Purple Cluster students donned their vests and boarded their trucks to clean the streets of New York City. At least that’s what they pretended to do as the last activity in their study of garbage trucks.
At the beginning of the school year, Head Teacher Rachel Fell said she asked her students what they wanted to learn about this year, with the majority of the responses being transportation.
“They would often share tales of seeing the garbage truck outside of school, so I thought it would be a great place to start,” Ms. Fell said.
This led to the creation of an integrated unit on garbage trucks, which combines all areas of academics to help aid in students’ exploration of a subject. The unit started with a social studies goal of understanding something about the world around us — garbage trucks — but it also incorporated literacy, math, science, and art to lead to deeper understanding and further engagement.
In literacy, students read books about what garbage trucks do and learned new vocabulary associated with parts of a garbage truck and their function. In math, students learned about shapes and figured out what shapes make up a truck. Students used this knowledge to construct their own trucks, using a bigger rectangle for the body, circles on the bottom for the wheels, and a smaller rectangle for the cab.
In science, the class watched a video about the SIMs recycling center in Brooklyn to learn where the recycling goes, as well as sorted recycling and trash to help the garbage collectors. Students also saw pictures of landfills, and learned the importance of reducing our trash, as well as visuals about what would happen if garbage didn’t get collected and how that would impact our community. And in social studies, students observed garbage collection in the community and watched a video of the garbage being collected outside of the school.
To culminate the unit, the class made all the pieces to act out a garbage truck’s journey. They used recycled boxes to create their own garbage truck, which they painted and added details to by carefully observing where everything was on a picture of a truck.
They each made their own New York City Department of Sanitation vests, and then carefully added the letters in the correct order. They all had a turn to be a driver in the cab, throw the garbage into the hopper, and pass it to each other.
Ms. Fell said the main purpose of the unit was for students to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for something they see everyday and might take for granted. The unit also helped students develop a deeper personal connection to their part in taking care of the community as they think about making garbage and recycling.
She said, “This unit started with the students’ interests to support their engagement but grew into something that gave us all, including me, a deeper appreciation and awareness of something so important to our community.”