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Citizenship, Movement & Play


K, 1st, 2nd


Social Studies, Civics, Health


60 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat!

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Oct 3, 2022


This lesson introduces the idea of reduce, reuse, recycle and has students create a classroom waste management plan.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students are introduced to the idea of reduce, reuse, recycle through an engaging video and cut and match sorting activity.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students practice RRR by sorting recyclables in The Great Reuse Reduce Recycle Relay!

Step 3 - Inspire: Students make a classroom waste management plan using the information they have gained throughout the lesson.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
20 minutes

  • Students begin by watching this video.

  • Teacher then guides students through the Cut and Match Worksheet and discusses which type of recycling each item is sorted into. Cut and Match Answer Sheet is included.

15 minutes
  • Students participate in The Great Recycling Relay! Teacher may prepare by having the following items:

    • Plastics, papers, glass (heavy duty or substitute item for safety), vegetables/fruits (several kinds), candy wrappers, 3 bins (one labeled RECYCLING, one COMPOST, and one GARBAGE), and one bin full of materials at the start of the relay.

    • Alternatively the teacher may print out The Great Reduce Reuse Recycle Relay Items to use in place of the actual items above. To keep in theme with the lesson, these images should be either laminated for repeated use or recycled when activity is completed.

  • Directions for The Great Recycling Relay:

    • Students are broken into relay teams and have a bin with their materials in it. The first student grabs an item and runs to the end of the relay, sorting the item into the correct container (recycling, compost, or garbage).

    • Teacher will be standing at the containers during this time to check sorting. The student then runs back and tags the hand of the second student who completes the route.

    • The first team completely finished with all their materials sorted correctly wins The Great Recycling Relay!

25 minutes
  • The class engages in a whole group discussion to come up with a classroom waste management plan.

  • Teacher asks questions such as:

    • Where do we see a lot of waste in our classroom?

    • How can we reduce our waste?

    • Is there anything we could recycle that we currently are not recycling?

    • Is there anything we could reuse that we currently are not reusing?

    • Is there anything we could reduce?

  • Students work in small groups or as a whole class to create a classroom waste management plan.

    • Teacher can input ideas on Teacher Slideshow or directly on anchor chart paper. The plan should be posted somewhere easily visible as a reminder to students. It may include jobs for students, end of day clean up and sorting procedures, etc.

    • Option for teacher to engage in a guided search online to help students come up with classroom waste management ideas. Using a projector or a smart board, the teacher may allow students to guide the search and help them determine which information is valuable to them.

    • An example classroom waste management plan is included in the Teacher Slideshow.

Teaching Tips


  • Students participate in a hands-on and physically active learning activity.

  • Students collaborate and develop long-term plans together.

  • Students get a sense of ownership from developing a classroom waste management plan.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teacher needs to either:

    • Bring in materials to sort for The Great Reduce Reuse Recycle Relay.

    • Print the alternate materials in advance.

  • Some sort of large poster needs to be available to hang in an easily viewed space for students to have easy access to the classroom waste management plan.


  • Students could work in groups to complete the cut and sort in the Investigate stage if time is limited.

  • Students with physical limitations may do The Great Reduce Reuse Recycle Relay at their desk with the alternate materials or be the “bin monitor” to help ensure each relay team is sorting their materials correctly.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 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.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.2.K-2 Explain how all people, not just official leaders, play important roles in a community.


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