I started thinking about this the other day when I was looking at label on a jar of peanuts. In bold letters at the top it said “85% Less Packaging” which sounds like a good thing. But then underneath it in small letters it said “Than glass jar by weight.” So is this good for the environment? Glass jars which are 100% recyclable have been replaced with plastic jars that are the same size but weigh less. Plastic is bad for the environment; it’s not fully recyclable like glass, and it takes hundreds of years to degrade in a landfill. So why would a company switch to plastic if it’s not good for the environment? Could it be that plastic is cheaper? Could it be that reducing the product’s weight makes it cheaper for them to ship those jars? I know I'm making inferences, but it sounds to me like they have switched to plastic to save themselves money. Yet they are promoting the switch as being good for the environment! Boo on them!
This situation made me realize that we as teachers have a unique opportunity to encourage critical thinking about environmental issues. We can ask our students to look at these types of claims and evaluate them for themselves.
Did you ever see the animated kids’ show called Science Court? Someone would sue a company, and the case would end up in Science Court. The scientific basis for the claim was examined, the jury discussed the evidence, and a verdict was reached. Why not do something similar to examine environmental claims and call it “Green Court”? As soon as the inspiration hit, I knew I had to create a packet of teaching materials to put this idea into action!
Unfortunately, I no longer have a classroom where I can test out my crazy schemes. So I asked three of my blogger friends, Mandy Neal, Selina Smith, and Stephanie Moorman if they would be interested in testing the lesson in their upper elementary classrooms. All three were eager to give it a try, and after they use the materials with their students, they will share the results on their blogs. I can’t wait to see how it turns out! (Note added later: Mandy Neal was the first to try it out and post her students' experiences. You can read how this lesson worked with her 4th grade class in her blog post on Cooperative Learning 365.)
In the meantime, I realized that with Earth Day coming up in a little more than a week, other teachers may want to try the lesson, too. Not only would this be great for Earth Day, but it's a terrific lesson on propaganda in advertising. You can download the Green Court Claims freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store. Be sure to click the Follow Me link on TpT to be notified when I add more freebies!