Paper to Paper

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SWBAT change paper to make paper by recycling paper materials.

Big Idea

Kids learn that used paper can still be useful instead being thrown away by making paper from used paper.


7 minutes

To start the lesson, I call one table at a time to come sit on the floor. Once all the kids are seated appropriately and ready to listen, I bring out a bag of clean paper trash. I dump the trash on the floor to excite the kids and get them interested in what we are about to do. I tell the kids that tons of paper trash gets thrown away every day and it's a waste.

I ask them to think silently to themselves for a minute about things they could do to through less paper away without making other pollution, like smoke from burning it. I set a timer for 20 seconds to allow them time to think. I then ask the kids to turn to their floor partner and share their ideas. I then call on several random students by pulling names from a name stick can to share with the whole class the ideas they shared. I record the ideas on the board as they share them. We will refer to them later in the lesson.

After we have several ideas on the board, I tell the kids that one way we can cut down on paper trash is to recycle it into something else. I explain to them that today we will use paper to make paper!


15 minutes

This exploration is teacher led because it has several steps for the kids to follow and can get confusing for the kids. When taught step by step, the kids have very little trouble completing the task.


per student -

  • one clear bottle, 3oz travel size
  • 2 sieves (screens) See "how to" video
  • 1 sponge
  • 1 self-stick note
  • 2 sheets of newspaper, folded in half twice
  • 8 squares of one-ply toilet tissue
  • 1 clear basin (1lb deli container, donated)
  • waxed paper (cut into 6x6 pieces)

whole class -

  • water
  • 1 quart pitcher


As the kids remain seated on the floor, I demonstrate how this exploration is done. I explain to them that once they are at their tables with their materials, they are to do nothing until instructed to because we are going to do everything together one step at a time.

  1. I hold up a clear bottle. I count out 8 pieces of toilet paper and put them in the clear bottle. I add water tot he bottle until it is 2/3 full. I demonstrate the safest way possible to shake the bottle for 3 minutes, until it is pulp.
  2. I show how they will set up their screen and poor the pulp into the screen by placing one screen on top of basin (1lb deli container), which I had donated by a local deli and shaking the bottle to get the last of the pulp out and into the screen.
  3. I place a second screen on top of the pulp and use a sponge to press down on it.
  4. Once the majority of water is removed and in the sponge and basin, I remove the screen "sandwich" from the basin and place it on the newspaper where I continue to press it using the sponge.
  5. After "all of the water" has been removed, I take off the top screen and lay a piece of wax paper over the pulp. I then flip the screen upside down and lift the second screen off.
  6. I roll the bottle over the pulp to flatten it. I then write my name on the sticky note and attach it to the wax paper. I leave the paper to dry overnight. If you live in a humid climate, you may need to let the pulp dry for two days.

Once my demo is over, I tell the kids that it is now their turn and remind them that we will be doing it together so they need to stay with me in the steps. They may not get ahead and if they fall behind, we will wait for them.

I dismiss one team at a time to their tables where their materials are already pre-bagged in one gallon baggies and placed in a tub for them. The only items not in the bags are the deli containers.

We follow the same steps as above, but slower. I monitor and assist as needed. I sometimes have parent volunteers or upper-grade students come in to assist. For the water part, I walk the room and add the water to each bottle if I'm by myself or I have the parents/assistants help if I have them. We also put the caps on the bottles. I let the kids do it the first year and they weren't tight enough. Water and pulp went flying everywhere!


10 minutes

I call the teams one table at a time to come back to the floor. I have the kids talk to their floor partner about their experience with making paper from paper. I have them share what they learned and what they noticed about the paper as it changed.  They are each given 20 timed seconds.

When they are done sharing with each other, I ask for volunteers to tell the class what they talked about with their partners.

As kids share, I encourage the audience to ask clarifying or probing questions to get more information if they need it.

After the kids have shared, I take out another bag of paper products to show the kids, but this time I show them one item at a time. I do this because I want them to focus on each item; they are all made from recycled paper. I tell the kids what each item is and what it is made from. The bag include the following items:

  • pencil
  • cup
  • note pad
  • bag
  • plate
  • napkin
  • craft paper

I ask the kids to think about how taking used paper and making it something new helps people, animals and the planet we live on.


10 minutes

The kids continue sit on the floor as I show them this four minute Youtube video about paper recycling made by National Film Board of Canada. As we watch the video, I pause it on at specific points to discuss what is happening since it is not narrated.

  • :36 paper moving from piles to working stacks
  • :42 paper being chopped into small pieces
  • :49 water being added to create pulp
  • 1:00-1:06 rollers to remove the water from the pulp
  • 1:20 wood is added to make the paper strong, but it's a lot less wood than non-recycled paper
  • 2:00 pulp and wood are mixed
  • 2:28 the newly made paper is run through a press to make it thin and even
  • 2:35 the paper gets dried and rolled
  • 2:49 the paper rolls are cut
  • 3:00 the paper rolls are wrapped for shipping
  • End (unseen) - the paper is sent to a paper company where it is cut into useful sheets like notebook paper, printing paper or drawing paper


8 minutes

Now that the kids have experienced making paper from used paper and watched paper be recycled on a video, they have a good idea what recycling is about and why it is necessary.

The evaluation is done in the science journals. The kids are asked to consider what other objects we use could be recycled and what they could be turned into. I encourage the kids to use the extent of their imaginations. There is no limit to what they can come up with.


I instruct them to draw a line down the center of the picture part of their journal page. They are asked to draw the original object on the left and what they will turn it into on the left.

They are then asked to write two or more sentences about their recycling idea below their pictures. I demonstrate on the board what they are expected to do. I draw a plastic soda bottle on the left and a park bench on the right. Below the pictures I write, "If I had 1000 plastic bottles I could make them into a park bench. I would melt them and form them into the bench."

As the kids work in their journals, I roam the room and ask the kids to explain to me what they are thinking and writing about. If there is something that doesn't work together, e.g. turning a plastic bottle into jello, I explain to the child that recycle materials cannot be turned into food. As long as the kids can justify their thinking, I accept their ideas as valid because we do not know what the science of the future holds.

Some questions I may ask include:

  • What does recycling mean?
  • Why use old paper to make new paper?
  • How is the paper you made different from the paper you started with?
  • How is the paper you made the same as the paper you started with?


Once all the kids are finished, I call them back to the floor one table at a time with their science journals. They share their ideas with their floor partner with me setting a timer for 30 seconds for each partner. Once they have all had a chance to share their ideas, I call on four random students to sit in the teacher chair and present their work. To choose the presenters, I pull four name sticks from the name stick can and call them up one at a time.


I design the evaluation of this lesson in this way for two reasons:

  1. It allows for creativity while assessing the learning
  2. It gives every child a chance to be heard and and their ideas recognized by talking to floor a partner while respecting class time by having only four kids present; everyone feels validated yet time is preserved