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Garbage grunge primary Subject – Science Secondary Subjects

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Culminating Activity


Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects - Language/Mathematics
Grade Level – 5 (adaptable to other grades)
Time Requirements – 310 (over several class periods)
Introductory Activities

  • Pre-task #1: 15 minutes – Introducing Task

  • Pre-task #1: 25 minutes – Properties of Matter

  • Pre-task #1: 25 minutes – Conducting an Inquiry

  • Pre-task #1: 20 minutes – Review Discussion on Physical and Chemical Change

Culminating Task:

  • Part #1: 25 minutes – Teacher Demonstration of Activity

  • Part #2: 50 minutes – Conduct the experiment

  • Part #3: 50 minutes – Draw conclusions and compete assigned work

  • Part #4: 100 minutes - Presentation (Choice of presentation method)

  • Part #4: ½ day – visit to the recycling plant

Description of the Task
Using the inquiry process, students will determine what kinds of garbage breakdown fastest, the most, and the easiest? They will identify the properties of the materials selected and conduct an experiment to determine rate of decomposition of various garbage grunge. Students will also discuss the physical and chemical changes that occur during decomposition process.

Students will read about land fills and compost piles. Write a two or three paragraph summary about what they read concerning land fills and composting piles. Students will complete the worksheet provided in the activity and submit selected worksheets for assessment.

The Culminating will conclude with a field trip the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre where students will witness first hand through a guided tour how waste is recycled and garbage is disposed of in our area of the province.
Scenario and Instructions for Students

A. Scenario

The Ottawa Waste Recovery Centre has requested the assistance of the public the create an awareness program concerning the type of garbage grunge that breakdown the fastest, breakdown the slowest, and breakdown the easiest.

B. Instructions
The Ottawa Waste Recovery Centre has asked your class to conduct an experiment to study the decomposition speed of various garbage materials. To complete this request you will have to conduct and record the results of an experiment that will allow you to determine which materials breakdown the fastest, slowest, and easiest. You will be asked to present your finding to the teacher.

Overall Curriculum Expectations Addressed in Culminating Activity
The student will:

  • evaluate the social and environmental impacts of processes used to make everyday products;

  • conduct investigations that explore the properties of matter and changes in matter;

  • demonstrate an understanding of the properties of matter, changes of state, and physical and chemical change.

Language: Reading

  • read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning;

Language: Writing

  • generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;

Language: Oral Communication

  • listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes;

  • use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes;


  • estimate, measure, and record perimeter, area, temperature change, and elapsed time, using a variety of strategies;

  • collect and organize discrete or continuous primary data and secondary data and display the data using charts and graphs, including broken-line graphs;

Big Idea:

  • Physical change refers to the fact that a substance can be changed from one form to another. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)

  • Chemical change implies the formation of a new substance. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)

  • The properties of materials determine their use and may have an effect on society and the environment. (Overall expectation 1)

Teacher Instructions
Prior Knowledge and Skills Required
Before attempting the task, students should have completed or had sufficient experience in the following:

  • Activities and content relating to the unit Matter and Materials: Grade 5 - Properties of and Changes in Matter.

  • Conducting an inquiry type investigation or experiment


  1. Rubric

The rubric designed for this culminating activity to assess student work is based on the achievement levels outlined in “The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Science and Technology, 2007.

The task-specific and investigation rubrics will be copied and introduced to the students prior to the administration of the activity. Looking over the rubric with the students by rephrasing some of the wording will assist students with their work. Review the elements of the rubric with students to ensure they understand the criteria and the descriptions for achievement at each level. Allow students to read through the rubric and give time for discussion of criteria. Exemplars would benefit students greatly at this point.

  1. Checklist

The checklist designed for this culminating activity to assess student work is required to address student progress at various points throughout the activity. The check list design and implementation is at the discretion of the teacher.

  1. Discussion

The various discussion opportunities throughout the activity will allow you to assess student progress and understanding of the expectations for the activity.

  1. Observation

The activity will allow you multiple opportunities to observe student work. Take this opportunity to monitor student progress and gage student understanding of the expectation for this activity.

Accommodations that are normally provided in the regular classroom for students with special needs should be provided in this culminating activity as well.

Classroom Set-up

A science learning center should be organized to accommodate the culminating activity. Water must also be available for this culminating activity.

Materials Required

  • Copies of student package

  • Markers for writing and recording

  • Chart paper

  • water

  • plastic container (like a yogurt cup)

  • 3 types of garbage (for example: vegetable peels, egg shells, mushrooms, nut shells, paper, aluminum foil, or plastic)

  • soil (dirt from your yard)          

Safety Considerations

Students should use plastic gloves to handle the materials and soil during this culminating activity.

Instructions: Introductory Activities

  1. Pre-task #1: Introducing the Task

    1. Explain to students that the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Center would like to acquire our assistance in a field study on various garbage materials.

    2. Introduce students to scenario.

    3. Share and discuss the assessment rubric with students

    4. Allow for time for questions and clarification.

  1. Pre-task #2: Properties of Matter

    1. Discuss with students the use of a pencil.

    2. Divide the class into several small groups. Have half the groups brainstorm a list of characteristic properties of the graphite used in pencils. Have the other group brainstorm a list of characteristic properties of the wood used in pencils. Record the lists on the chart paper and display them in the classroom.

    3. Present the group lists to the class and discuss the characteristic properties of the two materials that determine their appropriate use for pencils. (eg. both wood and graphite can be shaved to a point; graphite leaves a mark on the paper that can be removed with an eraser.)

    4. Discuss the environmental impact of the use of graphite and wood. (Ask students why graphite pencils are commonly called lead pencils and why pencils were once made with lead but now use graphite instead.)

  1. Pre-task #3: Conducting an Inquiry

    1. Tell your students that they have been asked to determine which of the three erasers work best to remove graphite pencil marks from paper.

    2. Have students complete the first two columns of the “Erasers Observation Chart” and then outline on the “Eraser Inquiry Recording Sheet” the steps they would follow to determine which of the erasers will best remove the pencil marks.

    3. Allow the students to conduct the experiment, record and interpret their observations in column 3 of the “Erasers Observation Chart”, draw conclusions, and make any necessary revisions to their “Eraser Inquiry Recording Sheet”.

    4. Lead the class through a reflection about the importance of fair testing and about its related aspects: constants, variables, making detailed observations, recording data systematically, drawing valid conclusions, communicating clearly, and using appropriate vocabulary.

  1. Pre-task #4: Discussion

    1. Through class discussion, have students recall the work they have done on chemical and physical properties and change.

    2. Record students’ replies and post them for reference.

Instructions: Culminating Activity
The completed student worksheets “Garbage Grunge Inquiry Recording Sheet”, “Garbage Grunge Observation Chart”, and “What I learned?” are to be submitted for evaluation.

  1. Teacher Demonstration of Activity

Before the class demonstration, conduct the experiment a week in advance to demonstrate to student an indication of the results.

For the demonstration, have the materials prepared to demonstrate the procedure in the preparation of the garbage grunge sample sets. Use the prepared samples to demonstrate differences in the sample sets.

  1. Distribute the student packages

  2. Display the various garbage grunge materials for student selection.

  3. Allow students time to make and share observations about the characteristic properties of the various garbage grunge.

  4. Have students’ independently select three materials and complete section 1 and 2 of the “Garbage Grunge Inquiry Recording Sheet”. Make a point to have students reflect on the prediction/hypothesis which reads: “Based on your research, which do you think will breakdown fastest? Which will breakdown the most? Which will breakdown the easiest? POSSIBLE HYPOTHESIS: The vegetable material will breakdown fastest.

  5. Have students’ make further observations of their selected materials and record the data in the first two columns of the “Garbage Grunge Observation Chart”.

  6. Have students read and ask any questions before the conduct the investigation on “Garbage Grunge”.

  1. Conduct the Investigation


1. Fill plastic container half full of dirt.
2. Add a little water, only enough to make the soil wet, not watery.
3. Add three kinds of garbage, one from each of the sets below:

    Set #1 - vegetable peelings, bread, food leftovers

         Set #2 - egg shells, nut shells, paper
          Set #3 - aluminum foil, plastic, a penny

4. Make a list of the garbage and check it every day for changes.

5. Be sure the soil stays damp. Add a teaspoon of water each day if necessary

  1. Draw conclusions and compete assigned work

    1. Complete column 3 and make any necessary additions or revisions to the “Garbage Grunge Observation Chart”.

    2. Complete the “Garbage Grunge Inquiry Recording Sheet” by asking students to analyze and interpret the results of the investigation and writing a response in the conclusion section of the sheet.

POSSIBLE CONCLUSION: Students should discuss the observations made that should include each type of material.

Post Culminating Activities

  1. Presentation (Choice of presentation method)

Students will have the opportunity to present their finding to the class. The presentation is limited to a 5 minute presentation.
Students will have the choice of presentation formats. The formats include:

    1. Poster Presentation

    2. Power Point Presentation

    3. Commercial Advertisement

    4. Written Scientific Report

  1. Field Trip: Visit to the Ottawa Valley Recycling Centre

Students will travel by bus to the Ottawa valley Waste Recovery Centre and receive a guided tour and presentation on the waste recovery program in the Upper Ottawa Valley. Students will be given an assignment to complete on their visit which will involve the completion of an extended response question on the benefits of waste recovery in our region of the province.

The idea for the culminating activity was based on a project produced by Judy Schneider and exempars found at the Ontario Ministry of Education website. The project can be referenced at:

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