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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 47 – Math Lessons as Well as Life Lessons via Waste Reduction Week

October 13, 2014

waste reduction week

October 20-26th is Waste Reduction Week in Canada.

For more than a generation we have heard about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s not by mistake that we always tend to repeat the three in that order.

If discussing waste – it seems obvious that the first – Reduce – makes the most sense. If the waste is not there in the first place then we need not concern ourselves with having to reuse or recycle the material at all. Reusing things is the penultimate choice. By using materials that would otherwise head to the dump or the recycling factories you are not only dealing with that specific item but also with anything you would have purchased instead of reusing an item. Recycling is the last and in my mind the baby brother of the three “R” in this sustainability mantra. When recycling we are saving things from landfill, and we are certainly giving them a second life – however it should not be surprising that the trucks that pick up those blue bins at the side of the road, nor the factories themselves create quite the issues as well.

For the last number of years though the 3 “R’s” have become 4. More and more students are given a new eldest sibling in this mix and that would be Rethinking.

A powerful word and a powerful mandate. Rethinking.

I have often told my students that the most valuable thing they can do for the environment is not plant a tree, not pick up after others but instead it is to learn more about it. Knowledge is power.

At first glance videos such as The Story of Stuff provide an insane amount of material and knowledge for our students on how we as society create and manage waste. However, at the same time – one would hope that such a video would create more questions than answers.

The most powerful lessons we can offer a student are the ones they can see – no … FEEL a personal connection to. As such, if studying waste reduction this week it seems a perfect opportunity to relate your studies to your math lessons as well.

A few weeks back I was helping my own Grade 8 daughter with her math homework. We were solving problems around Prime Factorization. A huge part of environmental and experiential education for myself is to answer that age old question “When am I ever going to use this?”  I see math in all my lessons, from measuring how tall a tree is using the Pythagorean theorem or the geometry of nature.  I encourage all to look at what is being taught in math this week and beyond and to find those connections to waste management in the classroom and beyond. Venn diagrams, division, multiplication, graphing, measurement, creating formulas – oh the math connections to waste reduction are well perhaps logarithmic?

Here are some great Waste Reduction Week Resources:

Resources for Rethinking

Waste Reduction Week

High School Curriculum: Buy, Use, Toss

Waste Management Math Lessons 

Lesson Planet lessons on Waste Management

Ontario EcoSchools

Let me know of your Waste Reduction math lesson successes this week!


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