TEACHING MODULE REPORT
Vickie S. Durrah
NSF RET Fellowship at UIC 2006
During the summer RET Program at UIC, I had opportunity to work under the
auspices Dr. Tom Theis, Director of Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
to conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) of volatile organic carbon (VOCs) for a
CD or compact disc. This project involved an extensive amount of scientific
research via the Internet, scientific libraries, as well as numerous manufacturing
industries. I collected a multitude of data and knowledge which I was able to
process for use with the several mathematical models to calculate and quantify
VOCs as well as human and environmental impact.
The module will be taught in two units. The first unit, LCA provides an overview
the life cycle assessment, specifically focusing on its use by manufacturers in
product development, design, improvement and comparison with the objective of
minimizing environmental and human impact. It will also provide a framework for
conducting a life cycle assessment as well as examples of the ways in which life-
cycle assessments have been applied.
The second unit provides an opportunity for students to actually inventory a
compact disc through the manufacturing process to quantify VOC emissions with
the purpose of assessing and discussing human and environmental impact. During
this unit, students will participate in an open forum of discussion with their peers
and make informed environmental choices and decisions about the products we
consume. This experience will model the research process that I performed
throughout my fellowship. It is my contention that most fifth grade students have
very little background in terms of environmental concerns. However, this area of
environmental science should be introduced early on in their academic careers to
invite students to become critical thinkers and analyzers for a more sustainable
Students will accomplish the following objectives:
• Use Internet as a research tool.
• Organize data into tables using Microsoft Excel.
• Generate graphs of the data using Microsoft Excel.
• Quantify emissions (VOCs) from manufacturing compact discs.
• Identify the key steps in manufacturing a compact disc.
• Identify the parts of a life cycle assessment.
• Perform a LCA of a compact disc.
• Participate in open discussion about alternatives and options in product
design, production and development.
Students will understand the following concepts as a result of this activity:
• How to use a life cycle inventory as a tool in minimizing pollution and
waste caused by human activities.
• How to infer relationships and draw conclusions from research and
• How to compare materials and choose alternatives to maximize
recycling and reuse of materials and waste.
• How to evaluate human and environmental impact of emissions over
• How to effectively debate and discuss controversial issues in a
Illinois State Science Standards Addressed:
• 11.A.3c Collect and record data accurately using consistent measuring and
recording techniques and media.
• 11.A.3g Report and display the process and results of a scientific
• 12.E.3c Evaluate the biodegradability of renewable and nonrenewable
• 13.B.3a Identify and explain ways that scientific knowledge and economics
drive technological development.
• 13.B.3d Analyze the interaction of resource acquisition, technological
development and ecosystem impact (e.g. diamond, coal or gold mining;
• 13.B.3e Identify advantages and disadvantages of natural resource
conservation and management programs.
• 13.B.3f Apply classroom-developed criteria to determine the effects of
policies on local science and technology issues (e.g. energy consumption,
landfills, water quality).
• 13.B.3f Using available technology, report, display and defend to an
audience conclusions drawn from investigations.
RET Experience Correlation:
During my research experience this past summer I performed an environmental
research project in which I completed a life cycle assessment (LCA) of volatile
organic carbon (VOCs) for a CD or compact disc. This project involved an
extensive amount of scientific research via the Internet, scientific libraries, as well
as numerous manufacturing industries. Much of the information needed to conduct
such an assessment was not always readily available. However, I was able to
process the data collected with the guidance of Dr. Theis and utilize numerous
mathematical models to quantify emissions released during the manufacturing of
CD’s and how much our environment and humans are physically affected from
these emissions over 25 years.
3. Methodology or Experimental setup
This portion of my teaching module will be implemented during consecutive 40-minute
class periods for approximately two months. The project will require the use of the
computer lab or it could be done in my own classroom using the school’s class sets of
laptops with wireless internet access. The students will be utilizing the world wide web
as a research tool to collect information about LCAs as well as compact discs. Students
will use the data they have collected to produce a portfolio to creatively illustrate and
showcase their findings. Students will also utilize Microsoft Excel to organize this data
into tables and graphs. It may also be necessary to have students visit a scientific
library for the purpose of more in depth data collection, with the teacher as a facilitator.
As a result, we will plan to
4. Expected Learning Outcome
Students will be assessed on the following criterion.
• Completion of a LCA portfolio and report.
• Quantification of VOCs and human/environmental impact.
• Charts labeling compact disc manufacturing process.
• Organization of data into appropriately labeled tables and graphs.
• Written analysis and conclusions with respect to their data.
• Formal assessment (quiz) on knowledge of LCAs, human/environmental
The first unit, LCA Research Lab will be implemented in April and the second unit,
LCA Analysis will be conducted in May.
5. Budget section
6. Acknowledgment Section
Acknowledgment is made to the National Science Foundation for their continued
financial support of the RET Summer program and materials for classroom teaching