Project-Based Science

Grade 6
Castroville Elementary School
Castroville, CA

Major Objectives

  • Create student awareness about the prevalence of single-use plastic
  • Empower students to collect, analyze and recognize the relevance of their own data
  • Involve students in an issue that affects their local community


Using the film, Bag It, as an introduction to single-use plastic issues, students at Castroville Elementary School participated in a two-week home waste audit. After analyzing their individual and class data from the home waste audit, students made a pledge to eliminate or reduce one or more single-use plastic items from their home waste stream. Student teams then conducted a cafeteria waste audit over a period of several weeks. After analyzing the data collected, students determined that the pre-packaged spork, straw and napkin packets available at lunch were highly inefficient. Many students only used the napkin or straw and discarded the other unused items, producing a large amount of plastic waste. Students then researched alternatives and relative costs of providing these items individually to eliminate excess packaging and discarding of unused items. They presented their data on single-use plastic reduction and cost savings to the school district, their peers and parents. Students then presented the data to the school board and successfully campaigned to replace the wasteful spork packets with individual utensils. This action greatly reduced the cafeteria plastic waste stream and saved the district important funds.

Notes from the Field

"The plastic audit is a great starting point for our project and seems versatile for future projects or Earth Day."