Decomposing Third Graders

Um, it’s not the third graders that are decomposing … it’s the experiment they are performing:

The “High Hopes Project” got it’s name originally when we brainstormed the idea to have students compose their high hopes for their education, community and the world, and then actually send their “High Hopes” up really high (30,500 meters, 100,000 feet). Eventually we decided to release the “hopes” so they could filter down to the ground, decay and become one with the Earth. One concern has always been that the “hopes” would be perceived as littering even though we’ve been told that the paper we print the hopes on breaks down in as little as 6 weeks. (POST YOU HIGH HOPES HERE!)

This year we challenged the students at Cottonwood Elementary to bio-engineer a way to induce the paper to decompose more rapidly once it became grounded. They’ve taken up the challenge. They brainstormed different “eco-friendly” substances they could treat the paper we print the “High Hopes” on (vinegar, vegetable oil and so on). Next they “painted” 8 sheets of the paper with the substances they chose, allowed them to dry, and then cut them into strips to mimic the size of the papers containing the world’s high hopes.

Then they made 4 screened grids from window screen and wooden frames. They used string to make a 3 x 3 grid under the frame (see photo above), placed the 8 treated papers in a different section of the grid and one untreated section as a control for their experiment. Now they’ve put the 4 grids in different places on the school grounds exposed to the elements 24 hours a day just like what will happen to the World’s High Hopes. They are hoping to find a substance that will cause the paper to decompose or break down more quickly than the untreated paper. We’ll report back on their progress. If anyone else is interested in trying this same experiment at your school or home let us know your results! Post your “High Hopes here and we’ll send them up high!

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