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What Is Recycling? A Project To Develop K 12 Engineering Curriculum About Reuse Of Waste Materials

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Sustainable Engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1442.1 - 11.1442.8



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Paper Authors


Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Swan is an Associate Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. His current interests are the reuse of recovered or recyclable materials and sustainable construction.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

What is Recycling? A Project to Develop K-12 Engineering Curriculum about Reuse of Waste Materials


While over the last 25 years, recycling programs have developed throughout the United States and internationally, it is not a “given” that recycling is practiced or understood by all. Additionally, the engineering aspects of recycling and reuse of waste materials, i.e., how waste materials are recovered, handled, and reused for new products, are rarely presented to the public at large. Understanding and communicating these engineering aspects, as well as non- engineering aspects of recycling/reuse, was the focus of a first-year engineering course at Tufts University. The course, first taught in 1999, introduces students to the engineering aspects of waste reuse. In the Fall 2004 offering, the course project tasked the students to develop an engineering curricula for K-12 students that illustrates not only the engineering aspects of recycling/reuse but also convey non-engineering aspects such as the social, economic, and political implications of recycling/reuse.

This paper describes how the use of a service learning project as a pedagogical tool in curriculum development and delivery further engaged university students in the course subject matter. This paper describes the project’s development and delivery to and reception by its target audience. The paper also presents an assessment of how the course project helped to engage students and ingrain the educational objectives of the course.


First year students in the School of Engineering at Tufts University must take two, half- courses that introduce the possibilities that exist in the various engineering disciplines. The author periodically provides one such course, entitled Waste Not Want Not, which covers the engineering aspects of the reuse of recycled materials. Traditionally, the course has assignments and projects that cover the technical aspects of materials, such as material properties and behaviors and how they are used in construction applications. During the Fall 2004 semester, the author altered the project component of the course to provide an opportunity for students to do a service-learning project by asking them to develop a recycling curriculum appropriate for a K to 8-level student.

This paper presents the results of this project as a case study. The components and organization of the project is briefly described and specific components of the developed “curriculum” presented. The results of a trial test of the curriculum are also presented and discussed. The use of community service to create a more engaging course experience is also discussed.


It well known that in the United States, recycling is not an instinctive behavior but a learned one. Continued exploitation of our natural resources without understanding the natural limit that is in inherent in their existence can not continue unless recycling, reuse, and recovery (the 3 R’s) of

Swan, C. (2006, June), What Is Recycling? A Project To Develop K 12 Engineering Curriculum About Reuse Of Waste Materials Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1202

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