Activity Introduction

chalk-lightbulbsActivity details: In this simple experiment the class will have the chance to study the different ways that waste materials break down. The class will bury a variety of ‘waste’ materials and dig them up at regular intervals to see how they are breaking down. This activity can be extended over several weeks or months, with the class revisiting the waste materials each week and recording their findings.

Key lessons and understandings of activity: The class will undertake a simple science experiment aimed at determining how different types of waste take different amounts of time to break down. The class will find that some types of waste break down very quickly, while others are very, very slow.

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions

Foundation Science:

  • Objects are made of materials that have observable properties (ACSSU003)
  • Daily and seasonal changes in our environment, including the weather, affect everyday life (ACSSU004)
  • Respond to questions about familiar objects and events (ACSIS014)
  • Explore and make observations by using the senses (ACSIS011)
  • Engage in discussions about observations and use methods such as drawing to represent ideas (ACSIS233)
  • Share observations and ideas (ACSIS012)

Syllabus OutcomesSTe-4WS, STe-9ME, STe-7NE

Indoor or outdoor activity: Indoor/Outdoor

Duration of activity: 60 mins to setup then ongoing to collect results

Resources needed: Burial site for waste, digging tools, gloves for teacher and students to avoid contact with waste, different types of waste (glad-wrap, plastic bags, milk bottles and water bottles), printed sheet for recording waste.

Keywords: Waste, burial, plastic, food, resources, energy, waste.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum. 

Worksheets

Teacher Worksheet

River heroTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: In this simple experiment the class will have the chance to study the different ways that waste materials break down. The class will bury a variety of ‘waste’ materials and dig them up at regular intervals to see how they are breaking down.

Teacher content information:

Biodegradation times depend on the environmental conditions. Materials will break down faster when exposed to the elements (sunlight, heat, rain, etc) and decomposers (fungi, bacteria, insects and other invertebrates). Landfills are not ideal environments for decomposition, so trash in landfills takes much longer to break down.

Print a copy of each waste flashcard, sticking the two sides of the card together so that the breakdown rate corresponds to the correct waste type. The breakdown rates for the flashcards are as follows:

  • Banana - 3-4 weeks
  • Tin cans - 200-500 years
  • Plastic rings from six pack - 450 years
  • Sock - 1 year
  • Leather boot - 40-50 years
  • Paper bag - 1
...
 
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Student Worksheet

Part 1: What do you think will happen to the waste you buried?

Write down which ones you think will break down quickly, and which ones will break down slowly.

Slow

Fast 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: What happened to the waste you buried?

Write down which ones broke down quickly, and which ones broke down more slowly.

Slow

Fast 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
...
 
- or - to view worksheets

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