Skip to main content
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension

Email Subscription

or follow our RSS feed

Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.


IISG and the Windy City Earth Force team up to empower Chicago students

IISG education team members Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy partnered with the Field Museum's Earth Force Program to work with students and teachers on raising awareness within the Calumet community about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Earth Force engages 7th and 8th grade students in action projects that address environmental issues in their community. The Windy City Earth Force is part of the museum's Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP).

Pharmaceuticals in Our Waterways Workshop

The project was kicked off by an invitation from Angie Viands, the Field Museum's community conservation specialist, to co-present at an Earth Force teacher workshop held at the Sand Ridge Nature Center on October 21, 2011. Terri provided background on the issue of improper disposal of unwanted medicines and personal care products. Educators learned why it is necessary to understand the impacts of improper disposal of PPCPs as well as the actions they can take to improve Great Lakes ecosystem health. Using IISG education resources, The Medicine Chest and Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medicines:4-H Guide, Terri shared selected activities that educators can use to encourage students to become stewards of their watersheds. For more information about curriculum and service-learning projects, visit the "Tools for Schools" page.

IISG educators make classroom visits

Terri and Robin visited Earth Force project classrooms on December 8 and 9, 2011, to teach students about the PPCP disposal issue and to help teachers and students develop successful community projects. Activities were selected from IISG's The Medicine Chest, "It's What You Can't See" education tabloid developed by Pennsylvania Sea Grant, and other curriculum materials.

Participating teachers included Ms. McNeal from R.A. Black Elementary School, Ms. Millner from Bennett Elementary, Ms. Whitehead from Medgar Evers Elementary, and Ms. Pettis from Thomas Hoyne Elementary. Ms. McNeal's students are members of an after-school science club, while the other teachers instruct formal science classes.

Student Summit

Students from four schools in the Calumet region developed community-based information projects that were showcased at a youth summit held at Chicago's Field Museum on May 8, 2012.

Thomas Hoyne Elementary

The 7th grade students in Ms. Pettis's class set a goal to find out the potential health concerns for both humans and animals caused by PPCPs within our water supply. They developed many information products to raise awareness about how people contribute to pollution. Examples of some of their projects included:

  • Letters to stakeholders, including businesses, legislators, state agencies and environmental organizations to inform them about contaminates within the waterways and the importance of water quality standard improvements;
  • Flyers they distributed to inform the public, family and friends about the issue of contaminates and how that they can make a difference in their community;
  • Posters placed in local businesses and churches with the slogan "Stop Pollution in our Water: be green, stop pollution, and save our earth."
  • School-wide surveys to determine the pollution tolerance index rating for various aquatic species; and
  • E-mails to the editors at Southtown Star newspaper and requesting them to publish their classroom project.

The final display at the Summit included how personal care products (PCPs) can be harmful in waterways and additional steps people can take to help solve this problem. Students displayed sample PCPs that are often found in aquatic ecosystems. Their intention was to raise awareness of contaminants in water.

Bennett Elementary

Students in Ms. Millner's class created a poster display, "Don't Trash it! Bag It!". They researched both disposal methods for medication and proper disposal methods for hair care products and cellphones.

The students educated their fellow classmates in other classrooms about these proper disposal methods and gave out literature for hundreds of students to take home to their family members. The literature included guidelines about using either coffee grounds or kitty litter to dispose of the unwanted medicine in the trash or to bring these pharmaceuticals to a medicine collection site or a community collection event.

Students commented that this service-learning project helped their community because people really need to know how hair care products get into our waterways and can endanger aquatic species. The message was that people need to use up hair care products instead of throwing them away. They found Earth to be a useful site to visit for information about how to properly dispose of PCPs. A Bennett Elementary student said, "I'm doing a big part in the community. People should wake up to it so that our environment can be more pure".

Robert A. Black Magnet School

Students in Ms. McNeal's after-school science club got the word out about proper disposal of PPCPS by creating a rap song that shared with their community that aquatic life is in danger and we all need to find a solution. Check out the rap on the Rx for Action video playlist (click on Robert A. Black Magnet Student PPCP Rap). In addition, they developed a flyer about how to help dispose of medications so that they do not end up in water and mutate fish. They made an important difference by making community members aware of the location of the nearest police station medicine collection box. This made it convenient for people to dispose of their unwanted medicine.

The "Undo the Chemical Brew" education project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Check out the latest information by visiting

Guest Post by Terri Hallesy

Please share this article with your friends!
Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Pin on Pinterest

Read more posts from this blog


Email will not display publicly, it is used only for validating comment

Posted by Laura Kammin at 2:10PM on 6/12/2012
Categories: For Teachers