We learnt about how the world is split into hemispheres, continents, countries, oceans and seas. It was exciting to discover that many of our Room 3 students’ whanau members came from different countries around the world. We began looking at the current issues facing our planet and one issue popped up in every country that we looked at. Plastic waste. Surely it was not an issue here in New Zealand though? Unfortunately, we discovered that it was. We searched through a container of sand from our beautiful Lake Taupo and were shocked to discover a range of plastic, including cigarette butts, cotton buds, bottle caps, plastic cutlery and more. We also found out that soft plastics cannot be recycled in New Zealand and that they are piling up around the country.
Jordyn Lea's wonder
The more we researched, the more we realised what a huge issue plastic is for us right now. Images of the giant garbage patches in our oceans and of animals eating plastic shocked us. Statistics such as, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 9 times the size of New Zealand” and “A garbage truck size load of plastic enters our ocean every second,” shocked us more. We couldn’t believe how much single-use plastic we use. We use a product designed to last hundreds of years to make things that we use for a few minutes! Plastic is used for so many things, but there is no plan in place for disposing of it all.
Mr Thompson came in and spoke to our class about changes that Total Sport are making to avoid single use plastic. They run events such as The Taupo Marathon, Taupo Ultramarathon, Kinloch Offroad Challenge, and many other sports events. He showed us collapsible cups that competitors carry to avoid thousands of plastic cups being used at aid stations. They have begun using reusable cable ties for fencing, and drink tablets to fill up drink barrels, rather than opening hundreds of small bottles. Mr Thompson came up with a design for reusable trail markers, rather than using the wide disposable plastic tape, which had previously been used. We looked at the design process involved with creating this simple invention that saves a lot of plastic from entering the environment. Mrs Thompson set us all a technology challenge, to invent something to replace a single use plastic item. Our focus for the rest of the term is to follow the design process and to come up with our own small ways to make a difference to the big problem of plastic in our environment.
Bevan Thompson visits
Reusable cable ties and collapsible cups
Later that afternoon Imogen needed to blow her nose and noticed that the tissue her mum gave her was from a single use plastic pack. She had an idea! She quickly came up with a prototype for a cardboard pouch made from a recycled tea box. She even made a logo for on it! Emily was inspired by this and arrived at school with a fabric prototype that she had sewn together herself. Ashtin has offered to show us all how to make beeswax wrap to use instead of gladwrap. Brooke discovered that the little plastic stickers from fruit were all over the ground at school and all through our gardens. She came up with a theory that the fruit decomposes in the compost, but the stickers do not. She has already begun coming up with prototypes of biodegradable labels for fruit. Poppy has turned an old pillowcase into her first prototype for a reusable bag. Victoria is working on recipes for cleaning products. Kora and Quianah discovered how to fuse soft plastic themselves, and are looking at ways to use this recycled product to create artwork. There are ideas being brought into school everyday. We can’t wait to see what creations we have by the end of the term!
Brooke's biodegradable sticker prototype
As part of our research into waste, we are learning about plastic and other materials, and how they change over time. We have cleaned up an overgrown garden at school and buried a selection of different items to see what biodegrades. We have categorised the items and made predictions. We decided to try burying a cornstarch compostable bag and a biodegradable plastic bag to see what happens to them too. We wonder if they will do what they advertise that they do.
Ready to sort out the garden
Garden clean up complete
Rubbish ready to bury
What will biodegrade?
Now we have to wait and see if our predictions were right! In the meantime, we will keep working on our technology challenge to help solve the problem of plastic in our environment. So watch this space! We will keep you updated...