Activity #1: Why is Recycling Important & What is Sustainability? (45 min)

Black Text = Directions
Italic Text = Script

“Does anyone know what recycling is? Tell to your shoulder partner even if it is just a good guess or hypothesis.”

Share out ideas.

“Why is recycling important? Tell a different person what you think.”

Share out ideas.

Pass out the Recycling Survey for as a pretest of the children’s knowledge of recycling practices in their community. For younger children, instead of passing out papers, read each question and collect a tally for each answer. Collect the papers to compare with the end of the unit survey.

In order to understand why conservation and recycling are important, read the article to the class: “Conserving Earth” from National Geographic.

“Now why do you think recycling is important? How can individuals have a less negative and more positive impact on their environment?”

Share out ideas.

“Did you know that this is how long these items take to break down in a landfill?

  • paper: 2 – 4 weeks
  • orange peel: 6 minutes
  • milk carton: 5 years
  • plastic bag: 15 years
  • tin can: 100 years
  • plastic bottle: 450 years
  • glass bottle: 500 years
  • styrofoam: never

Now let’s watch this video to get an idea of what happens when someone puts an item in the trash which could have been recycled compared to when that item is carelessly thrown on the ground compared to when that item is recycled.”

Watch: TedTalk: What really happens to the plastic you throw away? | Emma Bryce

“What part of that video helped you understand why recycling is important?”

Share out ideas.

Read the book: Recycle! A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons

“Why is recycling important? What are the sorts of things you can think to do after listening to the author’s message?”

Share out ideas.

“If we keep throwing away that which can be recycled, do you think we could run out of that type of material to use in the future? Yes! You are right! Does anyone know what it means to live sustainably? Sustainability refers to the need to develop models and implement systems which preserve, prolong and replenish supplies necessary for both the human race and planet Earth to survive. How is recycling a practice that ensures the sustainability of the materials for people to use in the future?”

Share out ideas.

Begin a classroom recycle bin. Save the recycling in order to sort them later in the lesson.

For the following lessons:

  • Request that students collect several pieces of what they think might be recyclable from home, the school cafeteria, or their classroom.
  • Deliver a copy of the Recycling Research Guide to the custodian prior to their presentation in order for them to easily answer the children’s questions.