The Persistent Problem of Plastic


Students in 5th grade wonder if you know, how many plastic water bottles you use in a year?  Do you know where the water comes from in those bottles? Well, those and other questions became the jumping off point for a project that these students undertook this past semester.  How many plastic water bottles do teachers, staff, Elementary, Middle, and Senior High students use each day at Pinewood? How many in a school year? How many bottles thrown away still have water in them. For 15 school days, these students collected bottles.   What they found was shocking.

In 15 school days these 5th graders had collected over 766 liter and half-liter bottles.  They calculated that in an academic year over 8,885 bottles would be used. This meant that almost 5,000 euros would be spent on plastic water bottles alone. Of the total number almost 1,000 bottles thrown away would contain water.

At this point, the students felt they needed to do something.  They had to take action. Their goal was to change the habits of students and teachers to switch from plastic water bottles to more environmentally friendly containers.

Utilizing a teamwork approach, along with individual work, Mrs. Varsakopoulos, their teacher, guided the students through two months of further activities integrating skills and concepts from their literature, history, math, and science curriculum. Students in this multi-ethnic, multi-level class began to put the pieces together.  The environment was in danger and they could do something to help .

The 5th graders presented the results of their action research in a half-day exhibit at Pinewood.  The 766 bottles were on display along with various other stations with information posters, student-made movies, petitions, water sampling, letters to the Mayor and SKAI News, and even Christmas decorations. The verdict isn’t out yet on how effective their efforts were, but all indications seem to show that the fight to change will continue.

Mrs. Varsakopoulos
Grade 5 Teacher