Members of Pingry's Robotics Team postponed their Spring Break by a few days the weekend of March 9—and with impressive showings at two separate events, their sacrifice was well worth it!
For the second year in a row*, Middle School Science and English classes joined forces in a stimulating, unique group project, practically titled, "Does Our Community Really Need this Object?" Working in groups of three or four, Form II students selected a commonly used "biotic" or "abiotic" object—glow sticks, gill nets, plastic straws, bath bombs, and chewing gum were among this year's specimens. Their task? To evaluate the chemistry, as well as the environmental, economic, and social justice factors related to the production of their object, and determine if, in fact, it's an essential product, or if a better alternative exists. The project not only cultivated teamwork and improved research, writing, and presentation skills—each group had to create a five-minute presentation, and write a personal reflective essay on the experience—it also developed a healthy dose of consumer awareness among the young teenagers.
Milenka Men '23, Matthew Oatman '23, and Dwayne Bazil '23 are three students who participated in the project. Read on to hear what the learning experience was like for them.
Milenka Men '23
Is styrofoam worth its environmental toll and impact on human health? My group chose to research styrofoam after realizing that it is everywhere—from cups to every package that arrives from Amazon—and in order to justify the increasing styrofoam ban across the world. I would never be able to imagine completing this project by myself due to the sheer amount of research. But with the four people in our group, the work was split up evenly, and we trusted each other to finish the work. The biggest issue we had when making a final decision was debating the pros/cons of styrofoam. If the use of styrofoam was ultimately banned from the world, that would result in the immediate loss of jobs and would leave us without a viable alternative, yet if the production continued, its environmental toll and influence on human health would continue to be indelible. Eventually, after much debate, my group came to the conclusion that styrofoam was unnecessary due to its harmful effects on the environment, effects on human health, and little contribution to the U.S. economy. Not only is styrofoam non-biodegradable and contaminates waterways, but a large amount of fossil fuel and energy must also be put into both the production and the clean-up of styrofoam; most recycling plants don't even accept styrofoam. Addressing the issue of the immediate loss of jobs, the sheer amount of work needed at recycling plants to dispose of all current styrofoam in circulation would be able to employ the workers. Truly, conflicts between environmental and social justice make it impossible to make what can be considered the "right" decision. The point of this project was not to make the world a better or worse place, but to create awareness about what goes into the manufacturing process of objects and their obscure effects on the world in order to make a future decision.
Matthew Oatman '23
Last week, Form II was tasked with determining whether or not any society needed an everyday item. Our group decided to study the U.S. dollar bill. Coming to a conclusion was not an easy task because many factors went against our opinion. Some of the pros were the small manufacturing price, its durability and light weight, and its ease of use. Some of the negatives we took into account were the challenges to use the U.S. dollar bill in transactions between different countries and the harmful results of farming cotton to make the paper needed for the U.S. dollar bill. As a group, we concluded that our community needed the dollar bill because all the positives outweighed the negatives. As I reflect back on this project, I saw a deeper lesson of leadership and reality in this group assignment. As with any project, some group members contributed more than others. Part of my role in the group became a motivator, which was frustrating. At times I felt stressed because I had to balance other work from other classes, and, at other times, I felt like my voice was drowned out because no one would listen. At first, I was annoyed, but then I saw the underlying life lesson that was involved with my experience. Ultimately, I realized that there will always be people in life who are not motivated and excited, and others need to step up and take leadership roles in order to accomplish a goal as a team.
Dwayne Bazil '23
For our Trimester 2 group science project, we had to choose an object and determine whether it is sustainable and whether or not we truly need it. In my group, we wanted to present on a topic that is highly debated and be able to come up with ideas to prove whether or not we truly need it. For our project, my group chose juuls. Juuls are a special type of electronic cigarettes that release a vapor when exhaled. We chose juuls because, while they are known for having health risks, people still use them a lot today. While doing our research, we had to decide whether juuls are sustainable or not. This was the group-focused potion of the project, where we did not get a lot of help from our teacher, so we had to conduct our research on our own and debate the topic within our group to come up with a consensus. One of the only challenging parts of this project to me was our final answer. It was a group of four so we ended up having a 2-2 split on whether we need juuls or not. The information we found told us that juuls were not environmentally safe and caused health risks, but their sales boosted the economy. After discussing with my group, we came up with the consensus that even though juuls helped the economy, the effect on health and the environment was too great to ignore. This project helped us all develop skills of persuasion because we had to make a presentation that would convince our audience of our point of view.
* 2019 marks the second consecutive year that the project was undertaken in Form II science classes, but the first year the English Department also collaborated.
Photos: Students present on the utility of straws (top) and gum (bottom).
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com