October 7, 2015
by Brandy Metzger

Lesson plan

Taking Out the Trash

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Grade Subject

Students will be able to recognize activities that have negatively impacted the physical environment of the U.S. Students will be able to develop ideas of how to improve the physical environment of the U.S.

(10 minutes)
  • Explain to your class that today, they will be learning about the history of garbage and the impact that garbage has had on the environment of the United States of America.
  • Start a discussion about garbage to assess your students' prior knowledge. Great questions include: What is garbage? What happens to garbage that can't be recycled? How would you define the word environment? What sort of impact do you think garbage has had on our environment?
  • After some discussion, define the word environment as the natural world in which we live.
  • Show students a picture of a landfill and ask them some questions about it. Great examples include: What is this? Why does it exist? What sort of impact do you think it has on the environment?
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out a copy of the garbage timeline to each student, and review it together.
  • Encourage the class to share examples of their own personal use of the items in their daily lives.
  • Highlight the first item on the timeline, and discuss as a group what tin cans are used for.
  • Share with students one way to reduce the use of cans is to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
(30 minutes)
  • Have students each pick a partner, or pair off students to work together on an assignment.
  • Instruct each pair to choose three items from the timeline, and discuss what they could do to use less of those items. For example: We can use less paper towels by using more reusable towels while cleaning and cooking.
  • Draw a t-chart on the board, and label the first column Current Use and the second column How to Reduce. Use an example to illustrate how you'd like your students to fill out the chart, by showing their current usage of an item in the Current Use column, and a solution for using less in the How to Reduce column.
  • Ask students to create their own chart on a piece of lined paper, or in their notebooks. Instruct them to fill in the chart using the three items they chose from A Garbage Timeline.
(30 minutes)
  • Give each student a piece of construction paper.
  • Ask students to create a poster to persuade people to cut down on their use of one item listed on the timeline, and offer suggestions for alternatives.
  • Enrichment: Instruct more advanced students to write a script for a television commercial that offers alternatives to one waste product. The commercial should include actionable steps people can take to reduce waste.
  • Support: Allow students who need more support to rely more heavily on pictures (rather than words) when creating their posters. Encourage these students to present their posters to a partner, discussing the various ways to reduce waste they've listed.
(15 minutes)
  • Give students a quick quiz asking them to list three waste materials, and what could be done to reduce or eliminate use of these items.
  • Gauge your students' understanding of the impact that waste materials have on the environment by reviewing their posters.
(15 minutes)
  • Prompt your students to each share one thing they've learned during this lesson, and one thing they can personally do to improve the environment.

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