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Grades 3-5

Through science principles, students will explore what it means to recycle and how it saves energy.

  1. Explain to the class that we use materials from the earth every day, from the food we eat to what we drink out of to what we wear. Some of these materials are nonbiodegradable. That means that they can’t decompose or break down on their own. We recycle many of these items. Other materials, such as food scraps and plants, can be composted. That means that they decay and turn into fertilizer that can be used to help soil.
  2. Ask students:
    • What items get thrown away on a typical day? (Write students’ responses on the board. Items might include bottles, cans, newspaper, paper, apple cores, eggshells, and lunch containers.)
    • Which items are biodegradable? (Put a “B” next to these items.)
    • Which items are recyclable? (Put an “R” next to these items.)
    • How can recycling help save energy? (It can take less energy to make products from recycled materials than from raw materials. This can help reduce pollution and conserve natural resources. Recycling also helps reduce the amount of trash going to landfills.)
    Have students research all items that can be recycled or composted. They will discover that few items have to be thrown away.
  3. Next make copies of the student reproducible and hand them out to students. Read the page together and explain to students that they are going to track how much they recycle in a week.
  4. When the week is over, ask students:
    • Were you surprised by how many items you recycled?
    • How many items did you have to throw in the garbage?
    • How many of you compost or would like to try composting?
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