Prep Talk

Innovation and Experiential Learning Through Recycling: Classifying Substances with Purpose

Posted November 15th, 2023

Sophomores in Mrs. McHugh’s Honors Chemistry class are delving deeper into how matter is classified. This lesson not only taught the fundamental principles of substance classification but it also led to a fun and hands-on project – Mrs. McHugh’s Recycling Shark Tank.  

In this interdisciplinary lesson, students were tasked with applying their newly learned knowledge of substance classification in a real-world context: recycling. Their timing couldn’t be more appropriate as the lesson became even more relevant as it coincided with National Recycling Day. Mrs. McHugh’s challenge was clear – creatively utilize recycled materials to build a functional item that aligns with the fundamentals of recycling and sustainability.  Her guidelines were even more precise: students were forbidden from researching existing designs online. Instead, they were encouraged to call upon their entrepreneurial spirit and creativity to craft innovative solutions strictly using recycled materials. 

The grand culmination of their work?  A “Shark Tank” inspired video presentation with the Prep’s Dean of Academics as the lone “shark” – move over Mark Cuban, Mrs. McHugh has arrived. 

Drawing inspiration from the popular TV show, students were asked to showcase their creations by explaining the thought behind their design, its intended functionality, target audience, and most importantly, the reason Mrs. McHugh should invest in their product! This well-rounded project honed their communication skills but also prompted critical thinking about the marketability and consumer appeal of their inventions.

From innovative dog treat dispensers to a reusable grocery bag turned apron, each student displayed ingenuity and a distinct commitment to recycling.  Per the wishes of the Prep’s resident Chemistry Shark and Dean of Academics, the lesson extended beyond the fun of creating thoughtful recycled projects. Her students learned more about substance classification and helped spark a deeper conversation about sustainable practices and their responsibility to care for the environment. In the process, they were inspired to reflect on their role as conscientious recyclers, outlining actionable steps to enhance their recycling habits and reduce their environmental footprint.

Through this fun and inventive project, students not only demonstrated their understanding of substance classification but also expressed their knowledge and skills in the principles of sustainability and entrepreneurship. As National Recycle Day comes to a close, we hope these “Shark Tank” hopefuls inspired you to “buy-in” and invest in their commitment to a greener, more environmentally conscious future – one functional Prep Chemistry project at a time.

Enjoy a few of the students’ submissions below!