A Southern California company called Trash for Teaching, or T4T, is taking trash destined for the landfill and reusing it to teach kids about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. In California, STEM is a learning initiative designed to teach kids core learning objectives in the state’s biggest job sector. Approximately 75-percent of the jobs in California are STEM-related careers, according to Steve Stanton, the co-founder of T4T.
Steve launched T4T along with his wife Kathy back in 2004. It started as a small project in the couple’s garage, but today has grown to process thousands of pounds of trash in a warehouse located in Gardena, CA. T4T gets its trash from area businesses with surplus materials and through donations. For example, Costco donates about 100-lbs. of scratched or defective eyeglass lenses to T4T each week.
It also collects other materials ranging from plastics and glass tubes to fabric scraps and Styrofoam. The materials are stored in dozens of large bins and sold to area school teachers, scientists and students.
The company periodically hosts workshops for teachers and special events for students interested in engineering or related fields. Kids learn about a wide range of engineering concepts, including material uses, design, color theory, physics and structural integrity. T4T’s after-school program is expected to be available in 150 area schools next year.
Teachers, students, artists or anyone else can stop by the T4T warehouse every Wednesday and second Saturday of the month to purchase materials. Members pay a $100 annual fee plus $1 per lb. of material. Non-members can purchase materials at a rate of $2 per lb.
Companies like Trash for Teaching show how recycling and reusing “junk” can teach kids about the core principles of science and engineering. Maybe more importantly, it teaches kids about the importance of responsible waste removal and reusing. It gets kids to use their imagination and creativity – two important skills underutilized by many kids in today’s age of Internet and video games.