One of my favorite memories from 5th grade science class is “Fungus Among Us.” “Fungus Among Us” was an experiment where each student got two zip-lock bags, put several different types of trash in each one, and placed them in two different environments. I placed mine in a dark cupboard and the other on the counter, though other students put theirs in the window, in the fridge, and other out-of-the-way places. Over the next several months we periodically checked on the bags and took observations as they began to grow all sorts of fascinating things. At the end of the quarter we took stock of what decomposed and what did not. I remember staring at the glass marbles in my bags and yelling, probably a bit too loud, “Wow – they look brand new!” It really got me thinking about what I threw away, because where is away? Some things simply take forever to decompose like glass and the plastic zip-lock bags we used.
It is these kinds of experiences that the Trash Free Schools Project works to provide students with in our new online Resource Center. The Resource Center is designed to serve as the hub for perspective and enrolled schools to find activities, lesson plans, how-to guides, and other tools to help them organize, educate, and take action on trash. It allows us share curriculum plans such as newer versions of “Fungus Among Us” to teachers while also providing them with service learning opportunities to complement them. As a middle schooler, I would have been so excited to put my new-found knowledge to use with a compost bin or a school-wide recycling program.
So take a peek at our new and improved Trash Free School website and explore our Resource Center. While some of the resources are restricted to participating schools, there is still a lot of great information available to download like our new Guidebook. Please let us know if you would like to become a Trash Free School. Once you have signed up you will gain access to the full set of resources. If you are interested in volunteering, we are also looking for mentors to support our current schools in their efforts to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
As these cool spring weekends come to a close, I invite you to try “Fungus Among Us” for yourself. Don’t forget to do it in a well-ventilated place and take a closer look with a magnifying glass if you can. You can even document your progress in the comment section below with notes and photos of your experiment. You never know what you might discover or what kind of inspiration it will ignite.