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Earth Day Graphic

Junk Mail Overload!

Note: Not everyone sees direct mail as "junk mail." In fact, if people didn't find useful things to buy in response to direct mail, obviously, the direct-mail business wouldn't exist. For companies large and small, direct mail has many advantages over other kinds of advertising. In repsonse to environmental concerns, national direct mail organizations offer tips to help consumers participate in environmental protection.

Subjects

  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts, Visual Arts
  • Mathematics
    Arithmetic, Measurement, Statistics
  • Science
    Physical Science, Environmental
  • Social Studies
    Civics

Grades

  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
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Brief Description

Students track the amount of junk mail received at their homes in one week and use the collected data to estimate how much junk mail would accumulate in a year. Then they explore ways to solve the junk mail problem.

Objectives

Students will
  • enlist the help of their families to collect and track the amount of junk mail that arrives in the course of one week;
  • use the data collected to complete a chart that estimating the amount of junk mail the family will throw away in a month and a year;
  • use the class data set to figure the average amount of junk mail a family receives;
  • use that data to estimate how much junk mail the entire community throws away in a week, a month, and a year;
  • explore ways of cutting back on the amount of junk mail;
  • create brochures to share what they have learned about cutting back on junk mail;
  • do a follow-up activity in several months to see whether what they do to cut back on junk mail has had an impact in the community.

Keywords

trash, recycle, landfill, conserve, letter, chart, data, statistics, average, estimate, mail, junk

Materials Needed[shopmaterials]

  • paper
  • pencils
  • postage scale or another scale that weighs small units

Lesson Plan

Most junk mail goes from the mailbox to the trash can. Much of it is never even opened! Talk with students about the junk mail nuisance. Then ask, "Why do people call unsolicited mail 'junk' mail? Do you think junk mail is an environmental problem?"

Encourage students to involve their families in this activity by asking them to collect all the junk mail they receive in a week. At the end of the week, the students will bring in the bag of junk mail their families collected. Provide a simple chart on the board for students to copy; have them use the chart to figure out how much junk mail their families contribute to landfills each year.

FAMILY JUNK MAIL
  Number of Pieces Total Weight
One Week    
One Month (4 weeks)*    
One Year (52 weeks)*    
*Estimated

When students have completed the first part of the chart (above), ask: How might you use the information above to help you figure the average amount of junk mail received by families in the class? How might you use that information to figure the amount of junk mail tossed out by an entire community in one week, one month, and one year?

One possible solution: After computing the average amount of trash for a family (by adding all the junk mail figures and dividing by the number of families), students might estimate the number of families in the community by figuring the average family size among students in the class and dividing the population of the community by that number. (The number of families in the community figured in this way will be a low estimate because many families in the community will be smaller than the average family size in the class.) Then multiply the average family's junk mail amount (quantity and weight) by the estimated number of families to figure the total of junk mail for the community. Fill in the chart below to reflect those numbers.

COMMUNITY JUNK MAIL
  Number of Pieces Total Weight
One Week    
One Month (4 weeks)*    
One Year (52 weeks)*    
*Estimated

After completing the charts, discuss the following questions with students: How much trash does junk mail add to your town's landfill? (Or how much might junk mail add to the town's trash hauling fees?) What might be done to cut down the amount of junk mail thrown away by families in your area?

Next, the teacher might share some methods of reducing the amount of junk mail from Web sites such as Do-It-Yourself: Stop Junk Mail and Consumer Assistance from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Extension activities:

  • Students might create brochures to take home or pass out in the community that provide the eye-opening data they collected/estimated as well as some pointers for reducing the amount of trash generated by junk mail.
  • Students can write letters to companies that produce catalogs and other junk mail their families don't use or want.

    Assessment

    Repeat the activity later in the school year to learn whether the junk mail reduction tips have had any impact on the amount of junk mail families receive.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    Submitted By

    Gary Hopkins

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts FINE ARTS: Visual Arts

    • GRADES K - 4
      NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    • GRADES 5 - 8
      NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
      NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    LANGUAGE ARTS: English MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
    • GRADES 3 - 5
      NM-NUM.3-5.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
      NM-NUM.3-5.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
      NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

    • GRADES 6 - 8
      NM-NUM.6-8.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
      NM-NUM.6-8.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
      NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NM-NUM.9-12.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
      NM-NUM.9-12.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
      NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    • GRADES 3 - 5
      NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
      NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

    • GRADES 6 - 8
      NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
      NM-MEA.6-8.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
      NM-MEA.9-12.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    MATHEMATICS: Data Analysis and Probability
    • GRADES 3 - 5
      NM-DATA.3-5.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
      NM-DATA.3-5.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data

    • GRADES 6 - 8
      NM-DATA.6-8.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
      NM-DATA.6-8.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data

    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NM-DATA.9-12.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
      NM-DATA.9-12.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
    MATHEMATICS: Problem Solving
    • GRADES Pre-K - 12 NM-PROB.PK-12.3 Apply and Adapt a Variety of Appropriate Strategies to Solve Problems
    MATHEMATICS: Communications
    • GRADES Pre-K - 12 NM-COMM.PK-12.2 Communicate Their Mathematical Thinking Coherently and Clearly to Peers, Teachers, and Others
    MATHEMATICS: Connections

    • GRADES Pre-K - 12 NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics
    SCIENCE
    • GRADES K - 4
      NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
      NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
      NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    • GRADES 5 - 8
      NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
      NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
      NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
      NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
      NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Civics SOCIAL SCIENCES: Economics

    See more resources at our special Earth Day page.
    Return to the Earth Day 2002 lesson plan page.


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