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Middle School Projects Meld Science and Service

Sixth grade students got to experience how humans’ choices about trash affect our environments through a recent outing and campus project. 

First, they observed sustainability issues on a broader public level by participating in a park clean-up at Coyote Point Recreation Area in San Mateo, in collaboration with the nonprofit Sea Hugger. Middle school science teacher Jacqueline Stark shares that students got a lot out of picking up the diverse array of trash found scattered around Coyote Point’s picnic tables, including plastic confetti, metal bottle caps, and cigarette butts.

She says, “Students came up with stories about where the trash came from, but also made realizations and promises such as, ‘I’m never going to have confetti at a picnic—it goes everywhere!’”

After collecting the trash, the group separated the different materials and noticed an abundance of plastic waste. They discussed human trash’s impact on animals, ecosystems, and the natural beauty of the space. The class wrapped up with an activity in which students learned how to sort trash and discuss the five Rs (recycle, reduce, reuse, refuse, and rot!)

Students then took their learning hyper-local, performing a trash audit on Menlo’s own campus. After lunch, they sorted and weighed their own trash by advocacy group and made observations about the trash in Menlio’s campus bins. In the spirit of creative problem-solving, the class will be designing possible systems to make the school more sustainable in an activity this spring.

Get a glimpse of the day in these photos:

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  • Menlo sixth graders participated in a park clean-up at Coyote Point in San Mateo for some hands-on learning about sustainability.