NBC Channel 4 News : Trash for Teaching “Constructs Knowledge”
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Trash for Teaching “Constructs Knowledge”
Steve and Kathy Stanton started Trash for Teaching in 2004 using the couple’s own garbage as inspiration.
By Lolita Lopez
| Monday, Jul 2, 2012 | Updated 10:26 PM PDT
Physics teacher Craig Sipes collects trash to build projects with his students, and he recently created the “ultimate recycle machine” from materials found at a warehouse in Gardena.
It holds dozens of bins with “thingamajigs,” cardboard, plastic containers, wood, fabric, even foam “number one” fingers used at football games. The warehouse, located at 12815 S. Western Ave., is the home of Trash for Teaching.
“It enables me to transform how I do science, how I teach science,” said Sipes, a 13-year LAUSD teaching veteran. “This is hands-on, inquiry-based, even constructionist, which is a learning theory that kids are constructing knowledge.”
That knowledge helps his students get more out of his classes at George Washington Preparatory High School, Sipes said.
Steve and Kathy Stanton started Trash for Teaching in 2004 using the couple’s own garbage as inspiration. Their son was in preschool at the time; he is now 13 years old.
“We are giving a purpose to stuff that people can’t figure out what anyone wants it for,” Kathy Stanton said.
On the other side of the facility, they manufacture boxes for See’s Candies. The Stantons thought the the extra hearts and ribbons were perfect for their son’s class projects and started collecting. Companies now contribute clean and safe excess, like demo eyeglass lenses.
“Now we get about 100 pounds of these a week sent to us from Costcos all around the country,” Steve said.
“I’ve seen scales for fish. I mean that’s just the artsy stuff. They make cool satellites in our NASAs BEST program,” the Stantons said, referring to a program run by the space agency.
The kits created through Trash for Teaching help develop science and technology curriculum in schools.
With help from Cal Tech, Trash for Teaching has also created science kits and instructions on how to build various items for public schools across LA County.
“Our after-school program is probably going to be in 150 schools next year,” Steve said. “We have 50 carts, 50 programs going out and they move them from school to school every semester.
Every Wednesday and second Saturday of the month, Trash for Teaching opens its doors for anyone who wants to shop. Artists, teachers, kids: for $2 a pound, if you are not a member, you can take home pretty much anything.
Same goes for members who pay $100 to the year and buy materials for $1 a pound.
Seventh-grade student Maddy Miller is a budding fashionista who ran around the warehouse with a piece of cloth as a cape. She and her family hunted for goodies for hours.
“My elective is costume design next year so I’m looking for some fabrics and stuff,” Miller said.
“It’s just a bunch of things we never use and then we can just use them for whatever we want now,” her sister, Suzy, said.
Along with the fun, the Stantons say they are promoting Science Engineering, Technology and Mathematics education, or STEM – a type of learning for which Congress created a caucus.
In California alone, STEM-related jobs will number nearly 1.2 million by 2018, according to U.S. Innovation and the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America.
“Fifteen of 20 jobs in California is technology based, engineering and technology, so we are unfortunately not giving our kids that education in the classrooms,” Steve said.
The most popular item at the warehouse: plastic, brain-looking objects made of plastic chips that resemble spaghetti stuck together.
One of these items is the centerpiece of Trash for Teaching’s working model which shows the trash from corporations going to T4T and then helping educate public school children.
“Through this inspired education, will inspire children to go onto college and get degrees in technology engineering and STEM-education-based fields and come back to work for the companies,” Steve said.