According to Usethisbag.com, the average person in the US throws out almost five pounds of garbage daily. Added up over a year or a lifetime, that is a lot of trash that each of us is contributing to our environment. Some of these discarded items take hundreds of years to breakdown, expanding landfills and harming the surrounding environment.
Helping children become aware of how much trash we throw away can be one of the first steps to creating a generation that takes responsibility for keeping our planet clean. Ask families to drop off plastic bottles that they collect over the period of one week. Place the bottles collected by one family (anonymously) in a pile and ask children to notice how much space the bottles take up. Next, add the bottles that another family collected. Ask children what they notice about the pile. Continue to add to the pile and ask children what they notice. Talk about the fact that the final pile is just one week’s worth of plastic. Ask what it would be like if there were two or three piles of the same size… then 10 piles, 20 piles, 50 piles. From this conversation, you can transition into a conversation about efforts to cut down on the amount of trash that is thrown away.
Discuss ways that families can reduce the number of bottles they throw away. Are there other kinds of containers that could be used. For example, show the children a reusable water bottle. See if the children can think of ways to reuse plastic bottles. For example, they could be used as watering cans for your class garden or used in an art project. You can also talk with the children about recycling programs in the community. Invite someone from the community into the program to talk with the children about recycling or use some of the resources below to guide your conversation.
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