Defining the Issue

The Problem of Plastic

To narrow down the focus of our activity kit, we have decided we would have a variety of kits that have different themes. Our primary kit will be plastic focused. It can dive into how to re-use plastic products, reduce the use of plastic products, and how to help clean up / recycle the plastic that will no longer be used. We would also focus a lot on big problem of plastic is, but also really show kids that they can make a big big difference by adding little changes to their lives. The other kits may have the focuses of composting, gardening, and water waste.

We have begun doing more research regarding the specific problems that the over-use of plastic presents the environment. Below are links that we will reference throughout the project to make sure that we are including all of the information that will be useful and necessary to really make the kit effectively communicate the issue.

Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health

This article is hugely informative on the effect plastic has on the human body, wildlife, habitats, water sources, ground water, and energy waste.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/plastic-not-so-fantastic/

Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment

This article focuses on the gigantic waste of plastic water bottles. It talks about the water bottle industry and how silly it is to buy bottled water, because in most cases, it isn’t any cleaner than tap water. In fact, a lot of bottled water is simply tap water with a label on it, and then chemicals are leached from the plastic, making it much more harmful for your body. It also talks about, that while some people do recycle, 80% of the water bottles that we buy still end up in landfills.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norm-schriever/post_5218_b_3613577.html

Adverse Health Effects of Plastic

This article, once again, talks about how harmful plastic can be to the human body. It also mentions different alternatives people can use instead of plastic.

http://ecologycenter.org/factsheets/adverse-health-effects-of-plastics/

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of litter that spans waters from theWest Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is compromised of the Eastern Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Western Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. This will be an interesting factual piece to include in the kit because of how insane it is that it exists. Hopefully, this fact will really speak to kids and make them want to help make things like this not happen anymore.

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/?ar_a=1

The Effect of Recycling Plastic Water Bottles On the Environment

This article speaks of the positive impact that recycling plastic water bottles has. It mentions waste reduction, resource conservation, energy conservation, green house gas emission reduction, and pollution decreases. When we narrow down what our kit will specifically include, we can reference these issues and decide which ones may be most impactful to present to children.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/181103-the-effect-of-recycling-plastic-water-bottles-on-the-environment/

Rise Above Plastics

This article talks about how harmful and permanent plastic is, especially on the ocean. It talks about how we are surrounded by the material and how, with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form. It also offers “Ten Way to Rise Above Plastic.” These 10 points will be great to incorporate in our kit in some form.

http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/rise-above-plastics

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Character exploration

In order for us to begin creating the face of our brand, we wanted to ask some kids who their favorite cartoon characters were and why. Here are the drawings we collected from a 3rd grade class.

website_characters-02

Some of their favorite characters/cartoons included:

  • Spongebob
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Ultimate Spiderman
  • Adventure Time
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Wild Krats
  • Frozen
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • PacMan and the ghostly adventures
  • Randy Cunningham 9th grade ninja
  • Arthur

We were able to ask the teacher some questions as well about what they are learning in regards to the environment.

Is sustainability currently a focus at all in your classroom?

“We just had a Duke Energy assembly about natural resources: saving and sustainability.

Are there any inititives in place to promote sustainability? (Such as recycling, turning off lights when leaving the room, no littering rules, etc.)

“We recycle daily. We always turn off the lights when we leave the classroom and talk about ways to be a good citizen. (ie: not littering, recycling, etc.)

Are there any materials that you feel would be beneficial for you to have that would help better educate students on the topic of sustainability?

“Posters, games, assemblies.”

Do you feel like there are particular topics regarding sustainability and general care for the environment that are not being met by the current curriculum?

“I feel like we only touch on it in social studies and science.”

What do your students currently learn in science class?

“Matter, natural resources, animals, seed/plant life cycles, food chain.”

When asked to raise their hands if they learned about the environment and sustainability at home, only one student out of the 22 student classroom raised their hand. I think this backs up our problem statement completely, showing their is a huge lack of communication at home when it comes to taking care of your surroundings. The 3rd grade class seemed to know a bit more about the environment, pollution, littering etc. but still didn’t have the exact knowledge on why they shouldn’t do it and what the effects could be.

Breaking It Down

At the most basic level, our issue focused on the lack of empathy people seemed to have towards the environment. In general, it seemed that too many people were either unaware or indifferent to the large-scale, very serious problems that we face, and create, in this day and age. If this indifference continues, we will face serious repercussions. We began questioning how we can help to resolve this problem, but in order to really figure that out, we had a lot of brainstorming to do. The brainstorming began by defining the problems, defining what the desired state would be, and defining what the barriers are that are keeping us from this desired state. In addition to that, we looked at who is burdened by the issue and who will benefit if the issue is fixed.

Defining-01Problems:

  • General lack of environmental empathy
  • A disconnect between what science is telling us about the world and how people perceive this information due to the subject’s perplexity.
  • Kid’s have skewed motivation for good environemental behaviour. I.E. They don’t litter simply because “mom said it isn’t good” instead of understanding the negative effects that the action has on the environment. Another example: turning off lights when they aren’t in use.
  • There is not enough/any emphasis on problems that happen because of human neglect
  • “Science” courses are often simply viewed as a requirement, such as math or english, so people who don’t like / excel in the school taught classes are excited to abandon the subject all together once they are out of school.
  • People lack interest and care in the environment and the problems that we face today

Desired State

  • More interest and care for the environment
  • A proactive mindset
  • Realization that nature and the environment can be cool, fun, creative, and awesome things. People shouldn’t be fearful of attacking the subject matter
  • Increased education, awareness, and understanding of issues that we face
  • Making people realize that it is so much more than a school subject, but the environment really is our home. We should WANT to take care of it.

Barriers

  • Apathy or indifference in adults, parents, and the community that keep children from wanting to care and learn about the subject matter
  • A lack of interactive material that really helps children and people to understand and enjoy learning about the topics (think playscapes)
  • Children have skewed reasoning or an insufficient understanding of why it is important to take the actions that we take to care for the environment.

Mind Mapping

Our group began this process knowing that we wanted our focus to deal with children. We were also very interested in the idea of solving a problem dealing with education. On one hand, we were considering education regarding environmental awareness, and on the other, we were looking at issues that existed in inner city schools. Below are our original mind maps.

Mindmaps1-01After more thinking about what we could do with each topic, it seemed that we were all leaning towards the environmental education approach. Our mind map needed refining and our focus had to be narrowed, but we felt that this direction had more momentum behind it. We decided to focus our topic on promoting sustainability awareness in children by peaking their interest and involvement in the environment early on through interactive activities. We hope that taking an approach like this will make kids realize that knowledge about the environment should go beyond school and be taken into their every days lives. We recreated our mind map to exhibit this new focus.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 8.44.15 AM