StopWaste at School


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American High School features a model student led recycling program to divert paper and CRV material from the waste stream.  Funds from the recycling program are channeled back into campus beautification efforts including tree planting.  Students in science classes regularly participate in activities such as paper making and labs that investigate materials separation techniques used in single stream recycling systems.  American High School hosts monthly meetings of FIERCE- FremontIans Enabling Real Change in the Environment- a student group representing each of Fremont's five high schools that work together to plan community events and organize service projects such as the establishment of community gardens.

Food Scrap Diversion Waste Stations

Recycling Team members assembling the stationsRecycling Team members assembling the stationsAfter a waste audit at American High revealed that over 75% of trash in many of the garbage cans located in common areas could have been composted, teachers and students took action.

With support from an Altamont Education Advisory Board Grant, teacher Candy Sykes was able to purchase lightweight diversion stations for the rotunda. "It was important to our custodial staff that the stations be easy to move so they can sweep and polish the large area. We were able to find stations that are lightweight and seem durable."

Sykes and her fellow science teachers plan to set up a service program through their classes where students help monitor the bins and educate their peers about the proper placement of compostable materials.

The bins were assembled and installed by the school's Recycling Team on Friday, March 15th.

Recycling Team Keeps it Clean and Green

Recycling is Fun!Recycling is Fun!American High School's Recycling Team is a group of students dedicated to keeping the school clean and green.

The team collects and sorts recyclable materials, redeems bottles and cans for funding used on environmental projects and scholarships and seeks ways to expand and improve its efforts.

Washing the BinsWashing the Bins

The Recycling team volunteers are frequently joined by 9th graders from Ms. Wheaton's Biology class who are able to earn extra credit points for helping the environment.

Students meet near the school's science wing every Friday afternoon to process the reclaimed materials, regularly filling large clear bags full of crushed plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Students also wash and maintain the recycling bins and signs around campus.

American High School Garden Update

WeedingWeedingFruit trees are in bloom, and students are busy at work in the American High School garden which has received many updates in the last few months.

Recent additions to the garden include a compost bin made from reclaimed wooden pallets, new gravel for garden pathways, and the beginnings of a stone floor for the outdoor gazebo classroom.

Stone FloorStone FloorVolunteer Ed Sykes led a group of students in weed pulling on a recent Friday afternoon to help prepare for re-mulching and new plantings.  "We're a bit overgrown right now," admited Ed, "but the students are showing a lot of enthusiasm for getting things in shape for the spring."

In addition to spring planting, upcoming projects include expanded sheet mulching using reclaimed cardboard and the installation of a wooden and bamboo fence to create a visual barrier with the parking lot.

Imagining New Green Machines

Smog Cloud CondenserSmog Cloud CondenserWhat if a machine could convert smog to energy? What if that energy powered the machine to clean up more smog? Sisters Cynthia and Katie Wu from American High School in Fremont imagined such a machine, called a "Smog Cloud Condenser" as part of the Chabot Space & Science Center's Green Machine Design Challenge.

The initiative challenges visitors to imagine new technologies that improve the environment.  Visitors sketch out their designs on graph paper and submit them for consideration.  Museum staff then review all submissions, choosing some to be featured in Bill Nye's Climate Lab, the museum's top floor exhibit.

Green Machine Exhibit SignGreen Machine Exhibit Sign

The sisters were inspired to make their machine to address global warming challenges, undaunted by the fact that others have not yet solved the problem. Katie points out, "This technology doesn't exist yet, but what would happen is smog goes into the tube and condenses and through some process turns into something good." Cynthia adds, "It collects the smog in the sky and turns it into energy. It condenses the pollution in the smog cloud and recycles it for energy."

Katie and Cynthia's design was chosen by Chabot's staff to be made into a 3D model as inspiration to other visitors. Artist Todd Kundla took up the challenge of fabricating the design. According to Kundla, "The Cloud Condenser captured my attention with its uniquely shaped structures as well as its alluring concept. Something about the 'not knowing' all of the details of how this invention worked was curiously enjoyable. Freed from the science of the machine and concentrating on its aesthetic was liberating."

Tamara Schwarz, Chabot's Senior Manager of Experience Design notes, "inventions happen in the mind before they ever happen in real life.  We hope to inspire creativity and encourage our visitors to dream up new solutions to challenges that haven't yet been met."

Details about Chabot Space & Science Center and the new Green Machine exhibit can be found here:

Recycling Lab

Recycling LabRecycling LabImagine that your city would pay you $5000 to devise a plan for separating a garbage truck full of shredded mixed recyclable materials- how would you do it?  This is the scenario that American High chemistry teacher Candy Sykes puts to her students in the first Honors Chemistry lab of the year.

Like many chemistry teachers, Sykes introduces her students to lab work with a separation of mixtures activity. Typically, students are given a mixture of materials such as salt, sand, and iron filings that can be separated based on their differing physical properties. Sykes adds a sustainability theme to the lesson by asking her students to separate a mixture of small pieces of aluminum cans, steel cans, PET plastic and HDPE plastic.

Desktop Waste StationsDesktop Waste StationsThe sustainability theme echoes the Sykes' efforts to reduce waste across the campus and build student leadership for environmental issues. In addition to learning basic lab procedures, Sykes highlights the separate classroom sets of washable towels for hand washing and clean-up, desk-top chemical and liquid waste stations, and other classroom features designed to reduce waste.

doc Download a copy of the student handout here 31.50 Kb

Lab NotebookLab NotebookWorking in teams of four, students learn basic lab procedures such as prediction, observation, note taking, safety and teamwork as they take on the challenge of separating the 1 cm square pieces based on physical attributes like response to magnetism and density.

Unlike many labs, there is no set of standard instructions to follow- only general guidelines.  Through an inquiry process, students must develop and test different ideas for separating the materials in the most efficient way possible using the tools provided.

Magnetic SeparationMagnetic SeparationSteel cans are quickly separated using a magnet, but separating the plastics and aluminum is more of a challenge.  Although small samples of materials could be separated based on visual cues, students work diligently to engineer a process that would allow them to sort a dump truck sized load of materials.

Click through the pictures below to see more materials and student work from this lab activity.