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General Science and Teaching

Recycling ideas to implement in the classroom

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Lucia Meras-Torres Lucia Meras-Torres 1040 Points

Hello everyone,
Hope all of you out there are having a wonderful Saturday!
My name is Lucy and I am an aspiring teaching currently in my first semester of Student Teaching at the College of Education in the University of Houston. My classroom is a 4thgrade Math & Science classroom, and I am reaching out to the science community for some help.
We recently covered the natural resources TEK and I closed our lesson with a conversation of the conservation of our planet and different way to do that. The kids loved learning about different ways we can help our planet and because of that I am searching ideas on how to implement recycling with in our classroom while having the students engaged. Unfortunately, the school is not a big supporter of recycling, but I would love our classroom to become one. Any thoughts, ideas or comments you have are extremely appreciated.  
Thank you,
Lucy Torres

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10275 Points

Hi Lucy!  I'm glad to see that your students are interested in helping the planet--they'll be the ones living on it! A few years ago in a blog I addressed a similar question, which might have some ideas for individual classrooms.   Recycling Efforts --  Mary B

Emily Faulconer Emily Faulconer 5755 Points

Aluminum cans are the most profitable material to recycle since the recycling process is cheaper than extracting aluminum from bauxite ore. Maybe you could have an aluminum can drive where students bring in aluminum cans from home and/or collect them from around the school (if your school has a drink machine with soda cans instead of plastic bottles). At the end of the collection period, you could use the money gained from taking the cans to a metal recycling facility and have an ice cream or pizza party. 

Emily Faulconer Emily Faulconer 5755 Points

This book chapter might have some ideas you could implement in your classroom. 

Marissa Strickler Marissa Strickler 1960 Points

Hi Lucia!

I am also a student, but I am at the University of Northern Iowa. I am an elementary education major with a math minor, who is currently in a science class. I think a good way to be a supporter of recycling would be to have different centers for different types of recycling. Allowing students to be able to physically recycle can get them more engaged than just talking about it. If you have your students bring things that they can/should recycle, then they can talk about it and be more involved with recycling. Having different centers would consist of metal, cardboard, or plastic, which could all be great ways to learn about the different types of recycling.


I hope this helps,


Rachel Bronson Rachel Bronson 2890 Points

Hello Lucy,

I'm Rachel Bronson and I'm a senior at the University of Northern Iowa majoring in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in Special Education. I am a huge advocate for sustainability and I am happy to see that you are wanting to implement recycling in your classroom! It's sad to hear that your school is not a big supporter for this movement, however there are many ways that you can introduce and incorporate recycling in your classroom. To start off I think it is important that you educate your students on some recycling facts. Did you know that plastic can only be recycled a total of 1 - 2 times before it is unable to be broken down and recyled, paper can only be recycled a total of 5 - 7 times before it is unable to be broken down and recycled, while glass and metal can be recycled infinitely? This is an impotant point to bring up with your students so that you can all try to limit your plastic and paper use when possible. Another obvious way to implement this is to ensure that your students are always putting their unwanted papers into the recycling bin. Along with this, you could have your students bring in their recyclables from home if their families are not currently recycling. Another point that I think would be important is to ask your school cafeteria if they are sending the leftover food scraps to a composting facility, or if they are just sending it to the landfill. When not disposed of properly, food will emit methane emissions unless it is composted. If your school does not currently do this it could be a fun project for your students to work on and petition for change! 

I hope these tips help!

Rachel Bronson

Aaron Grinstead Aaron Grinstead 1965 Points

Hi Lucy, I think it's great that you are getting your kids interested in recycling. You said that the school isn't a huge supporter of recycling, but I know that in the past I have learned about how if done right recycling programs can actually help schools save money. I think that if you get your students to research this topic and you help present it to your school. Your student could help bring a school-wide recycling program to their community, while at the same time allowing them to grow and expand their education in more ways than just science. 

Allison Evers Allison Evers 795 Points

Hi Lucy!

I really like haring that your students are so engaged and excited about recycling!  Something you could do is make a designated area for aluminum cans and paper for recycling.  Begin it in your classroom and if it is successful, you could reach out to another classroom, into the hallway, and hopefully throughout the school.  You could integrate math by tracking your collecting progress and mark it on a graph of sorts.  You could also reach out to the teacher who is in charge of writing and have the students write argumentative/persuasive papers on the benefits of recycling and have them present it to others in the school to sway them.  This small project could lead to many great things!

I hope this helps!


Lucia Meras-Torres Lucia Meras-Torres 1040 Points

Hello Mary! 

Thank you so much for sharing! I'll definitely check it out. 

Hannah Clark Hannah Clark 1805 Points

Hi Lucia, 

I love that you are wanting to get recycling into your classroom. I am sorry to hear that the school is not a big supporter of recycling. Is there a reason for this or is it not talked about a lot? I know now I see a lot of classrooms have their recycle bins and the cafeteria does too but I don't think it really teaches students about recycling. I think a great way for you to integrate it into the classroom is to do mini-lessons. You could start by showing the students the affects of not recycling and then have students bring in item to recycle. You could have a few totes for each type of recycling and have students sort items as well. Hands-on activities here is a great way to get students involved in recycling and see how it happens for themselves. I know for our kindergarteners we did a mini-lesson on aluminum cans. We had students bring in alluminum cans to be recycled. We talked about what happens when we don't recycle them and then what happens when you do. They were intriqued by the idea of collecting money for the cans. To them, they saw that recycling the cans benefited the environment and themselves. We collected the cans for a few weeks and then turned them in and used the money for a classroom party. Maybe if you show the school that kids are interested in recycling and the benefits, they may do a schoolwide 'earth day' or 'save the planet' month and see how much of a difference they can make. Best of luck with your student teaching! I will be there next year! 

Jacob Hayes Jacob Hayes 2220 Points

Hi Lucia,

Recycling is an important job, that all students should get involved in. I am genuinely suprised that your school is not a very big supporter of recycling. Is it a district wide mandate? Or did people just find the need to not have as much emphasis on the the benefits of recycling. Most of the schools were I am from have several receycle bins and recipticals located throughout the school and throughout the areas. I believe that implementing talks and a small unit full of activities that you could do. Even going over the fact that recycling can yield money is a great way to get students involved. Rewards are a great way to begin to get your students truly interested in the values of recycling. Next way is to talk to the principals and the president of the board to see if you could get an 'Earth Day' implemented. Best of luck with your school year. 

Natalie Skalla Natalie Skalla 2040 Points

Hi Lucia! I am currently a student at University of Northern Iowa studying elementary education myself! I will start student teaching out in Colorado here in the fall! I think having the conversation about our planet and conservation in the many ways is so important to share. I think one way to introduce the topic is bringing in things from home or things commonly used or seen in the classroom that is recyclable. This gives them a visual experience of things they use or have in their daily lives that they can recycle. I think this could be done in a series of lessons or could be done over a longer period of time doing it in steps depending on the lesson and topic. Showing students, the effects of not recycling and what a difference it can make. After you’ve had the conversation on recycling you could end the unit with integrating a recycling station in your own classroom. Having students in charge of themselves and recycling when possible. Even giving smaller jobs for the classroom like sorting the recycling, taking it, etc. This is teaching the students to take matters in their own hands and show them how they can be involved in helping out the environment. Sparking this interest with them in the classroom can hopefully spark it outside of the classroom bringing it back home.

George Mehler George Mehler 1575 Points

Hello fellow science teacher,
I am replying you behalf of Funsciencedemos YouTube Channel that is home to hundreds of free videos for ideas for teachers and students to recreate in the classroom. Science is our passion and we are so excited to share our engaging, kid-teacher-parent friendly, and interactive lessons with you to use in the classroom or at home. Our videos adhere to the common core science standards, encompass a wide variety of science concepts, and are specifically geared toward younger learners. All videos on the FunScienceDemos channel come with an English subtitle that can be translated into almost any language, making science lessons accessible virtually any place in the world.  
We encourage you check it out and spread the word! We post new science videos once a month, please subscribe our channel.
The FunScienceDemos Team

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