As mentioned before, each classroom was supplied with a bag to capture only plastic waste for one day and a place was designated for plastic disposal in the cafeteria. Teacher assistants would gather plastic at the tables for the younger children. Older art club students explained to fellow students why were collecting plastic and encouraged the students to help.
Before students arrived I collected and placed all the bags in a pile in the front of our art studio. I prepared washing stations for the plastic in 6 large 20 gallon storage bins with soapy water rinsing water and a drying station.
The art club was surprised upon their arrival to the art studio which now had a heaping mound of green plastic bags filled with plastic. We settled into our room. Many responded with,"Wow Miss what is that ? Plastic? It is so much more than I thought."
I asked them, "How much plastic do you think is here?" Many referred back to their previous guesses.
Next we watched artist Aurora Robson's "Trash+Love: Aurora Robson at TEDxPeachtree". Robson (2013) discusses her experiences with reoccurring nightmares about trash consuming her and she used these fears as inspiration in her artwork. She has used discarded plastic to create beautiful artwork and using this as a means to educate others about plastic pollution. The students were very impressed with her artwork. They immediately wanted to create some thing large. We talked about her nightmares of garbage and plastic and her cleaning process.
It was time to think about our own cleaning process because it was obvious that some of the students had not been very tidy before discarding the plastic. The students then assigned each other jobs such as: weighing, sorting, washing, rinsing and drying.
The students borrowed a spring scale from the science lab and began weighing the bags and recording the results. After the bags were weighed the plastic was sorted into like items and then sent to washing stations.
The reactions to this process were standard among the students:
“ Miss, I will never forget this day for all my life”
“ We have thousands of years for this trash.”
“ This is so disturbing!” “And Gross”
At the end of the meeting we cleaned up the stations, organized the plastic and discussed our findings.
The waste weighed was 48 pounds. We estimate that we actually collected over 50 pounds as we received more plastic after the measurement. I asked students to go home and think about what we could do with the plastic?