Packaging is an important part of our everyday life, even if we don’t realize it. From an early age, we’re handling packaging and making decisions about it almost daily. Picking out toys and household items, buying food at the grocery store, checking labels on clothing in the store, sending and receiving packages in the mail. These are just some of the ways we interact with packaging on a day-to-day basis.
When Atlantic’s Kyle Dunno visited his daughter’s 1st grade classroom in Charlotte, NC, he brought some fun packaging materials (bubble wrap!) and a cool experiment they could all do together. The idea was to introduce the kids to the role that packaging plays in protecting products while also showing them how science experiments can be fun – at any age.
This experiment was called “Which Packaging Materials Provide the Best Protection?” The students were shown four different types of material – large bubble wrap, small bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and paper – and were asked to make a hypothesis (or educated guess as the kids noted) as to which would have the most protection for an egg.
They picked the bubble wrap.
The students were then divided into 4 groups, each with a different material to wrap their eggs. Together, they picked a drop height that would be consistent for every egg package they tested. In this case, it was a bookshelf that was about 4′ from the ground. Kids would drop their packaged eggs to the floor from the bookshelf and chart which eggs survived and which broke using smiley and frowny faces.
Can you guess which material provided the most protection in this 1st grade experiment?
That answer surprised the packaging expert in the room but was a great teaching point that experiments don’t have right and wrong answers, they provide information and help us understand the “why” and “how” of a question.
Kyle’s aim was to talk to the kids about careers in packaging, and jobs where you actually get to break stuff and then figure out how to protect it to keep it from breaking again. He also encouraged the kids to pursue the process of thinking, of asking questions, and trying their own experiments.
He left the students with an assignment for their Research Resource Journals: to ask a question, do their own experiment, and write about it. They’ll pick another fun project for next time. Maybe one that won’t have him cleaning so many broken eggs off the floor.
Though packaging is everywhere around us, sometimes it takes an expert to help us appreciate it, and to remind us just how fun science can be!