Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension


Maybe you are interested in service-learning projects related to this topic but aren’t quite sure where to begin. If that’s the case, we encourage you to browse through some of the projects below to spark your own creativity. The Medicine Chest curriculum has a chapter devoted to student stewardship projects. There you will find all the tools you need to get students excited about raising awareness in your community.

Students have shown there are lots of ways to help protect water quality—whether it is giving a presentation to city leaders to encourage them to start permanent medicine collection programs, writing songs or poems to teach other students and local citizens about this issue, or creating artwork for medicine collection boxes. We would love to hear from you about how your class is getting involved. If you have a project you’d like to share, please complete this short form.

Please keep in mind that the projects listed below were created by students and they are responsible for the content of the materials.

Windy City Earth Force Student Projects

Earth Force engages youth as active citizens to improve the environment and their communities. Educators use the Earth Force Community Action and Problem Solving model to incorporate service-learning and civic action into the classroom using a six-step process. Classrooms engaged in the Calumet Environmental Education Program in Chicago have been learning about the issue of proper disposal of PPCPs and developing service-learning projects.

Students from Pullman get the word out about proper medicine disposal. Photographer John WeinsteinGeorge M. Pullman Elementary
Students at George M. Pullman School explored their local watershed. They visited nearby Sand Ridge Nature Center, tested water from the pond, and inventoried the macroinvertebrates to get a snapshot of water quality. They also conducted a news media search and learned about various watershed issues. IISG educators visited their classroom to explain how improper disposal of pharmaceuticals affects watersheds.

The students eventually decided to address the root cause of the problem by working to educate others about proper medicine disposal. They spoke to the local school council about their project and obtained permission to go out in the community to educate others. These students created an informational banner to hang in their school. They also made educational brochures for nearby residents that encouraged them to dispose of pharmaceuticals properly and informed them about a local collection event.

A student passes fliers to residents waiting at the local train station to inform them of a local pharmaceutical collection event. Photographer: Laura SentenoNinos Heroes Elementary
Students at Ninos Heroes Elementary have been spending the past two years learning about watersheds. To learn more about local water quality, they tested water from several locations—Rainbow Beach, Calumet Park, Sand Ridge Nature Center, and the school’s water supply. Guest speakers also talked to them about local watershed and water quality threats. IISG educators involved students in hands-on activities that demonstrated safe disposal of PPCPs. In addition, the students watched a short video, The Story of Cosmetics, that really caught their attention because it made them think about all the ingredients in personal care products that we use every day.

Signs with information about the collection event were hung up throughout the school and in the storefronts of local businesses.The class researched the chemicals in personal care products such as soaps, shampoo, and deodorant. They found that many of the products have contaminants that affect waterways, which led them to identify alternative products that contain environmentally safer ingredients and the companies that produce them.

Ninos students took action to address the threat of pharmaceuticals in the water in several ways. They publicized a drug collection event held at the local police station. Students distributed the flyers about the collection event at the local train station and gave them to fellow classmates to take home to parents. A small group of students put together a short presentation, which they shared with the rest of the school. Posters were displayed throughout the school and in the windows of neighborhood businesses. A few students created a public service announcement that explained the proper disposal of PPCPs.

Environment Erie Student Projects

Environment Erie Student Projects Environment Erie was formed from Earth Action and Pennsylvania Lake Erie Watershed Association (PLEWA). Its mission is to encourage the sustainability of the community’s natural resources through watershed protection and restoration efforts and to promote environmental stewardship, especially among youth.

A 6th grader on the Earth Action CHAMPS team reads a story about PPCPs to 3rd graders.Jefferson Elementary School
The Green Team at Jefferson Elementary School chose PPCPs as their Earth Action Project, focusing on personal care products. They read articles and researched products using the Internet and the Pennsylvania Sea Grant Erie Times News Dose of Reality: Remedies to Keep Everyday Chemicals Out of our Water. The students were amazed at the chemicals that are in everyday products. They put up bulletin boards in the school to raise awareness of the problem and they made PPCP storybooks for younger students. The students presented their project at the Earth Action Student Summit in May 2011.

Students designed surveys for the general public, and placed them in pharmacies and other public places.Junior PA Lake Erie Watershed Association
JrPLEWA did a project focused on the impact of PPCPs on water quality and aquatic and human health. Students also researched take back programs in other states and Canada. The problem of pharmaceuticals in waterways was chosen as the topic to investigate for their Earth Action Project. Their ultimate goal is to influence Pennsylvania legislation.

The students interviewed people in the community to learn what they do with their unused pharmaceuticals. A survey was posted online and on the NIE page in the Erie Times News, and it was distributed at local meetings in schools, at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, and at pharmacies. The majority of the survey takers reported that they flush their unused medicines or put them in the garbage. The students also interviewed pharmacists. They found that over half of the pharmacists interviewed tell their customers to flush their unused pharmaceuticals.

Students met with Senator Jane Earll in Harrisburg to discuss a pharmaceutical take-back bill.The students contacted state legislators to get information about current legislation and the probability of introducing a new pharmaceutical take back program bill in the 2011 session. They met with legislators in early January and agreed to go to Harrisburg in the spring to sit in on a legislative session and meet with them again.

The students gathered information about the impacts of pharmaceuticals on fish and other aquatic organisms contributed by flushing pills and discarding pills with everyday trash. Finally, they prepared recommendations for state representatives to include in a new bill.The culminating event was a 4-day trip to Harrisburg in June 2011 to meet with the House Northwest Pennsylvania Legislative Caucus to give them recommendations for a Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Take Back Program Bill that they hope will be introduced in the spring of 2012.

Fort LeBoeuf Earth Action ProjectFort LeBoeuf Earth Action Project
Students from Fort LeBoeuf attended the Earth Action Youth Training Day on PPCPs where they learned about the impacts of PPCPs on water quality and human health from Pennsylvania Sea Grant. The students recorded all the personal care products they used at home and researched the products using the Cosmetic Database website. They wrote letters to companies that sell safer products. The students also helped spread awareness of the issue by participating in the Earth Action Billboard Design and Commercial Contest,  advertising safer personal care products at a nearby day spa.  They also presented information about personal care products at an International Youth Videoconference.

New York Sea Grant, Great Lakes Program - University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo students made pill-shaped cookies, which provided “food for thought” as they shared their message about improperly disposing of medicines.The thirty students enrolled in the Great Lakes Ecology course at the University at Buffalo tackled the problems associated with PPCPs going down the drains of households around the Great Lakes basin. Their creativity and genuine concern were evident in the public awareness projects they designed to educate others. A group of engineering students focused their efforts on investigating the effectiveness of wastewater treatment procedures and shared that information with the class. Learning that plants aren’t able to remove PPCPs made the students more resolved to keep them out of the environment.

This decal includes information for reducing the amount of personal care products used and proper disposal of unwanted/unused medicines. It was created by Ben McPherson.

Some groups used Facebook and Twitter to reach thousands of their friends and contacts to survey their behaviors and knowledge about use and proper disposal of PPCPs. The survey results indicated that a majority lacked awareness about the problems or proper disposal. Other students developed posters that they displayed around the university, targeting dorms and restroom facilities on campus, to encourage students to think before they flush. One student designed stickers for bathroom mirrors in the dorms and student apartments that asked: “What are YOU putting down the drain?”.

P2D2 Program

The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) Program is a collaborative effort among pharmacies, police departments, hospitals, city officials, students, and others. The program integrates science, health, social studies, and the arts to educate students about proper disposal of pharmaceuticals. Then students apply what they’ve learned by teaching their community about ways to reduce environmental impacts and prevent accidental poisonings and drug abuse. The P2D2 Program was started at Pontiac High School in Illinois. The program has helped communities around the country start their own successful medicine collection programs.

Jordyn Schara was a high school freshman when she launched the Wisconsin P2D2 Program A P2D2 medicine drop box is located at the Illinois State Police District Six Headquarters. The graphics were designed by Pontiac Township High School art students. This billboard was designed through a partnership between Charleston High School and Pontiac Township High School. IT was designed by Chris Ashmus, a Pontiac Township High School student whose class participated in the P2D2 program.

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