Early years ideas

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‘This is Rubbish!’ recognises 2013 as being the International Year of the Mathematics of Planet Earth and the International Year of Statistics. It also strongly addresses the cross-curriculum priority of sustainability and has clear links to science and the environment in general.

In the teaching notes, you will find stimulus questions, relevant web-links and lots of activities. They are available for download:

Download a copy of the Teaching ideas: early years document as a DOCX (101KB)

Download a copy of the Teaching ideas: early years document as a PDF (526KB)

Teaching ideas: early years

These activities reflect the following aspects of the Level 1b and 2: Numeracy Learning Continuum from the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

  • Understand and use numbers in context
  • Estimate and calculate
  • Interpret proportional reasoning
  • Visualise 2D shapes and 3D objects
  • Interpret maps and diagrams
  • Interpret data displays
  • Estimate and measure with metric units.

2. Lead-up ideas

Talk about rubbish and the environment.

  • What is rubbish?
  • What other words are used for rubbish?
  • How do we collect rubbish in our school? In our homes?
  • What does the saying ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ mean?
  • What is the difference between reusable and recyclable?
  • Why might we want to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink?

Watch the YouTube video PET recycling slomotion, which shows how PET bottles are used to make fleecy tops and tells the story in ‘kid friendly’ language.

  • What could we do with our empty disposable drink bottles? Brainstorm some creative ideas.
  • What could we use instead of a plastic bottle from the shop and why?
  • What if everyone in the class bought a disposable drink bottle every day. How many would we have in a day? A week? A month? A year? How big a container would we need to hold them all?
  • Conduct a walk around the school.
  • Investigate (and perhaps photograph) existing rubbish collection bins and evidence of rubbish.
  • Ask students to put forward their ideas about where the rubbish goes when it leaves the school.
  • Share the following picture books, or others that you may have in your school library, to focus students’ on issues of rubbish and recycling.
  • Don’t Throw That Away by Lara Bergen
  • The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle by Alison Inches
  • Rubbish and Recycling by Alex Frith
  • In the Bin by Kellie Bollard (NSW and Qld Premier’s Reading Challenge)

3. Follow-up ideas

Making garbage graphs

Turn the physical rubbish you collected into graphs.

ome types of items could be glued or stapled to sheets of card, others may need to be laid out flat onto the classroom floor or the school yard. Taking digital photos will extend the life of the graphs and you will be able to share them more easily with others.

For a less messy version, use a spreadsheet or other graphing packages (e.g. TinkerPlots). You could also use the ‘Teaching Graphs’ app available for the iPad.

And of course, you can still produce graphs by hand.

Sorting scraps

Sort and re-sort the physical rubbish into different categories.

Did any of the rubbish fit into more than one category? Were there any items which could be reduced and/or reused and/or recycled?

Use Venn diagrams to display this overlap. You can draw them or make them out of hula-hoops, chalk markings, even people!

Rethinking rubbish

Brainstorm ways to take action to reduce the amount of rubbish. You could use:

  • a Y chart (looks like/feels like/sounds like)
  • a PMI chart (plus/minus/interesting)
  • the iBrainstorm iPad app.
  • Present your results in a way that might persuade change in your school. You could:
  • produce some posters to raise awareness
  • write a letter to the editor of the local paper
  • present a report to the principal or school council.

Sharing with others

Take photographs of the activity occurring in your classroom to share with others in your school, or with the broader community.

You could consider a foyer display, a presentation at assembly or an item in the school newsletter.

Invite a person from the local community (e.g. a refuse collector, a Clean Up Australia Day participant, an artist who uses recyclables or rubbish) to talk about their experiences. Students could plan specific questions related to the core investigation.

Investigating the national data

Once the data from around Australia has been collected and analysed, it will be made available on the website. This will give you the opportunity to follow up on the core activity.

  • Compare your data to that of other classes and to the Australia wide data.
  • What similarities are there between your class and/or school data and the national data summary? What are the differences?
  • Check the predictions and estimates you made. How close were your estimates and how accurate your predictions?

4. Extension ideas

Mystery box

One student places an item in a box with a lid. The other students then have to ask questions to determine what is in the box.

  • What is it made of?
  • What does it feel like?
  • How big is it?
  • What can it be used for?
  • Can it be recycled or reused?

Looking at lunches

What is in your lunchbox? Are there ways that you could reduce waste and promote sustainability?

  • Conduct a lunch box audit in the morning. Predict what will be rubbish and what will be recycled or reused.
  • Create a picture graph or physical graph on the floor or on a table of the items (these could be photographed as a record.)
  • Do the same audit after lunch and see what happened to the items and discuss any differences.

A rubbish free lunch

Do you think that you could bring a rubbish free lunch to school? There are lots of ideas for this challenge.

This activity could be promoted via the school newsletter to enlist parental support and to help families consider the issues (e.g. rubbish free lunches are often cheaper than lunches with pre-packaged snacks and drinks).

A load of old rubbish

How did people dispose of rubbish 100 years ago? Or 50 years ago? What did they categorise as rubbish? What did they reuse? What did they recycle? How has this changed over the years? What sort of materials do we have now that weren’t discovered or invented then?

Students could interview parents, grandparents and neighbours, focusing on families and homes. They could research food, clothing, furniture, cleaning methods, fuel etc. There are so many possibilities!

Make cross-curriculum links to history, science and sustainability.

Community activities

Your students may be interested in participating in Schools' Cleanup Day, which is run by Clean Up Australia. Teachers can also find classroom resources (F-6) about environmental sustainability using the Schools’ Climate Kit.

The Clean Up Australia Day Rubbish Report is a snapshot of all the different types of rubbish collected on Clean Up Australia Day, including the top ten items found, the major sources of rubbish and the types of rubbish collected. Why not compare with your class or school results?