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7 — What can we learn from Brennan Bird?

In this sequence, the students will be presented with the case study of Brennan Bird. Brennan aims to promote sustainability through his actions. He famously ‘lived with his rubbish’ for a year, washing, cleaning and storing it, and wrote an article about his experiences. Finding ways to compress and store plastic waste became a big challenge, and in a search for ways to compress rubbish, he discovered the idea of portable landfill devices or bottle bricks: the idea that plastic bricks could be used for construction purposes. Brennan now takes his sustainability message around the world as he promotes the construction of earth benches, benches made from bottle bricks.

Cartoon showing how rubbish can be compressed into bottles (labelled ‘portable landfill device’) to make a solid ‘bottle brick’, and then used as bottle bricks to make an solid bench structure

Above: Earth Bench.Source: © Brennan Bird, www.earthbench.org

This sequence draws on the following General Capabilities: Literacy, Information and Communication Technology, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Responsibility, and Ethical Behaviour.

My year with trash article: Deconstruction

Display the article ‘Why I lived with my garbage for a year’ on an interactive whiteboard. As the article is read, complete a deconstruction of the information it contains in reference to what is interesting about the article and how that article has been written.

The deconstruction can occur in the form of a think-aloud. During the think-aloud, draw attention to the author’s message, intended audience and purpose; the language used and the style and look of the article. ACELY1732,   ACELY1733 

For more information about think-alouds, consult this online extract from Wilhelm, J (2001) Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies, Scholastic, New York.

Create a list of these elements, as this deconstruction will be revisited later in the unit when the students come to write their own articles. Direct the students’ attention to the bottle brick illustration and the animation on making a bottle brick. What makes this a sustainable idea? Time permitting, listen to this Earth Bench Project TED talk by Brennan Bird, where he describes the earth bench project further.

Activity 1: Profile 

Referring to the three sources of information, assign inquiry groups the task of creating a character profile of Brennan Bird that highlights the ways that he has made more sustainable choices in life. 

Discussion questions

Ongoing tasks

Students continue to collect trash for their ‘art from trash’ piece.

Note: In thinking ahead to their final celebration and sharing of their art from trash pieces, students can think about who they might invite along to the final exhibition. This can include friends and family, but perhaps also local contacts who they have researched (representatives from community recycling groups, their local councillors and so forth).  The students can compose invitation letters to send out to community members.

Students update their Annotated bibliography worksheets with new texts discovered in class and in their own individual research.