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April 22, 2019

An Earth Day Sorting Game—What Can We Recycle?

By Denise Boehm

Teach kids to care for the planet by separating recyclables and reusables from trash that will go in a landfill.

Grades 1–2

    Key Takeaways:

    • See how much your students really know about what happens to the things they throw in the trash.
    • Help your students sort through real trash to show them just how much actually heads to a landfill.
    • Teach your students that small changes add up and that everyone can do their part in making Earth Day every day!

    How can second graders help the Earth? They can get smart about garbage!

    I created a lesson and game to show them how. And I did it with “The Great Garbage Strike,” an April 2019 issue of Scholastic News.

    My lesson had 2 parts:

    1. We read the magazine.
    2. We played a game that showed how much of our trash can be reused or recycled.

    Here’s how it went:

    Activity One: We Read the Issue, “The Great Garbage Strike”

    In vivid words and pictures, Scholastic News showed our class what happened when sanitation workers went on strike in New York City in 1968. When my kids saw the photos of the piles of trash in the streets, they were baffled. They wondered why someone wasn’t coming to clean it up.

    It was because the sanitation workers were on strike! This was a new concept for my students. The majority of them had no idea what a strike was and how it could affect their lives. We had some great discussions about what would happen if teachers, sports coaches and even moms and dads went on strike. They had some childlike optimism on how to end the strikes, but they definitely understood the gravity of the situation, and it was a great social studies tie-in.

    Scholastic News is great for teaching social studies and science—and providing digital resources to deepen knowledge and understanding. With each issue, there’s a vocabulary slideshow that defines and illustrates words like sanitation, strike, compost, recycle and landfill.

    The issue had already explained what a landfill is, but the slideshow helped drive the meaning home.

    Activity Two: We Played the Trash Sorting Game

    Next, we discussed how we could possibly make less trash. The two most obvious answers were recycling and reusing. Once we had all of this knowledge in our pockets, we played a game to see just how much trash ends up in a landfill, but actually could have been recycled or reused. I wanted to teach kids to be better informed about what they throw away and what they can recycle.

    Next, we discussed how we could possibly make less trash. The two most obvious answers were recycling and reusing. Once we had all of this knowledge in our pockets, we played a game to see just how much trash that ends up in a landfill actually could have been recycled or reused. I wanted to teach kids to be better-informed about what they throw away and what they can recycle.

     

    Here’s how we did it:

     

    • I collected a big bag of “trash” from home, including cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, wrappers, empty bottles and jars, straws, various wrappers, paper, junk mail, fabric scraps and some other random items. 
    • I labeled three bins: Recycle, Reuse, and Landfill.
    • We took our big bag of trash and bins outside.
    • I lined up the bins and placed the Landfill bin furthest away from the kids. That’s because putting something in a landfill should be the last resort—it’s the worst for the environment—so they had to run further to reach that bin.
    • I put the Reuse bin closest to the kids—that’s the best for the environment.
    • I put the Recycle bin in between the other two bins.
    • I had the kids line up behind the big bag of trash and they took turns running their item to the bin they thought made the most sense.
    • When we were finished, we looked at all of the bins and found that we needed to do A LOT of rearranging! Many of the kids threw things in the Landfill bin that could be recycled, some things that could not be recycled ended up in the Recycle bin, and the Reuse bin was nearly empty!
    • We then brought the bins inside and looked for recycling symbols on the items inside. We had to explain how something could be reused or upcycled into something else. I also had the kids ask for help from the rest of the class before tossing something into the landfill to be sure that was the only option. 

    Things went a lot slower the second time around, and they were surprised to see how many things could be reused or recycled. In the end, the landfill pile was still the largest, unfortunately.  

    This whole game gave them a real-life glimpse of how taking just a few minutes to think or read a label can keep things out of a landfill and help protect our environment.  

    Additional Ideas:

    • Have students bring this game to a younger class and let them be the teachers. Have them share what the recycling symbol looks like and where to find it. Let the little kids sort the trash and have the bigger kids guide them.
    • Make Earth Day posters for your school with these ideas and hang them in common areas of the school.
    • Assign a fun homework project based on upcycling or reusing. Have the kids give discarded items new life and bring them to school to share their creations!

    Happy Earth Day!

    If you’re looking for a way to bring fun, hands-on lessons like these into your classroom, I highly recommend trying Scholastic News for yourself. Sign up for a FREE 30-day trial, and discover how Scholastic News can help you engage students in seasonal science and social studies topics all year long.

     

    —Denise Boehm teaches second grade in Florida. She also writes the blog, SunnyDaysinSecondGrade@blogspot.com

    Key Takeaways:

    • See how much your students really know about what happens to the things they throw in the trash.
    • Help your students sort through real trash to show them just how much actually heads to a landfill.
    • Teach your students that small changes add up and that everyone can do their part in making Earth Day every day!

    How can second graders help the Earth? They can get smart about garbage!

    I created a lesson and game to show them how. And I did it with “The Great Garbage Strike,” an April 2019 issue of Scholastic News.

    My lesson had 2 parts:

    1. We read the magazine.
    2. We played a game that showed how much of our trash can be reused or recycled.

    Here’s how it went:

    Activity One: We Read the Issue, “The Great Garbage Strike”

    In vivid words and pictures, Scholastic News showed our class what happened when sanitation workers went on strike in New York City in 1968. When my kids saw the photos of the piles of trash in the streets, they were baffled. They wondered why someone wasn’t coming to clean it up.

    It was because the sanitation workers were on strike! This was a new concept for my students. The majority of them had no idea what a strike was and how it could affect their lives. We had some great discussions about what would happen if teachers, sports coaches and even moms and dads went on strike. They had some childlike optimism on how to end the strikes, but they definitely understood the gravity of the situation, and it was a great social studies tie-in.

    Scholastic News is great for teaching social studies and science—and providing digital resources to deepen knowledge and understanding. With each issue, there’s a vocabulary slideshow that defines and illustrates words like sanitation, strike, compost, recycle and landfill.

    The issue had already explained what a landfill is, but the slideshow helped drive the meaning home.

    Activity Two: We Played the Trash Sorting Game

    Next, we discussed how we could possibly make less trash. The two most obvious answers were recycling and reusing. Once we had all of this knowledge in our pockets, we played a game to see just how much trash ends up in a landfill, but actually could have been recycled or reused. I wanted to teach kids to be better informed about what they throw away and what they can recycle.

    Next, we discussed how we could possibly make less trash. The two most obvious answers were recycling and reusing. Once we had all of this knowledge in our pockets, we played a game to see just how much trash that ends up in a landfill actually could have been recycled or reused. I wanted to teach kids to be better-informed about what they throw away and what they can recycle.

     

    Here’s how we did it:

     

    • I collected a big bag of “trash” from home, including cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, wrappers, empty bottles and jars, straws, various wrappers, paper, junk mail, fabric scraps and some other random items. 
    • I labeled three bins: Recycle, Reuse, and Landfill.
    • We took our big bag of trash and bins outside.
    • I lined up the bins and placed the Landfill bin furthest away from the kids. That’s because putting something in a landfill should be the last resort—it’s the worst for the environment—so they had to run further to reach that bin.
    • I put the Reuse bin closest to the kids—that’s the best for the environment.
    • I put the Recycle bin in between the other two bins.
    • I had the kids line up behind the big bag of trash and they took turns running their item to the bin they thought made the most sense.
    • When we were finished, we looked at all of the bins and found that we needed to do A LOT of rearranging! Many of the kids threw things in the Landfill bin that could be recycled, some things that could not be recycled ended up in the Recycle bin, and the Reuse bin was nearly empty!
    • We then brought the bins inside and looked for recycling symbols on the items inside. We had to explain how something could be reused or upcycled into something else. I also had the kids ask for help from the rest of the class before tossing something into the landfill to be sure that was the only option. 

    Things went a lot slower the second time around, and they were surprised to see how many things could be reused or recycled. In the end, the landfill pile was still the largest, unfortunately.  

    This whole game gave them a real-life glimpse of how taking just a few minutes to think or read a label can keep things out of a landfill and help protect our environment.  

    Additional Ideas:

    • Have students bring this game to a younger class and let them be the teachers. Have them share what the recycling symbol looks like and where to find it. Let the little kids sort the trash and have the bigger kids guide them.
    • Make Earth Day posters for your school with these ideas and hang them in common areas of the school.
    • Assign a fun homework project based on upcycling or reusing. Have the kids give discarded items new life and bring them to school to share their creations!

    Happy Earth Day!

    If you’re looking for a way to bring fun, hands-on lessons like these into your classroom, I highly recommend trying Scholastic News for yourself. Sign up for a FREE 30-day trial, and discover how Scholastic News can help you engage students in seasonal science and social studies topics all year long.

     

    —Denise Boehm teaches second grade in Florida. She also writes the blog, SunnyDaysinSecondGrade@blogspot.com

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