Sustainable Concrete practical activity

Concrete possesses many qualities that makes its use popular in construction. It does, however, have negative impacts on our environment. These include:

  • carbon dioxide production,
  • use of large amounts of energy, and
  • the use of very limited resources.

In the activities collated here, students explore the topic of concrete and its associated issues, investigate sustainable alternatives in the production of concrete, develop their experimental design and critical thinking skills, engage with and develop practical skills, and learn about sustainable chemistry. The experimental activities allow students to explore different variables in the preparation of concrete, and to develop their own methods for strength testing. We have included videos of the preparation and testing to give you an idea of what it looks like. The activities have been tested in multiple schools and work reliably.

These resources were prepared by undergraduate students in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University. We’d like to thank Adrian Bui, Annyke De Lange, Flynn Jamieson, Hamish McManus and Nu Tra Mi Than for preparing this fantastic set of resources!

For teachers you will find a PowerPoint file that you can download and modify. There are two versions, one with embedded videos, and one with links to the videos on our Youtube channel. The PowerPoint presentation is designed to show your class before you do the activity, and covers:

  • An introduction to concrete, explaining the popularity and uses of concrete
  • Discussion of the environmental impacts of concrete
  • Links to the the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Sustainable alternatives that can be used in the production of concrete
  • An explanation and videos discussing and demonstrating the different steps to the practical activity
  • Discussion of the chemistry related to concrete
  • Pre-practical questions and post-practical questions and discussion

Other files that we have prepared include:

  • A student handout, providing a simple method for the sustainable concrete practical.
  • A set of teacher notes for the practical, including safety considerations.
  • A suggested lesson plan, set out over a course a few lessons, with extra links to separate resources.
  • A Excel document that you could use to collate student group results, depending on what materials your class use.

You are welcome to modify any of these documents to suit your teaching. We would love to know how you go! Please email us if you have any questions.

Finally, here are two videos that show the practical activity, including preparing the concrete samples, and testing them (filmed by our amazing undergraduate students!)