In celebration of Earth Day 2023 on April 22, why not set up some good sustainable practices? Part of this can be creating a recycling lesson plan for young children. We’ve already put together some ideas for learning to love our environment in celebration of Earth Day. Hopefully, the lesson plan below will help inspire preschool kids to minimize the amount of waste they and their families produce and to stop sending so much stuff to landfill.
What can you teach your students?
After the lesson plan, your students will be able to do the following:
- Sort recyclables into categories
- Recognize that everyone contributes
- Learn to reduce what’s sent to landfill
Why should you recycle?
- Recycling protects our valuable planet
- Recycling saves energy
- Recycling saves clean air and clean water
- Recycling saves landfill space
- Recycling can save money and create jobs
- Recycling can help protect animals
Learning what can and cannot be recycled
Learning what’s possible to recycle is important to learning to live more sustainably. As you have learned here, the key to reducing emissions is the 5 Rs. Refuse, reduce, rot, reuse, recycle. It’s important to reduce the amount of waste we produce every day, but where that’s not possible we must recycle. The importance of recycling cannot be underestimated.
All items that can be recycled will have the recycle symbol (sometimes called the Möbius loop). Give the students some hands-on experience and ask them to look for the recycle symbol on the following items. Turn this into a recycling game by piling together some items made from recycled materials, some recyclable products, and some not recyclable items. Ask the kids to pick one by one which items can be recycled. Once you have two piles of recyclable items and non-recyclable items make sure the kids are clear on the following everyday items.
Paper: egg cartons, newspapers, and magazines
Glass: jars, bottles
Plastic: plastic bottles, water bottles, and some food packaging
Metal: aluminum cans, brass, and steel items
Next, use your recycling bins and ask the kids to add the recyclable items to the correct recycling bins. Now that all your recyclable items are in one pile, ask the kids to separate the items into their own recycle bins.
Do a trash clear-up as a field trip. Go outside to an area and do a trash clear up. The kids will see how important it is not to litter; it’s bad for the environment and makes their mess someone else’s problem. Put all the trash in the trash can and all the recyclable items in your recycling bins.
Teach your kids how to make less trash. Break them into small groups and ask them to answer the following questions:
- 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 newspapers 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 they 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. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the packaging that contributes to emissions.
- Use reusable items instead of disposable single-use items such as plastic bags, paper towels, and straws. Or, if they cannot be recycled, check out this guide for activity ideas of how you might reuse some items for art projects.
- Donate unused items.
With the above ideas, you’ve got a good basis to start teaching pre-k and preschool kids about the importance of living sustainably and recycling. The kids will enjoy the puzzle of figuring out how they can contribute positively to our natural world. Having recycling bins and doing this at school is a really good behavior to learn for young children. It’s vital to inspire the younger generations to care about our planet and the ways they can help protect the world for generations to come.