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Price Check: What is the True Cost


Students worked on international teams to investigate global issues surrounding the science of packaging, consumerism, and sustainability. In conjunction with a school in Hyderabad, India, students in Raleigh, North Carolina dissected the life-cycle of products, analyzed current packaging trends, and developed innovative packaging solutions.

With the support of MWV, an international packaging solutions provider, lessons and project guides were created for a nine week thematic unit. This website includes highlights and resources from this thematic unit entitled “Price Check: What is the True Cost?”.

“Price Check: What is the True Cost?”


Did you know that it takes less than seven-seconds to decide whether you will buy most items? What influences us to make those snap decisions? Advertising? Packaging? The product? This theme unit investigated what drives consumer behaviors. Students examined often overlooked pieces of our environmental impact by analyzing the “stuff” in our lives...what we own, buy, consume, and discard. Inspired by Annie Leonard’s short film The Story of Stuff (, we followed the life cycle of products from extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. We considered the hidden costs, human costs, and environmental costs of our “stuff.”

In addition to Annie Leonard’s perspective, we addressed the costs to businesses as they tackle sustainable design. We partnered with employees at MWV’s Center for Packaging Innovation in Raleigh, NC. MWV’s emphasis on sustainable packaging was an excellent match as students embraced the challenge of finding possible solutions.

Material World and Hungry Planet, the poignant books by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, increased our awareness of packaging and consumption in other countries. To gain further insight into global packaging we partnered with Jubilee Hills Public School in Hyderabad, India to complete our theme projects. Our schools communicated using various technologies such as VoiceThread (, and video web-conferencing. Together, our students completed projects that created a better understanding of each other and the global issues surrounding the science of packaging, consumerism, and sustainability.

By the end of theme unit, students completed three projects: the Packaging Improvement VoiceThread Project, the Innovative Packaging Design Challenge, and the Product Life-Cycle Analysis.

Packaging Improvement Project

Students at Exploris Middle School and Jubilee Hills Public School analyzed local packaging and suggested an improvement in protection, convenience, and/or sustainability. Selected packaging underwent a series of lab tests. Final project work was published on VoiceThread. Using VoiceThread, students from both schools analyzed and dialogued about the suggested packaging improvements.

Innovative Packaging Challenge Working on teams guided by MWV mentors, students embraced the design process to create a packaging solution that was sustainable, innovative, convenient, and protective. Students’ solutions were assessed by MWV employees.

Product Life-Cycle Analysis

Students studied one phase of a product’s life cycle: extraction, production, distribution, consumption, or disposal. Each group wrote, filmed, and edited their phase in the product’s life to create one chapter of the class video. All five video chapters were compiled together and the entire life-cycle story was published on the Internet.

Included here are lessons about packaging and project guides for the Packaging Improvement Project and the Innovative Packaging Challenge. Additionally, there are tips for starting a relationship with a partner school and additional content resources.

Please contact Sonja McKay ( should you have any questions regarding the posted content or other areas of this project.