Ever think about the life cycle of a fast-food hamburger?
Middle school students who take the “Food for Thought” classroom workshop offered by the King County Solid Waste Division do! In the process, they come to understand all the resources that go into making food products and why wasting food is bad for the environment. Through activities and discussion, they explore the problem of food waste in the U.S. and realize that their personal choices can make a difference in reducing it.
The workshop opens with a trash-sort activity. Students form teams to sort items from a trash bag into piles labeled compost, recycling, and trash. Once all items have been sorted, the workshop presenter reviews any items that were improperly placed and invites students to rethink their use of some items and consider alternatives that result in less waste such as durable and reusable products. During the discussion, the presenter references the resource pyramid, which displays the hierarchy of actions favored in terms of using resources. The topmost action is to rethink the best way to make the least amount of waste. The bottommost action is to send to the landfill the items for which we no longer have use.
Next comes the part about the life cycle of a hamburger: raw materials on the farm, manufacturing and processing, transportation, use by the consumer, and disposal. For each stage, student volunteers are given objects that represent the various resources that went into making the burger. At the end of the life cycle, the burger is thrown away, and the volunteers dump all the materials into a “trash can” to illustrate all the resources that are wasted when we waste food. Students then brainstorm ways to have a hamburger while using fewer resources.
After the demonstration, students participate in a personal “foodprint” quiz to examine their own use of resources, and play a fact-or-fiction card game about food composting. The workshop concludes with a review of what students learned and a brainstorming session on ways to rethink our daily choices to lower our impact on the environment.
If your middle school classroom is interested in learning how to reduce its “foodprint,” sign up for this workshop!