Reducing Waste Lesson Plan: Changing Daily Habits

Submitted by: Rachel Zindler

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the importance of reducing waste and taking care of the environment. Students will practice ways to reduce waste in the classroom and at home, then create and reflect on daily habits that demonstrate increased environmental awareness.

Students will:

  1. Understand the importance of taking care of the environment
  2. Practice ways to reduce waste in the classroom and at home
  3. Become more environmentally aware in their daily activities


  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Computers with headphones or speakers
  • Optional: interactive whiteboard
  • Large zip-top plastic bags
  • Scale
  • Chart paper
  • Printouts and copies of the following BrainPOP worksheets and activities: Vocabulary sheet, Brainstorming Web, Experiment, Letter to Tim and Moby


reduce; reuse; recycle; conserve; conservation; environment; compost; landfill; pulp; sorting; contaminate; pollution; waste; groundwater; natural resources


Preview the movies and related features from the Recycling movie. Think about your students' abilities and consider which features are most appropriate for the individuals in your class. Print the related worksheets (listed above) and copy as needed. Prepare a class graph to keep track of the waste collection over the course of several weeks.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Kick off your Recycling unit by having students collect and keep their garbage for a day. You may want to use clear zip-top bags so that students can see the items they have collected over the course of a day. As a math connection students should weigh their bags. Challenge the class to estimate and then figure out the actual total weight of the garbage in the class for the day.
  2. Ask your students where they think all this waste ends up? You can project or print the Brainstorming Web graphic organizer to keep track of their answers.
  3. Before watching the movie, have your students take the related quiz as a form of pre-assessment. Remember that you can print these quizzes or use the computer for online versions.
  4. Hand out the blank Vocabulary Activity Sheet to students before watching the movie. Instead, you may want to project the list on the interactive whiteboard and preview the words with your students. Remember that you can type directly onto the Activity Sheet!
  5. Screen the movie for your class. Remember to pause several times during the movie for discussion. You may want to show the movie a couple of times. The first time students might just watch, and the second time they might watch, take notes on the Vocabulary Activity Sheet, and discuss the concepts.
  6. Tell your class that you are challenging them to reduce the total classroom waste by at least 50%. Hand out the printout of a Dear Tim and Moby letter and ask students to write at least 4 ways they plan to reduce the waste they produce in a given day. Then gather the group to share their ideas.
  7. Over the following weeks, students can create recycling bins for the classroom and lunchroom and gather recyclables and bring them to a local recycling center. They can buy and use less packaging in their lunches, begin to use scrap paper for class work, sharpen pencils less frequently, etc. They will surely think of tons of ways to reduce waste!
  8. As students continue to reduce, reuse, and recycle their waste, they should continue to track how much waste they generate in a single day. It might be easiest to record the total class waste once or twice each week on a class graph, throughout the unit, so students don’t have to carry their garbage around all day every day!
  9. As a related activity, students can inspire the entire school to reduce their waste as well. Print or project the Graphs, Stats, & Numbers feature from the FYI section of the BrainPOP’s Recycling movie. Students can work in pairs to depict the statistics using pie charts or other means of representation to make environmental "factoid" posters to hang around the school.
  10. When the class has reached the goal of producing 50% of their waste, they can have an Earth Day film festival to celebrate in the classroom or school-wide. They may want to invite friends and family members to celebrate with them so they can share what they have learned and pass along conservation tips. You can print out Moby movie tickets, have students on special panel discussions, and invite student experts to speak before/after the BrainPOP movie they are an expert in, as well as lead guests through interactive activities, role playing, and games. Throw in some popcorn and enjoy!

Extension Activity:

This lesson relies heavily on the BrainPOP movie on Recycling but there are numerous movies on the site that go into the subjects of conservation, environmental awareness and ecology. For older students you may want to assign various movies (and related features) to pairs or groups of students and then ask them to present what they learned to the class. Remember that you can differentiate easily by having pairs of students watch the same movie, but assigning more or less complex features to the individuals depending on their abilities.

Print or project the Experiment and assign small groups to create their own “landfills” either in the classroom or at home. As an extension of this activity you can have your students create a compost to produce soil for a school garden!