There's nothing quite like the yuk factor to get a class interested, says Sarah Longshaw.How people affect the planet was a lesson delivered to a lower-ability set at the end of a module in which we had looked at global warming, calculated our carbon footprint and discussed alternative sources of energy. There's nothing quite like the yuk factor to get a class interested - so as the Year 10s entered the room their attention was drawn to the image on the interactive whiteboard of a landfill site, with seagulls circling overhead.
The first thing I asked them to do was to list all the things that can be recycled. I gathered the pupils round the front bench. Then, picking up my pre-prepared bin bag, I emptied my rubbish on to the desk. The pupils drew away from the bench, with squeals of horror. Fortunately, I had very carefully selected and pre-washed some of the items. A few volunteers sorted our rubbish into what we could or should have recycled - making the point that if we don't cut down on what we throw away we are soon going to run out of landfill sites.
I then gave each group a newspaper article that looked at the contents of various people's bins and asked them to analyse what could be recycled - this was checked against an expert view.
I pointed out that not only would recycling save resources, but that it also used less energy to re-use than to produce from scratch. I referred to the use of waste to generate energy (bio-fuel). Then we had a debate, using an activity from www.upd8.org.uk - activity 96 from key stage 3 topics Poo Power or Nuclear Power?
The debate looks at the differences between two alternatives for generating electricity - building a large nuclear power plant or several smaller waste-powered generators. For each alternative the facts on how electricity is generated are presented.
Will pupils favour re-using smelly sewage that would be safe, but not generate much power, or will they opt for the higher risk, wasteful but smokeless nuclear alternative?
Sarah Longshaw teaches at All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield, Cheshire.