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We use rubbish to solve local problems and develop scientific literacy

Rubbish Science

location_on Sierra Leone
Respecting indigenous thinking and innovation we systematise problem-solving using scientific literacy. People aim to solve local problems using rubbish and their learning journey is shared online globally so we can all learn from each other.

HundrED has not validated this innovation

Anyone can submit their innovation to HundrED Open. All information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been checked by HundrED. Innovation page has been created on January 31st, 2019
Key figures

Innovation Overview

8 - 18
Age Group
Updated on January 28th, 2021
about the innovation

Rubbish Science Journey

We want to shape the direction this project goes with you, our collaborators and contributors. We are not focussing on a destination it is the journey and what we can learn from each other that is most important.

It started in a rural school in Nepal where I found they had no scientific equipment. In the rubbish bin, I found some juice cartons and plastic bags and I made some pinhole cameras. The students loved them, then started asking questions. "What happens if we make the hole/camera bigger/smaller or put more holes..." I realised that it had lit a fuse that would lead them to explore and investigate and this could be done with rubbish. 

The next phase was to extend the range of investigations to include solving local problems. This led to the ideas of fly/mosquito traps, sterilising water, hydroponic plant systems and more using plastic bottles. Getting people to try and see rubbish as a resource and to reuse it rather than burning or burying it. 

It is hugely important to respect indigenous thinking and not to suppress unconventional problem-solving.  However, thinking is far more effective if it is systematised so a version of the scientific method is used. You can make a fly trap from a plastic bottle in a few seconds but what bait should be used? What position should it placed in?  What colour should it be?  You could spend a lifetime optimising this design- Google will not tell you the best solution. It is unlikely that you will stumble randomly on the most effective fly trap so you need a scientific process to follow.

Rubbish Science is based on the idea that we make a claim - eg Milk makes the best fly trap bait. We then look to provide evidence to support that claim and increase our level of confidence that the claim is or isn't true. Why do I think milk? Well, the last time I was drinking milk lots of flies tried to land on it. I'm probably about 50% confident this is true. In order to find out if milk is the best, I need to do an experiment that will .....

Students are taken through the scientific method with design thinking each time they do a Rubbish Science activity. This thinking is transferable to all aspects of life and can help empower some of the most disadvantaged people on the planet.

Another phase we are currently building is an infrastructure that allows students to digitally share their learning journeys with others. We are hoping to connect learners globally to do the same experiments and share their results and thoughts on a level playing field. We want to connect the richest and the poorest to learn from each other.

We would like you to join us to share this journey. We only need you to have an open mind :)


Achievements & Awards

May 2019
January 2019
Innovation page created on

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