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Not Eggsactly Decomposing
(from Lesson 6 - Resource Recovery)

In this lesson students will observe the rate at which different trash materials decompose.

Use of the book:
Teacher notes on activity: p.148-151
Student instructions for activity: p.152
Data recording/Analysis questions: p.153-154

Materials Needed:
Permanent marker, polystyrene egg cartons, soil water, wooden Popsicle sticks or plastic spoons; and small pieces of: newspaper, orange peel, aluminum foil, shredded leaves, cotton ball, wool yarn, toothpick, cardboard, glass marble, iron nail, metal paper clip, plastic bottle cap, etc.

p.152-153 on overhead transparencies

Opening Strategy: p.149
What happens to garbage when it is tossed into a landfill? What is decomposition? Do different conditions affect decompostion (ie. temperature, light, moisture, organisms (biodegradation), etc.)?

Procedure: p.152
1. Label a 12-square grid on the inside lid of an egg carton.
2. Bury the items.
3. Do this for the same items 3 weeks in advance of the workshop, 2 weeks , 1 week.
4. Bring to workshop, dig up a few items to compare. If doing as an activity with a classroom, students can use the data recording sheet to measure and describe each item and make predictions about what will happen.
5. Discuss.

  • Extensions, Cross-Curricular Integration : p.150.
    • Language arts – keep journals to describe changes in more detail.
    • Life Science – food chains/webs and the importance of decomposers.
    • Math – graph changes in size and mass over time.
    • Plastic bags that are marketed as biodegradable are really made of small pieces of plastic held together with biodegradable starch. The starch decomposes, but the tiny pieces of plastic remain intact in the environment.
  • The Garbage Gazette: p.214
    • “ Nature’s Garbage Disposal” - using worms – vermicomposting.
Garbage bin

Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, Room 244
PO Box 210207, Tucson, AZ, USA 85721-0207

Funded by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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