Flexing the Left Hemisphere: What Burkies are Learning in Ecology Class

In our June 2018 News & Views issue, we asked Science teachers and Burkies to share examples of work their class work. Below is a project sample.

TEACHER: Lindley van der Linde
GRADE: 8th/9th

My goal is to get 8th and 9th-grade Ecology students curious and excited about the natural world, and help them understand their own ecological footprint. After completing weekly labs and breaking up the writing of a lab report during the course of the winter, Ecology students are charged to design their own research questions based on an environmental problem right here on campus. They execute experiments to test their hypothesis, gather data, analyze and display the data and present solutions to their peers. Some of the findings summarized from the student research are below.

Do we eat too much unhealthy meat?

Riley McHugh found that “our chicken is from a business called, Glenview Farms, Pennsylvania (464.3 miles away). Our Beef is from an establishment called IBP, Iowa Beef Processors (1,292 miles away)”. Sourcing our meat locally from Libby’s Meat Market would cost $500 more per month but the hidden costs like carbon emissions would be reduced by %75.


Are we wasting too much food?

Max Bellino and Zoe Heinrich McMullen calculated that we waste 353 pounds of food a week which is the equivalent of $476 per week. They were able to track which meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch) were most wasteful, and correlate the waste with the menu. Their goal was to help the cooks make informed decisions when planning the menu.

How big is our carbon footprint from driving all over New England and Canada to compete?

Daymien Ide and Camden Dwyer discovered that a hybrid van not only costs $6,000 less to purchase but driving such a vehicle an estimated 8,000 miles per month would save on gas money and carbon emissions.

Can we reduce environmental impact by changing garbage management protocol?

Claire Walters found that by changing our student job protocol in the kitchen or by changing the type or size of the garbage bags we could save money, landfill space and eliminate the breakdown products generated by plastics.