Many of the composition teachers at UAF take their classes to the local transfer station, often early in the semester as part of the Observation Unit. This semester I taught a week-long dumpster diving unit, as part of my Analysis Unit. I thought others might be interested in seeing how else you might incorporate the transfer station, beyond just using it an observation exercise.
Dumpster Diving Week:
Monday: Field trip to Transfer Station
Wednesday: Dumpster Diving as a Lifestyle
Friday: Dumpster Diving and the Public. Entering the Broader Conversation.
I taught this in 3 classes, but it actually was a bit rushed. If your students are into the subject matter, you could go a little longer.
One definition of a Transfer station: “Location of Dumpsters from which many Alaskans obtain a decent living. Social status in Fairbanks circles is always enhanced when one makes a good find at the transfer station. It’s not Dumpster diving, it’s wealth acquisition.’ David A. James
Day One: Field Trip
This was basically the typical observation activity. They had a handout to do at the transfer station, and a take home assignment. (See “Dump Visit” file above.)
Day Two: Reading and Discussion
I taught from the 50 Essays Anthology, which contains the essay “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner. This looks at dumpster diving from a personal essay perspective. You could use this essay in multiple ways, but I spent half a class discussing the reading and then moved on to look at what broader conversation might exist over dumpster diving and transfer stations. A few years ago, there was an attempt to ban dumpster diving in Fairbanks, and that was extremely controversial. Fairbanksans love their dumpster diving! It seemed like a perfect opportunity to look at different genres (newspaper articles, letters to the editor, editorials), analyze an issue, and talk about ways we could enter a broader conversation. My class was in the Analysis Unit, so this fit in perfectly. I spent about half a class laying the groundwork, and for homework they read a packet of articles from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner (“Dumpster Diving packet”).
Day Three: Dumpster Diving and the Public
I began class by having students tell me the rhetorical situation of the articles and asked them to brainstorm the different issues/conversations they noticed in the articles. I then asked them different ways they could “join the conversation.” In others, what might they argue? We brainstormed arguments/thesis statements as a class. I spent about half the class on this, and then had the students break into small groups to write mini-essays (a couple paragraphs). (I have previously written about mini essays in a post on my garden gnome liberation unit.)
We could easily have spent more time analyzing the arguments and genres from the Newsminer packet. I could also have done more follow up with the actual essays they wrote in class. For example, we could have looked them over as a class to discuss thesis statements, sentence level edits, etc.
Anyway, if you’re into dumps, here are a few ideas to get you started!