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Discovering the Problem of Solid Waste
Administration Procedures

4th-5th Grade Performance Task
Developed by Lake County Educational Service Center, Illinois


Students examine and sort waste items in a garbage can, categorizing and charting the items on a graph, and proposing a solution to reduce the amount of solid waste in the garbage can.

This task assesses students' abilities to observe, classify, collect data, organize data, interpret data, graph, and hypothesize.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Science in Personal and Social Perspective

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Properties of objects and materials

Science and technology in local challenges

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data

National Science Education Standards:

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.4 Use data to construct a reasonable explanation. This aspect of the standard emphasizes the studentsí thinking as they use data to formulate explanations. Even at the earliest grade levels, students should learn what constitutes evidence and judge the merits or strength of the data and information that will be used to make explanations. After students propose an explanation, they will appeal to the knowledge and evidence they obtained to support their explanations. Students should check their explanations against scientific knowledge, experiences, and observations of others.

1.5 Communicate investigations and explanations. Students should begin developing the abilities to communicate, critique, and analyze their work and the work of other students. This communication might be spoken or drawn as well as written.

4 B PS 1: Properties of objects and materials: Grades K-4
1.2 Objects are made of one or more materials, such as paper, wood and metal. Objects can be described by the properties of the materials from which they are made, and those properties can be used to separate or sort a group of objects or materials.

4 F SPSP 5: Science and technology in local challenges: Grades K-4
5.1 People continue inventing new ways of doing things, solving problems, and getting work done. New ideas and inventions often affect other people; sometimes the effects are good and sometimes they are bad. It is helpful to try to determine in advance how ideas and inventions will affect other people.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades pre K-5 a. sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades pre K-5 f. represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs

CON3: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics:
Grades pre K-5

REP1: Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas:
Grades pre K-5

REP3: Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.


  • 1 plastic trash can
  • 1 desk protector
  • 7 crayons - different colors
  • paper towels
  • trash items:
    • paper - 10 items
    • plastic - 7 items
    • metal - 6 items
    • yard waste - 4 items
    • food waste - 3 items
    • glass - 1 item
    • others - 5 items

Advance Preparation:



  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • Task does not easily lend itself to including mathematical criteria in the rubric.



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