Trash class: Studying society through trash

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Local teachers Joe Franzen and Thom Coffee recently gave their students a first hand experience on a archeological dig where they learned about a strange and unknown culture.

But they didn't have to get on a plane to Egypt or Israel. In fact, they didn't even leave their classroom - they just had to root through the trash from the teacher's lounge.

Franzen and Coffee, both history teachers at West Middle School, recently gave their students a lesson in garbagology - the study of trash.

For the exercise, Franzen and some students put down plastic mats, put on plastic gloves and brought a bag of garbage into the classroom from the teacher's lounge.

Students examined the number of candy wrappers and health food products in the trash.

Franzen said students can learn about the values, habits, and lifestyles of people simply by looking through their trash.

He said the students learned a lot about the teachers' eating habits and how much time they have to sit down and eat.

"It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was educational," he said.

Franzen said a professor at the University of Arizona started doing the garbagology experiment with college students. He said the students learn a great deal about archeology through the exercise and have fun while doing it.

"They learn about our own society and they are also learning how to do archeology," he said.