Lesson Plan: How Can We Increase Recycling in Our School?

Invite students to brainstorm ideas.

Lesson Plan: How Can We Increase Recycling in Our School?

In this lesson, students will use the scientific method to increase recycling in their schools and communities. Use it with grades 3-8 to teach the core concepts of science and community outreach. Print the PDF below for a worksheet to use with the lesson.


Key Question: How can schools and communities increase participation in recycling programs?


1. Engage: Introduce the Topic


Teacher: Lead a classroom discussion about the recycling or other environmental programs at school and in the community.


Student: Answer questions like:

  • What items can you recycle or compost at your school?
  • Does everyone at your school recycle or compost?
  • Why is it important to recycle?
  • What do you think would increase participation in recycling?

2. Explore: Go to the Lab


Teacher: Put students into groups and work with them to identify an aspect of their school’s recycling or other environmental program they want to improve. It’s OK if there’s no existing program. Next, help teams devise an accurate way to gather baseline data and a meaningful strategy for increasing participation.


Student: Work with your group to identify a single, measurable activity around recycling you can improve in your school or community. For example, you might set a goal to collect a certain number of bottles and cans by a specific date. You can also look to get involved in recycling programs, like Recycle Rally. Write a plan with several measurable goals you will try to accomplish. This could include educating others, hanging up posters or signs in the community, adding recycling bins, signing up for a school recycling program, etc. Then spend at least three weeks implementing your new strategy.


Lesson Plan: How Can We Increase Recycling in Our School?


3. Explain: Take Notes


Teacher: Introduce the scientific method, identifying and defining the main steps: Question, Research, Hypothesis, Experiment, Conclusion. Put each step on its own sheet of chart paper and place each sheet in a different part of the room. Have students go around the room and write on the chart paper how they used each step to implement their plan. Note: This part will likely happen while your project is going on, so they’ll be in the middle of the experiment phase. Lead discussions about how you will tackle the rest of the scientific method with this project. Hand out the “My Scientific Method on Recycling” worksheet to encourage students to keep with their project and use throughout the process.


Student: Think about the parts of the scientific method you’ve already completed during the project. Identify parts of the scientific method that you still need to do. Fill out your worksheet and use it as a tool throughout your project.


4. Elaborate: Review and Extend


Teacher: Guide students in a discussion about what steps of the scientific method they have completed and what their next steps could be. For example, ask them to think about how they might refine their strategy for improving recycling participation (hypothesis) and test it further.


Student: Return to the steps of the scientific method and finalize your plan. Which steps have you completed? Which steps do you think you should go back to and do again?


5. Evaluate: Check For Understanding


Teacher: Assess students on the steps of the scientific method by asking them to describe each step and give specific examples of how the steps correspond to their efforts to increase recycling at their school.


Student: Really think about (and write about) how you completed the steps of the scientific method through this project. How did it help you create a good plan to increase recycling in your school and community?


Love this lesson plan? Try another one titled What Items Can You Recycle?

Increase Recycling in your School & Community Lesson Plan (Grades 3-8)

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