We’re nearly at the beginning of a new school year, but we have one more teacher blog post from last school year to share with you! This comes from 7th grade teacher Calypso Harmon.
This year the 7th-grade students attending Shoreline Middle School in California are using chemical engineering to making bioplastics. In this unit, groups of students develop their own formula after reading about the properties of polymers and plasticizers, and analyzing graphs of last year’s results. Students really enjoy this lab because it is hands-on, they get to make decisions, and they get to improve on their results. As the teacher, I love this unit because it blends engineering, chemistry, and environmental concerns. We discuss the problems plastic is causing including how little gets recycled, how China is no longer taking the plastic trash we do recycle, how long plastic persists in the environment, and the problems it causes for wildlife. The students’ goal in this unit is to make a replacement for plastic using plant-based materials. Once each team has completed their first prototype, they test their samples to see how strong and how stretchy they are. With that data in mind, they alter their formulas and try again. While the unit has changed considerably over the past three years I have been teaching it, it was originally inspired by the Polymers for the Planet Module created in partnership by Boeing and the Teaching Channel.