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No Ordinary Garbage: Students Transform E-waste into Thought Provoking Art

Sep 15, 2009

According to the UN Environment Program, an estimated 50 million metric tonnes of electronics waste (e-waste) per year is being thrown away, e-waste that most likely contains toxic substances that pollute the water, soil and air. Bringing much needed attention to this global crisis are two grade six classes from Sixteenth Avenue Public School in Richmond Hill, who created an art installation called e-Waste following their participation in the Toronto and Region Conservation's Weston Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow Program. The e-waste art work will be on exhibit at the Schad Gallery of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for the month of September.
"We wanted to create a meaningful environmental initiative in our school. As a result of the Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow Program students were quite enthusiastic about participating in a major project. The topic of "e-waste" couldn't be more appropriate in our age of ever-changing technology. Before the project, students had never stopped to think about what happens to obsolete technology and everyday electrical devices. I think students were shocked by what we found out - by just how critical of an issue this truly is around the world. We are so proud of the students and all of their hard work. We never imagined that the installation piece would make such an impact" says Araby Porter, one of the school's Grade 6 teachers.

The students participated in the Weston Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow Program's 2008/2009 session which inspired further action; a research project on e-waste.  The vision of the e-waste installation art project was to create a pile of old electronic and electrical devices that were considered broken or obsolete. The centre of their work consisted of a mound of electronics destined for the landfill including TV, computers, cell phones, toys, and kitchen appliances, which were then painted and carried a personal message from each student. The periphery of the piece was their literary work, essays, poetry, and letters that expressed their thoughts about their findings and about the need for people to re-think the issue of e-waste. Penny Lam, Grade 6 teacher and visual arts specialist, says "the process in which the students created their individual pieces of art work was multifaceted.  They needed to design a symbolic, visual experience that would convey their concerns for a real global issue that was so specific and relevant to their time. This challenged them to access prior knowledge on the principles and elements of design as well as artistic technique and media. Ultimately each piece of work was unique and together they created a magnificent work of art that delivered a strong message."

"We are proud of the efforts of these students and their teachers to not only create a powerful piece of environmental art, but also their actions to make sure that others learn from it," said Darryl Gray, Acting Manager of Education, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA). "We have just completed our second year of the Weston Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow program and we're seeing that students want to tackle these issues if they are given the chance to. Many of the students had never heard of the term e-waste or thought about what happens to the products once it hits the landfill; it's not only amazing what they took away from the program, but what they are inspired to do when they leave the program."

The Weston Leaders of Tomorrow Program is generously supported by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto, and TRCA. The program ensures that 60 classes of grade 6 students from the GTA will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in environmental leadership and learning  both at the Lake St. George Field Centre in Richmond Hill and in their own school. The program is defined with three core guiding principals in environmental leadership, community action, and ecological literacy.

Toronto and Region Conservation
With over 50 years of experience, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) helps people understand, enjoy and look-after the natural environment. Our vision is for The Living City®, where human settlement can flourish forever as part of nature's beauty and diversity.  For more information, call 416-661-6600 or visit us at

Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is an agency of the Government of Ontario. Opened in 1914, Canada's largest museum of natural history and world cultures has six million objects in its collections and galleries showcasing art, archaeology and natural science.

Renaissance ROM is an ambitious expansion and heritage renovation project that reasserts the Royal Ontario Museum as one of North America's great museums and a leading cultural attraction for the city, province and country.  Renaissance ROM continues until 2010 with several new and renovated galleries to be created at the Museum.

For 24-hour information in English and French, please call 416.586.8000 or visit the ROM's web site at


For more information, photos and/or interviews please contact:

Rowena Calpito
Supervisor, Media Management  
Toronto and Region Conservation
Tel: 416-661-6600 ext 5632


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Media contact:

Elizabeth Oakley
Tel: 416-661-6600 ext 5856

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