Promote recycling through schoolwide activities that encourage active participation. Not only will the children learn while doing the activities, recycling projects will also make the school a cleaner and greener environment. Make the projects more interesting by setting goals and encouraging healthy competition among classes. Recycling projects can be incorporated into Earth Day activities, or practiced year-round.

Take Precautions

Before students examine the contents of any receptacles, teachers or supervisors should remove any hazardous objects from the containers and check for items that might spread disease. A responsible adult should oversee the examination at all times.

Decoding Trash

Identify and create charts to categorize the various waste materials the school generates. Create bar graphs and flow charts to determine the destination of the trash. Examine the items that typically end up in a classroom waste basket. Separate the contents into different types of material: paper, metal, plastics, organic material and glass. Record the results in a notebook, or on the chalkboard for the whole class to see. Continue this project with an interview with the maintenance personnel. Find out what happens to the classroom trash and where it goes from there. Divide the class into groups to investigate the trash generated in different areas of the school, such as the art room, music room, home economics, gymnasium, office and cafeteria. Compare results and graph the findings.

Composting Project

Make a classroom compost pile to show how natural materials can be recycled. After getting permission from the administration, find a location for the compost pile with the help of the maintenance department. Ask for donations of a few supplies to get started such as a garden fork, lumber, mesh screen and soil thermometer. Construct an enclosure, or ask a willing volunteer to create the walls to hold the compost. Add layers of dry material, grass clippings and organic material from lunch, except for milk and meat products. Study how the various materials are decomposed. Use the finished compost on a classroom garden or spread in the school's flower beds. Sift compost and bag to sell as a school fundraising project.

Scavenger Hunts

Create a list of recyclable items that can be found on the school campus to make a scavenger hunt. Divide into teams, partners, small groups, classrooms or grade levels. Have students look for specific items that can be recycled such as plastic water bottles, soda cans and newspapers. Make the game competitive by awarding a small prize to the team who finds the most items on the list. After a predetermined amount of time has passed, gather the teams and allow each to share what they found.

Trash to Treasure

Invite students to bring throw-away items from home such as old CDs, milk jugs, egg cartons, plastic lids and boxes. Split students in groups. Instruct them to build something out of the items and then present it to the class. Leave the creation completely open-ended, or ask the student for something specific like a robot made of trash.