STEM@Home: Plastic Life Cycles

User Black and White on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wait a sec, does the title say PLASTIC life cycles? That’s got to be a mistake. Plants have life cycles, and animals have life cycles but plastics definitely don’t. Who’s ever seen a cute baby plastic toddling around with those squishy cheeks and enormous eyes? And it’s not like plastics turn colors in the fall and drop their leaves everywhere!

Okay, so plastics definitely don’t have a life cycle the way green beans and butterflies do. But all manufactured materials do have a kind of “life” cycle – the journey from raw materials, to useful products, and to obsolescent trash. Yikes! Have you ever stopped to think about where all the stuff we use come from – and where it goes when we’re done?

Using a Product’s Life Cycle: A Family Exploration

If you’ve got apples, applesauce, and an old CD or DVD – you’re ready to master product life cycles! The lessons provided from the team at Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum Support cover topics ranging from energy and product use to climate change and ecosystems. With just a few props to spark discussion, you can start a CD’s journey from plastic birth to landfill death – or new life through recycling.

Sustainability is a catchy word that reflects an old concept. Whatever we make, use, and discard, we all have to live with. Materials aren’t infinite, and when we’re finished with products they don’t simply disappear. With the Using a Product’s Life Cycle lesson materials available below, both kids and adults will have a better understanding of what goes into using our everyday products – and better understanding leads to better choices.

The parent lesson and student reflection are available here through ExploreHope. Another important resource for this lesson is a digital poster about the life cycle of a CD. Visit the EPA’s website and investigate their poster documenting the Life Cycle of a CD or DVD.

Be sure to share what you’ve learned with us via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We’re @ExploreHope and we’d love to hear from you. Happy exploring!

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