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Pollution and Recycling Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ENH0002
Submitted by: Leigh-Ann Savinda
Email: lesst16+@pitt.edu
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Date: September 14, 1999

Grade Level(s): 2, 3


  • Health/Environmental Health

Duration: 90 minutes (follow up in 4 weeks) Description: This lesson focuses on three types of pollution and how students can work together to recycle.

Goals: Students will:

  • become more aware of our environment.
  • read and listen to more facts about our earth.
  • apply some techniques about how to take care of our planet.

Objectives: The students will be able to: 1) define new vocabulary words relating to land pollution.
2) read facts about pollution and explain why the statements are problems.
3) brainstorm solutions to our pollution problem.
4) create flowerpot landfills and discover what types of trash turn into soil and what types of garbage take a very long time to break down.
5) sort and recycle paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum products.
6) write journal entries about what they learned.


  • Story Book by Leedy, Loreen (1991). The Great Trash Bash . New York: Holiday House
  • garbage
  • pollution statement notecards
  • posters
  • flowerpots
  • small stones
  • soil
  • jars of water
  • newspaper
  • plastic wrap
  • assorted pieces of garbage:

    1. vegetable scraps and leaves
    2. plastic foam objects
    3. paper products
    4. plastic objects

Procedure: Anticipatory Set:

Write the date April 22 on the board.
Ask the students if they know why this day is special – Earth Day
Ask them what they think Earth Day is about.
Tell them that one thing people do on Earth Day is recycle.
Ask them for a definition of recycle and put the definition on the board.
Ask the students why garbage is all over the floor.
Ask the students where the garbage should be.
Ask students to help pick up the garbage.
We will organize the garbage into recycling piles.
Ask the students what was all over the floor. – litter
Ask the students for a definition of litter.
Put the definition of litter on the board.
Ask the students if they have ever seen litter.
Tell the students we are going to be talking about different types of pollution this week and how we can work together to decrease pollution.

Continuation of Lesson:

Ask the students for a definition of pollution.
Put the definition of pollution on the board.
Tell the students there are three areas on earth where we find pollution.
Give the students prompts for guessing the types of pollution.

The first type of pollution was demonstrated with all of the garbage on the floor. What type of pollution was that?
What area of the earth do cars, airplanes, and factories affect when they give off fumes?
If we saw garbage along seashores and in streams what kind of pollution would that be?

Tell the students we will start by talking about land pollution, but we will talk about all three by the end of the week.
Divide the students into 5 groups.
Tell them that each group will read two facts about waste. Each group’s job is to decide why those facts are problems.
Each group’s material person will choose two fact notecards from the table at the front of the room.
He/she will return to his/her group and share the facts with his/her team members.
After they discuss why these facts are problems, each group’s reporter will read his/her group’s statements.
Tell the class why his/her group thinks they are problems.
After all of the groups have read their fact cards, the students will be asked what we can do about our trash problem.
A list of students’ ideas will be written on the board.
The great trash bash will be read.
(This book could be read in a readers’ theater format.)
A discussion will follow the book. Ask questions like:

What were some things in the story that we talked about before?
Can anyone name something from the story that we didn’t talk about?

Tell the students that the book mentioned three places where we can put everyone’s trash.
Ask them if they can name any of them.
Write the students answers on the board.
Ask for definitions. Put the definitions on the board and explain them.
Ask the students what the problem is with putting everyone’s trash in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. Closure:

Explain to the students that we are going to make our own miniature landfills in flowerpots.
Tell the students that they will be divided into 4 groups. Each group will get one flowerpot with stones at the bottom.
Each person will have a job depending on which paper you pick out of the bag.

The jobs are:
green thumb/recorder (gets the flowerpot and newspaper, writes out the label of the group-members’ names, and puts the flowerpot on the empty book shelf after the activity)
garbage collector (gets the garbage for his/her group)
gardener (puts the soil in the pot)
water lover (waters the flowerpot)

Demonstrate for the students that each gardener will fill the flowerpot with soil until it is about one-third full. Show the students where about one-third is on the flowerpot.
Tell the students each group will receive one type of garbage:

Group 1 -vegetable scraps and leaves
Group 2 -paper products
Group 3 -plastic products
Group 4 -plastic foam products

Tell the groups that once they receive their garbage they will cut, tear, or break it into small pieces and scatter the pieces over the soil.
The gardener will cover the garbage with soil until the flowerpots are almost filled
The water lover will water the flowerpot until it is soaked through, but not flooded.
The green thumb/recorder will write the group members’ names on a label and stick it on the flowerpot. He/she will put the flowerpot on the empty book shelf.
Explain to the students that the flowerpots will be covered and kept in a warm, dark place for the next four weeks. Tell them we will be adding water to the flowerpots to keep them moist.
Tell the students we will dump out the flowerpots in four weeks to see what has happened to the garbage. IN FOUR WEEKS:

The students will dump out the contents of their flowerpots onto sheets of newspaper.
The children can use sticks to spread the soil to see what has happened to the garbage.
The groups can compare results. Ask the following questions:

What kinds of garbage have begun to turn to soil?
What kinds look just the same (only dirtier) than they did when they were first buried?

Explain the difference between good garbage (turns into soil) and bad garbage (takes a very long time to break down)
Ask the students what they think will happen to the garbage. Do you think it will all disappear?
Tell the students to take out their journals and write about something they learned today.
Tell the students that tomorrow’s lesson will be about air pollution.
Tell the students to be alert for air pollution tonight and they can share their findings with the class tomorrow. Assessment:

The students will be assessed on their:
a) input during our discussion on pollution.
b) attention during the story will be noted.
The class will be observed during the making of our flowerpot landfills.

Other References:
Berger, Gilda. Where does all the garbage go? – teaching guide. Newbridge Communications Inc., 1992.

Macmillan Early Science Activities – Environment. Newbridge Communications, Inc.,