Efficient waste management is a major prerequisite for reaching sustainability as every one of us produces waste. Thus, educational interventions need to offer promising assistance to reduce individual waste as much as possible to promote environmentally friendly behavior beyond stereotypical notions about waste disposal. Those who know about all facts and circumstances are more likely to correct their behavior. Our hands-on module for fifth graders was designed and implemented to support “4R”: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover, by retracing waste’s usual journey from collection management to incineration plants. The first module focused on minimizing waste by recycling, reusing and reducing it. The remaining waste was the second module’s core, which explained the waste-to-energy path using an age-appropriate functional model of how to effectively generate energy from waste. Both modules are suitable for outreach (informal) implementation as well as for formal classroom learning. The third module comprised either an onsite visit to an incineration plant or a classroom multimedia presentation. A total of 276 fifth graders participated in our three-module implementation study, completing three questionnaire cycles: two weeks before the intervention, immediately after and six weeks later. A subsequent analysis showed a clear pattern: knowledge scores increased immediately after participation and remained constant for at least six weeks. Surprisingly, no significant difference between the multimedia and outreach group appeared. When applying a semantic differential, two response pattern factors, “Relevance” and “Interest”, showed significant intercorrelations, as well as positive correlations with knowledge scores. In consequence, learning about waste management matters, and produces short- and long-term effects.
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