Where Does Our Garbage Go?

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SWBAT explain what happens to garbage and give examples of ways we can reduce the waste

Big Idea

Students learn what happens when we throw things away!


This lesson teaches students what happens to garbage after is it thrown away using media and a non-fiction picture book as resources. 

I teach the Essential Standards - click here to listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question. This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 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)." As students learn about how we throw things away in landfills that may or may not decompose, they will begin to understand the importance of recycling and reusing products. 

This lesson also aligns to Science and Engineering Practice 6, 'Generate multiple solutions to a problem' and 8, 'Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information by reading grade appropriate texts to obtain technical information'.


*Book - Where Does the Garbage Go? by Paul Showers

*Internet/access to YouTube videos

 *Pictures of the garbage from your classroom - 1 picture (8 x 10 printed) per 2-3 students (or you can use these: Classroom Garbage 1, Classroom Garbage 2, and Classroom Garbage 3)

*Black markers


Warm Up

10 minutes

To begin this lesson, I ask students the essential question for today. I say,

"Today's essential question is: 'What happens to our garbage?' Does anyone have an idea?"

As students begin talking about garbage, I listen to see what their background knowledge is so that I know how much they already know and to see if they have any misconceptions. Then I say,

"We are going to read this text together today to answer that question. Then, you're going to do a little exploring of your own. Ready?"

I read the text Where Does the Garbage Go? to the class and stop to talk about important concepts as necessary on each page. Learning scientific concepts through texts supports both CCSS Reading Information Text standard 1.2, retelling topic idea and details, and Science and Engineering Practice 8, as students obtain information about the topic.

After reading, I ask the students to tell me some important things they learned about landfills and garbage and I record their ideas on an Anchor Chart that they can reference during the activity.


15 minutes

After reading the text I say,

"Now we are going to watch a short video that explains a little more about where the garbage ends up for us - in a landfill. The video shows what kinds of things end up in a landfill. While you watch, think about whether you throw those things away!"

This video discusses what people think is in a landfill and what is really in them, which is actually quite surprising. After the video, I say,

"Now, you are going to do some thinking about our own classroom and what we throw away. I have taken some pictures of our garbage for the past few days and you are going to work with 1-2 partners to look at the pictures and determine what we could try to reduce in the future. When I give your group the picture, take a few minutes and talk about what you see, then I will give you more directions". 

I give each group a 8 x 10 printed picture of the garbage. Instead of giving all of the directions up front for this activity, I wait until they are really interested based on what is actually in the garbage. Then, I say,

"Now, you are going to circle the things in your photograph that will end up in a landfill. Think about what we saw in the video and talk about it with your partners before you make your choices. Use the black markers, but be careful - you cannot erase your choices!" 

After about 5 minutes when the groups are done, I collect the markers and ask students to meet me back on the carpet for a discussion. 


Wrap Up

10 minutes

When we are gathered together on the carpet, I say,

"What did you find in our garbage?"

After students give some responses about the pencils, paper, and plastics they saw, I say,

"What might be some things we could do to stop filling up the landfills?"

This discussion supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, evaluating and communicating scientific ideas. It also lays the foundation for students for truly understanding stewardship by starting in our own environment - with our own garbage! Generating multiple solutions to a problem supports Science and Engineering Practice 6.