Recycling and Composting

PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this multi-activity lesson plan, students learn about the value renewable resources hold for our society and the broader community of living things. They expand their understanding of two important conservation activities we can engage in: recycling and composting. This lesson will take several days to complete.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Clarification Statement: Examples of human impact on the land could include cutting trees to produce paper and using resources to produce bottles. Examples of solutions could include reusing paper and recycling cans and bottles.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students will take part in three different learning experiences centered on renewable resources, recycling, and composting. The activities include class discussions, watching videos, and hands on investigations.The lesson is written to be used with grades K-2 or 3-5. At the kindergarten level, students may need some literature connections to fully understand the concepts of renewable resources, recycling, and composting. Students could recycle in the classroom for a week to show what materials could be reduced, reused, or recycled.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
During the three parts of the lesson, students are generating solutions to problems. The investigations should serve as evidence for the students to evaluate the solutions. First, as a class students are asked to brainstorm a list of renewable and non-renewable resources, find items in the classroom that are made from renewable resources and then discuss the consequences of using resources and how they can be conserved. The ideas/solutions students generate should be written down and posted in the classroom. The recycling video and activity of making paper will help students understand why forests need to be conserved and the importance of recycling. Again, student ideas/solutions should be posted in the classroom. The composting activity may be at too high of a level for kindergarten. The teacher should make the decision about doing this part of the lesson based on the abilities of her/his students.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students are learning about renewable and non-renewable resources in our world. The way they choose to use resources and the impact of that choice is discussed. To make this lesson be more local, have students investigate recycling efforts in their community. If there is a recycling plant in the area, a field trip could be taken.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
By watching videos and having discussions about recycling, students will have the opportunity to observe that events cause change. Students at the kindergarten level may not see observable patterns with just the example of forests and paper making so they will need more experience with the use of resources and reducing, recycling or reusing items.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: In this lesson the three dimensions of the NGSS are integrated and support student sense-making about solutions that help with the conservation of resources. If this is the first lesson about resources, reducing, reusing, or recycling for kindergarten students, there will need to be more investigations for them to fully understand the concept.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are engaged with the hands on activity of making recycled paper and watching the videos about recycling and composting, They are also working in small collaborative groups to make the paper. The teacher should make sure the groups have students of mixed ability levels. There are several extension activities that would connect to the student's home, community or neighborhood. If there is a local recycling plant, a field trip could take place.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There is some formative assessment taking place with the teacher asking questions for the student answers. A science journal could be kept with drawings, labels and/or sentences about student understanding of resources and conservation of them. The recycled paper made could be used as a cover for the journal, a note card, or to write a letter to the student's family telling what they learned in this lesson.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The use of the videos are a big part of this lesson.