Tuesday was the first day of the ‘Ōpala unit. ‘Ōpala is the Hawaiian word for garbage and the unit is adapted from the NYU SAIL Garbage Unit, which is an Open Educational Resource. The Garbage Unit was awarded the NGSS Design Badge.
Locally, we use the word rubbish rather than the word garbage. The unit is place-based as we are studying our local ‘ōpala system. The unit is problem-based as students will be figuring out what happens to their rubbish and why it happens. In this phase of the unit, students have opportunities to experience the anchoring phenomenon. We engage students with the phenomenon of rubbish and we elicit their initial ideas. Students will later create a driving question board. During the unit the class will answer their questions through investigations.
Tuesday was the first day of our unit. Lesson 1-1 takes 4 days. The first activity was for students to sort items from the lunch rubbish into categories. I asked each group of students to observe a small pile of rubbish. I asked them how and why scientists make observations. They knew that scientists looked at things carefully to figure out how and why things happen. The students were tasked with sorting their rubbish pile into smaller categories.
Two kinds of sorting emerged. A few groups of students sorted their rubbish into two categories—food and non food. The rest of the groups sorted their rubbish into three categories—paper, plastic, and cardboard.
We talked about how scientists use patterns of properties to identify materials. The students wrote down the sorting categories and the properties of things in those categories in their science notebooks.
Tomorrow we will predict what happens to those categories of things over time in the rubbish and take a virtual tour of the ‘Ōpala system.