What will these decomposing materials turn into?

Briana Richardson has four sections of Materials Science at Washington High School and does a lot of hands-on activities with these juniors and seniors. She plans to incorporate most of the OOGEEP workshop materials into a unit on polymers in the spring. Since the Biotic Materials activity requires some prep time, she had the students start that in the fall.

Students set up bottles with the required ingredients – a layer of compost including egg yolk, egg shell, newspaper, soil ; a layer of packed soil; and some pond water. They worked in groups and each class made a total of 6 bottles.

Supplies ready to go.

Making sure soil and other materials are well mixed.

Richardson adapted the lesson to include some freedom about experimental variables. On the back of the Biotic Materials handout, she made a worksheet that included space for information about the mass of yolk, the mass of shell, and the size of the shell pieces. She also asked them to show the size of the newspaper pieces. There were three different soils that they could use, and they were able to bring in water from different sources to try. Finally, they could choose the places for their bottles to sit for the duration of the 3 - month experiment. Some will be in more direct sunlight while others will have very little light. Richardson said, “In this way, we are making it a bit more of an inquiry lab. This will also enable us to compare results at the end of the time period.”

Richardson said the students really seemed to enjoy creating the bottles. “Most of them followed the directions pretty exactly, despite being given some freedom to make small changes. They are fascinated by the idea that this is where crude oil comes from … and a surprising number of them did not know what crude oil was. I can see I will have my work cut out for me in the polymers unit!”

Now, we wait!

She said, “The workshop this summer was wonderful and really gave me a lot of good resources and tools to use. I think the highlight is probably all of the curriculum material that is ready to use and share with my students.”