf.

On the outside of the glass, next to each item, I stuck a small label with the buried item name and the date it was buried. This was in November of 2003.

I did not mention it to the kids, but let them discover the Rot-A-Torium
as they checked out the nearby saltwater aquariums.
As kids are, some were "ho-hum" about it, but a number of them were intrigued and checked the "decay display" each day.

They saw the banana peel turn black, shrink in size, and "vanish" within a month.

They saw the orange peel turn grey-green with mold, shrink in size, and "vanish" within 3 months.

They saw the buried part of the magnolia leaf breakdown long before the dry brown unburied portion rotted, but eventually both parts "vanished".

If they were very observant, or if I had a chance to point it out to them, they noticed that the soil around the pocket left by each rotted sample was darker than the surrounding soil.

Since then I have replaced the banana peel, the orange peel, and the leaf a couple of times so new students could see the process. I have replaced the paper labels after they cracked and peeled off the glass.
I have not touched the M&M package.

The kids who were in the original Rot-A-Torium class, are now finishing their freshman year in high school. They have changed a lot. They are taller, fatter, skinnier, pimplier, ...cooler then they were as 7th graders in 2003.

The buried M&M wrapper looks as new as the day I buried it, November 23, 2003.


pablo said...

You must be the coolest science teacher ever!

Laura said...

Great idea for the classroom!!
There is a similar exhibit at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium with non-biodegradeable items that were found along the beachfront here. The aquarium lists the lifespan of each item, including those things that just don't decay...ever.
It is sad.... what we'll do to our enviroment in the name of convenience. :(

By the way, could you or your readers help me identify a bird on my website? I took a picture of a shrike yesterday... at least, I think it's a shrike. I've never seen them in the wild before. Thanks!

benning said...

Sadly, of the two packages you showed us, I usually only dip into the one on the bottom. *sigh*

Well, without my smokes I gotta be addicted to something!


Sorry. Morning M&M-less withdrawal symptoms. LOL

Juli said...

Excellent idea! I hope it leaves an impression with your students. It did me. But then again, I always strive to be a teacher's pet.

Want an apple Mr. Cracker?

roger said...

and the products that should last,,,,,,,,don't.

threecollie said...

Guess I just have to echo Pablo. What a great and effective display and so cool that you let your kids discover it for themselves.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

What a fanastic teaching tool. If you were my 7th grade teacher, this is the kind of thing that would make me remember you for the rest of my life.

Hick said...

I might have to steal your idea for a science experiment for Nerd Boy.

I'm still on a diet, so I only eat the green M&M's.


Leslie said...

Great idea!

We had a science "test" that stuck with me the rest of my life. We were at the age where we were losing teeth and the teacher stored up three teeth. She dropped one in a bottle of water, one in dark soda (coke or pepsi) and one in clear soda (sprite or 7-up).

The dark soda one turned brown and nasty and even split open and fell apart. Disgusting! The clear soda one also decayed, but not as quickly. The water one just sat there.

Experiments are so much better than simply reading stuff out of a book.

Wayne said...

FC - wherever you got this idea for the rot-a-torium, and I wouldn't be at all surprise if it was a personal inspiration, it's a peach. Litter, landfills, ocean dumps - it's all there.

So - just curious. I feel I could do better, but between winnowing out the cardboard, the cans, the glass, and the vegetable remains: The two of us do manage only one bag of trash of the m&m sort, per ten or more days. Is that good or bad? Could we do better?

Floridacracker said...

Oh that I were...

Going there next (your site), but I'll bet some serious birder beats me there.

Chocolate addiction is definitely better than tobacco addiction.

Extra credit for Grannysmith apples!

why is that? arrrghhh!

Getting them to see and not just look... that's the challenge.

That's our payback...certainly isn't the paycheck...least not here in FL.

Steal away! Anything I can help you with in your homeschool, just let me know.
...only green M&M's...aren't they the naughty ones?

Good teacher...any lesson a kid remembers decades :) later is an effective lesson.

Probably not an original idea, but it was for me. Two and half years ago, I had just finished lunch, the terrarium was sitting there with a couple of sad ferns in it, and it just hit me. The M&M's and the banana went in that day, the orange and magnolia later that week. Serendipity baby!

I can't hold my family up as a model of trash control...we try, but a lot of people do better.

kevin said...

So bury me in the M&M bag, not in a banana peel or orange peel.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I just knew you were a teacher because, you primarily teach on this blog...and that's what attracted me to it in the first place, and kept me coming back.

Good Rotatorium experiment that the kids won't forget.

Floridacracker said...

That would be the new extra large bag.

Yes, the very different field mentioned in my profile...