Stewardship: Our Responsibility

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SWBAT give examples of stewardship including recycling and reducing what we throw away.

Big Idea

Who would throw away a plastic bottle?!? Not us! We recycle!


This is the first lesson in the unit on stewardship. My students have a solid understanding of living organisms and habitats, so it makes sense to now teach them how to preserve those things! Stewardship is caring for the Earth and the things that live here - including us! In this lesson, I introduce the idea of stewardship with a realistic fiction text and engage students in sorting recyclables.

I teach the Essential Standards and this lesson aligns to 1.L.1.3, "Summarize ways that humans protect their environment and/or improve conditions for the growth of the plants and animals that live there (e.g., reuse or recycle products to avoid littering)". Click here to listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question. This lesson also supports Science and Engineering Practice 2, using models and physical replicas for scientific inquiry. 


*Book - Why Should I Recycle? by Mike Gordon (or another text that explains the importance of recycling and stewardship)

*Centers for recycling practice such as Cards with picture of recyclables or actual recyclables to sort, or purchased recycling sorting centers like these two from Lakeshore (Recycling Game & Recycling Center).

*Science Journals, pencils


Warm Up

15 minutes

To set the stage for this lesson, I first show a few pictures: garbage dump, garbage dump 2, and garbage in the ocean. This immediately gets my students outraged! I say,

"Have you ever thought about where your garbage goes? Those pictures are all real places where garbage is dumped. Today, we're going to talk about stewardship. Stewardship means caring for the Earth and our environment. At the end of the lesson, I am going to ask you how we could change those places that you just saw".

Then, I read the book Why Should I Recycle? to the class. Afterwards, I say,

"What was the message of this book? How do you know? What were some of the details?"

As much as possible during science, I incorporate literacy skills, such as CCSS RI 1.2, identifying the main topic and retelling key details from informational text. It really supports growth in both literacy skills and understanding the scientific content by connecting those two subject areas in this way.


15 minutes

Day 1 -

After reading the text, I say,

"Now  you are going to have some experience sorting some recyclables on your own. There are a few different activities and we will rotate today and tomorrow, so do not worry - you will get to do everything!"

We only have time to do one round of centers today, but the students will continue the rotations tomorrow.

The three centers I have set up include 2 purchased recyclable sorting kits, some recycling cards to sort, and some internet games set up on two computers and my SmartBoard. Here are the games:

National Geographic Recycle Round Up

Amazing Recycle Ma-Whooztiz Machine

Trash Troopers


Day 2 -

To maximize time in the centers today, I say,

"We're going to get started quickly and do 2 different centers today. Find your name on the board again and find where to start".

 As students work in the centers, I sit and help in the sorting centers to make sure students really understand what they are doing with the sorting. Since this is not an assessment lesson, it is my job to continue to teach while the students are in the centers. That means that I am engaged with them the whole time they are working. Watch as two of my students talk about sorting and catch a misconception - Students Talking about Sorting.

The reason I chose to use centers for this lesson is because I can quickly provide multiple types of experiences with sorting recyclables through centers. I don't have enough of any one of the materials to do this whole group, so centers makes sense. Having students do the sorting in multiple ways also gives them more experience to deepen their understanding of how recycling works.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

After we have finished about 15 minutes in all 3 centers, I say,

"Put your materials back in the tubs and come to the carpet please. Let's talk about those pictures again!"

I show them the 3 pictures of the garbage that we started this lesson with and I engage them in conversation about how we could change those garbage dumps. The purpose of this is for then to connect their experiences with the models in the centers to a real life situation. After the conversation, I say,

"I hope you learned some things today that we can do in our classroom and in our own lives to help this problem of too much garbage! What is one thing you could do?"

Having this conversation with and between students supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. They obtained the information during the center activities, they evaluated by connecting the information to 2 real life situations (the pictures and their own classroom) and they communicated by contributing to and listening to the conversations.