Recycling Lesson Plan for Preschoolers
- sort recyclables into categories,
- recognize that everyone contributes to the amount of trash created each day, and
- learn simple ways they can divert the amount of trash sent to landfills.
Boys and girls, today we are going to learn about trash. I am going to tell you all about the journey a piece of trash takes from your house to a great big place called a landfill. I’m also going to share with you how we can save some pieces of trash from going to the landfill. Listen carefully, the adventure is going to begin.
- Raise your hand if you know what trash is (or ask “what is trash?”)
- When you find something that is trash, what do you do with it? (Throw it away.) Where do we put trash? In the trash can/we throw it away.
- Who can name one thing you throw away in the trash? You will get a variety of answers. (Show them picture of trash in trash can [JPG].)
- When the trash is full, what do we do with the full bag of trash? The bag of trash is taken outside and placed either in a trash can or a dumpster. (Show picture of dumpster [JPG] or visit your facility dumpster.) A dumpster is a large trash can you can find outside child care centers, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
- Do you know what happens to the trash once you take it outside? A large truck comes by and picks up your trash. It is called a trash truck. (Show picture of trash truck [JPG].)
- Where does the trash truck take our trash? Tell them our trash goes to a large open space called a landfill. (Show them picture of a landfill [JPG].) When the landfill becomes full with trash it is then closed and we will have to find a new place for all of our trash to go.
- Sometimes we throw things away in the trash can that can be used again. They can be recycled. Recycling means taking something you were going to throw in the trash, such as a piece of paper, and turning it into something new and useful like a new book. You find a new way to use that item.
- We are going to look at four things we can recycle: paper, glass, metal and plastic.
- Lastly, do you know why we recycle? We recycle because it helps our earth in two ways:
- Our landfills don’t fill up too quickly, so it saves landfill space.
- Recycling helps save natural resources, like trees. Remember, recycling is when we take something no longer being used and turn it into something new and useful. Some items can be recycled again and again. Two examples are glass and aluminum.
- Show students various kinds of paper items: writing paper, paper towels, newspaper, tissue, toilet paper, paperboard, paper plate, cardboard, etc.
- Some of these paper items can be recycled with your curbside recycling or at local drop-off bins. (Show photo of curb-side recycle bin [JPG] and drop-off recycling bin [JPG].) Let’s take a look at what we can recycle and what we cannot:
- Paper items that can be recycled in most curbside bins: Newspaper, paperboard, cardboard, magazines and inserts, office paper and envelopes, catalogs and some will even take telephone books.
- Paper items that can be recycled in local drop-off bins: newspaper, magazines and phonebooks.
- Paper items that cannot be recycled: tissue, toilet paper, and paper towels.
- All of the paper items we just looked at are made from trees! (Show picture of tree [JPG] or visit your local school tree.)
- Show students various kinds of glass items: jar, window, drinking glass, plate, ornament, eyeglasses, light bulb, candle holder, etc.
- Some of these glass items can be recycled with your curbside recycling or at local drop-off bins. (Show photo of curb-side recycle bin [JPG] and drop-off recycling bin [JPG].) Let’s take a look at what we can recycle and what we cannot:
- Glass items that can be recycled with your curbside recycling or in local drop-off bins: clear, brown, green or blue glass used for beverage bottles and food jars.
- Glass items that cannot be recycled using your curbside recycling or local drop-off bins: all other glass items.
- The key ingredient in making glass is sand. (Show students container of sand.)
- Show students various kinds of metal items: aluminum can, steel (food) can, aluminum foil, pie pan, toys, pots and pans, baking sheets, etc.
- Some of these metal items can be recycled with your curbside recycling or at local drop-off bins. (Show photo of curb-side recycle bin [JPG] and drop-off recycling bin [JPG].) Let’s take a look at what we can recycle and what we cannot:
- Metal items that can be recycled with your curbside recycling or in local drop-off bins: aluminum cans, and steel (food) cans.
- Metal items that cannot be recycled using your curbside recycling or local drop-off bins: All other metal items you will need to check with your local area.
- Show students various kinds of plastic items: bottle, milk jug, toys, cup, plate, food container, etc.
- Some of these plastic items can be recycled with curbside recycling or at local drop-off bins. (Show photo of curb-side recycle bin [JPG] and drop-off recycling bin [JPG].) Let’s take a look at what we can recycle and what we cannot:
- Plastic items that can be recycled with your curbside recycling or in local drop-off bins: Look for the recycle symbol (show picture of recycle symbol [JPG]) with a 1 or 2 inside the symbol.
- Plastic items that cannot be recycled using your curbside recycling or local drop-off bins: Look for the recycle symbol (show picture of recycle symbol [JPG]) with a number 3-7, you will have to check with your local area. Plastics that do not have the recycle symbol printed on them are not recyclable.
- A majority of plastics are made from oil.
Note for Teachers:
Program Activity Examples
Preschool Recycling Curriculum in a Box contains each of the following: newspaper, piece of paper, aluminum can, steel can, plastic #1, plastic #2, glass container, pictures, lesson plan, and additional resources.
You may want to add additional items that are recyclable in your area and also those that are not recyclable in your curbside or local drop-off bin such as toys, paper plates, paper towels, fake food, plastic items without recycle symbol (such as bag of salad, chip bag, cereal bag, etc.), plastic utensils – the list is endless.
After you review with the students the most common items to recycle, inform the students you are going to place all the items on the floor. The pile on the floor represents a landfill. The landfill is full of items that can be recycled or reused, and some of the items in the landfill are trash and belong there.
- Let each student pick one item from the landfill.
- Each student will tell the group if the item picked belongs in the landfill or if it could be recycled or reused.
- If it is recyclable, they can place the item in the blue recycle bin.
- If it is reusable, have the student share with the group how the item they picked could be reused.
- If it belongs in the trash, have them return it to the landfill. If it is a paper, plastic, glass or metal item you may need to re-explain to the student that not all items are recyclable and why. A simple answer is that different plastic items are made differently, so some are easier to recycle than others. This answer works for all items.
Questions you can ask the student to help them decide if their item is recyclable, reusable or simply trash:
- What kind of item do you have? Paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc.
- What natural resource is used to make your item? Trees, sand, oil.
- If it is a plastic item, help them look for the recycle symbol with the number. They can then show the class the symbol.
- Glass items can be replaced with pictures.
For this activity you will need four brown paper bags, the size you get from the grocery store work well. On each bag you will write one of the following words: Plastic, Paper, Glass, or Metal. Each bag will represent one type of recyclable you talked about during circle time.
After you have completed Activity #1, ask the students to help you sort the items from the blue recycle bin. Tell the students that they are going to help you sort the items from the blue recycle bin into one of the four brown paper bags. Show them the four bags and demonstrate by pulling out a recycled item from the blue recycle bin. For example, if you pull out a newspaper show them that it goes in the brown paper bag labeled “Paper.” From there let each student have a turn picking one item out of the blue recycle bin and placing it in the corresponding brown paper bag.
How to Make Less Trash:
- Let students know you are going to look at the items and figure out how they can make less trash to help save natural resources and save landfill space.
- Hold up various items from the kit. Ask students what they can do with each item you hold up, such as a newspaper, instead of throwing it in the trash? They can recycle or reuse the newspaper. By doing this, they will help make less trash (save landfill space) and save natural resources.
- You can replace newspaper with any recyclable item and show them how they will make less trash and save natural resources.
- Buy only what you will need and use. This is a great way to make less trash.
- Ask them what happens if you buy too much milk and don’t drink it all? It might go bad before you could drink it and then you would have to throw the milk away. Even if you recycle the milk jug the milk was still wasted.
- Use reusable dishes instead of disposable dishes, such as cups, plates and forks.
- Donate unused items.