Room 12 uncovers Material World Mysteries

Our 'Go Global' inquiry this term has a strong science component. As part of our learning we needed to observe, describe and compare physical properties of materials that would be used to create our solution to the global problem (NZC AO Properties and changes of matter - Observe, describe and compare physical and chemical properties of common materials and changes that occur when materials are mixed, heated or cooled.  AO Chemistry and Society - Find out about the uses of common materials and relate these to the observed properties - Material World)

The children discovered that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a big patch of garbage/rubbish in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean. It is caught in the water currents. It formed because currents near the centre of the Northern Pacific Ocean move around in a kind of circle, which catches and holds floating pieces of plastic.  The "Plastic Island" actually has two areas, described as an eastern patch and a western patch, which are separated because of ocean currents. Scientists estimate that the size of the "plastic island" is approximately equal to the land area of Texas, United States, but it could be as much as twice the size. Also, it is not really a floating island. It is more like a soup of plastic pieces floating in the ocean just below the surface.  Many birds, turtles, and other sea animals go to the Pacific Islands to lay their eggs and raise their young. Unfortunately, they eat smaller pieces of plastic, thinking that they are food swimming in the ocean. They also get caught in the garbage. Gordon Roberts is a vet and he visited Room 12 to talk about the effects of rubbish on wildlife and what we can do to help protect our environment.

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The Great Pacific Garbage patch is bad because all animals will eat something and choke or die. The sea animals could not be looking at where they are going. (Bianca)

The Great Pacific Garbage patch is bad because dolphins could get stuck in a tyre and drown. The turtles and other sea creatures could choke or die. (Scarlett)

The Great Pacific Garbage patch is bad because birds can eat bottle tops and they would get stuck in their throats. They would die because they would not be able to breathe. (Zayn)

The Great Pacific Garbage patch is bad because dolphins eat rubbish.  Plastic can get tied around their tails. They will drown because they cannot swim. (Eli)

Next, we learnt how to classify materials Mrs O’Sullivan sent us on a hunt around our classroom for materials made from cardboard, plastic, tin, metal, rubber, glass and fabric.  It was a challenge as some the things we found were not made out of materials we thought they were.

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Then we observed the characteristics of materials - Working in small groups we observed and shared with each other the answers to the following questions: how does it feel; is it heavy or light; does it bend; is it strong; and is it durable (does it break down in the outdoors).

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We decided we could test the durability of materials by hanging samples outside on the fence. We would take photos every couple of days to record any changes in the samples. The test would last for 2 weeks. The students predicted what they thought might happen:

The plastic bottle might get wet inside and crumple up. (Paige)

The paper will peel off and the cardboard tube might snap because it is wet. It will pull apart. (Jacob)

If it is windy the glass might bash against the metal fence and collapse. (Scarlett)

The tin might rust. (Room 12)

The polystyrene will get heavy when soaked with water. (Julian)

The tyre might get mossy. (Finlay)

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In small groups, we sorted a mystery box of objects into those that we natural and those that were man-made or created by someone.

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During our investigations into the characteristics of materials, we found that tyres were one kind of material that was strong, durable and took a long time to break down.  We researched different ways we could reuse tyres - one of which were garden planters. Lucky for us our fantastic Enviro students were experts at planting so they supported Room 12 children in the process. We are all very proud that we could work together to create something new using an object which is very common in New Zealand and something which takes along time to break down.

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Room 12 students have decided that our new challenge will be to design a playground made of tyres. The purpose is to give children living in the slums of India somewhere fun to plan and also as a way of recycling and reusing the huge global problem of rubbish. Watch this space to enjoy a sneak preview of our amazing design.

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Keywords: classify, observe, natural, manmade, plastic, wood, tin, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, durability, strength, flexibility, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, reduce, reuse, recycle

2019 Ohaaki Room12.Science Material world Characteristics 15