Potatoes to Plastics

CIEC's new publication: ‘Potatoes to Plastics’ shows upper key stage two (9-11 years old) children how science can be used to find solutions to environmental problems. In this case to create a useful product (bio-plastic) from waste (potato peel).

The resource contains practical and cross curricular activities including:

Three English activities designed to raise children’s science capital

Three practical activities where children make and test bioplastic using bioplastic

Three games played with downloadable cards which highlight science solutions to a range of waste products

The publication can be freely downloaded from here.

Video: Making bioplastic in a lab


Finding out about scientists

1. Scientists Today: Reading biographies

Image of a boy reading a book

Children read articles from the publication ‘Scientists Today’ about the life and work of living scientists. They discuss the vocabulary that has been chosen to describe the scientists and the jobs they do. They talk about what the article does and doesn’t tell them about the scientists. If they are going to have the opportunity to meet the scientist they are reading about they plan questions to ask them.

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2. Scientists Tomorrow: Writing autobiographies

Image of someone writing an autobiography

Children write an article about themselves as scientists using the same format as the ‘Scientists Today’ biographies. They think about science they have already done as well as science they might hope to do in the future.

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3. Ambassador Interviews

Ambassador Interview image

Children meet a scientist and interview them about their career, and the qualifications they need to do it. They also find out about their hobbies and their primary school days to help them to understand that science is done by ‘normal’ people.

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An application of science

4. Extracting starch from potato peel

Image of extracting starch from potato peel

Children experience a novel application of sieving, filtering and evaporation as methods of separating a solid mixed with a liquid. They discover that useful substances can be extracted from ‘waste’ materials by separating starch from potato peel. They experience both reversible and irreversible changes as they recognise that the starch can be mixed back with the water, but cannot be returned to the potato.

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5. Making plastic from potato starch

Photo of plastic green duck

Children experience how materials can be changed to make useful new materials and products. They see how mixing ingredients together and applying heat leads to an irreversible change in the potato starch they extracted in the previous activity.

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6. Testing the bio-plastic

Photo of two boys with plastic washing up bowl

Children have the opportunity to ask, and answer, their own questions as they plan an investigation. Following a request from a company that specialises in sustainable products, they think about possible uses for the finished bio-plastic. They then test it to see if it is suitable for that purpose or whether it would need further research and development (for example to increase its durability).

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Solving problems using science

7. Science solutions card games

Image of science solutions card game cards to cut out

Children play a card game where they collect sets of cards based upon a raw material, the product that is made from it, the ‘waste problem’ which is left over and the ‘green solution’ of a product made from the waste. They then discuss the issues that have been raised by these cards. There are three different games that can be played using these cards.

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Potatoes 2 Plastics PDF Cover Image