Tuesday of 8th week, senior sustainability interns Adam Smith and Katie Weeks took time to plant some seeds of sustainability in a group middle schoolers. The two visited Keeping the Doors Open (KDO), a math and science program that pairs K College students with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) elementary and middle school students. This supplementary instruction offers KPS students tutoring and help on their homework as well as activities centered around math and science in an effort to keep their interests in these two crucial academic subjects.
The room of 25 KPS students and their tutors participated in a discussion about decomposition and how long it actually takes many objects to break down. Students ordered a list of household objects and matched them with a time value. Many were surprised by some of the decomposition rates of certain objects. Cigarettes take 2 to 5 years to decompose while an aluminum can takes 200 years! Students were also surprised to discover that the decomposition rate of styrofoam is unknown and much longer than any potential human timescale.
Students used decomposition as a model to practice graphing linear equations and talk about and calculate half lives. At the end of the lesson, students discussed how understanding decomposition rates of different materials affected them and why caring about sustainability was so important. Connections like these between K College and the community in regards to important issues like sustainability are an important way to reinforce our off-campus relations as well as help educate young students on issues that have a direct effect on their lives and future. KDO meets biweekly and is organized by Civil Engagement Scholars through the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service Learning.