“What’s happening under the dirt?”
“Why do we have to add water to the dirt?”
Or, better yet…
“WHEN can we dig up the trash?”
These are all good questions that will encourage your students to seek answers.
Today’s connection activity will answer one of those questions, but will also motivate your students to pose more questions to be answered as the Decomp Project continues.The following activity is a demonstration on the breakdown of material that occurs during decomposition. While this is not a complete example of the decomposition process, the activity will serve to illustrate one very important fact.--The plastic in our world affects many aspects of our lives.
IGNITE THEIR CURIOSITY WITH WATER
Grade Range: K – 3
Time to complete: 20-30 minutesVA STANDARDS of LEARNING: SCIENCE K.1, 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 3.10
The purpose of this activity is to provide a visual example of how paper breaks down when it is exposed to water.ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Students will place several types of paper into a water bath (one set placed directly into the water and the other set protected in a sealed plastic bag) and shake the contents of the water bath. They will compare the results of the paper that is directly placed in the water with the paper that is contained in plastic. They will then make predications about some of the items that are buried in the decomp tub.
MATERIALS:3 Pint-sized plastic containers with lids
1 cup measuring cup
3 cups water
2 4” x 4” squares of toilet paper
2 4” by 4” squares of bargain brand notebook paper2 4” x 4” squares of bargain brand paper towels
3 zippered sandwich bags
2 cups dry soil
INSTRUCTIONS:1. Prior to the activity, prepare the materials by placing one of each type of paper into a sandwich bag and sealing it.
2. Conduct a discussion about paper and what paper is made from (wood pulp or recycled paper).
3. Pour 1 cup of water into a plastic container.
4. Place a plain piece toilet paper into the water and put the lid onto the container.
5. Shake the container vigorously for 30-45 seconds. Note any changes in the paper.
7. Repeat steps 3-5, substituting the toilet paper in the sealed plastic bag into the water. Hint: The paper in the sealed plastic bag should remain dry and unchanged.
8. Continue steps 3-5, substituting the remaining paper that is pictured above.
Ask: Why did the paper in the plastic bags stay in one piece? Why did some of the plain paper (not sealed in plastic) take longer to break into smaller pieces?
9. Take the pulp that was strained in step 6, add it to the dirt, and mix well. Take the plastic bags with the paper sealed inside and ‘stir’ them into the dirt. Discuss why stirring the sealed bags doesn’t work as well.
Explain that when water is added to the decomp tub, some of the items might change. It will take longer than it did today, but there will be changes by the end of the year.
Ask: What items in our decomp tub do you think will change by the end of the school year? What items in the decomp tub do you think will not change? Why?
EXTEND THE LEARNING; EXTEND THE DISCOVERY; EXTEND THE FUN:
Now that your students are beginning to comprehend the process of decomposition, plant more seeds of curiosity.
Ask the students what happens when the plastic trash bags that every home, every school, every store, every restaurant, every—well, you get the idea, EVERYONE uses gets taken away by the trash trucks. More activities based on this very important question will be added to the Decomp Project later in the year.
For now, however, the pulp that was created (and possibly more paper pulp from your classroom recycle box) can be used to create their OWN paper. Your students will have fun while they are adding to their awareness of their impact on the environment.
The video below is a fantastic demonstration of the paper making process.