Return to Headlines

An Engaging Collaboration Between High School and First-Grade to Teach Recycling

kids with plastic race carsOne of the best ways to teach young children a complex topic is to use something they are familiar with. Toys would be a good example.

When members of the Amherst Central High School Climate Action Club visited a first-grade class at Windermere Boulevard Elementary to teach them about plastic pollution and recycling, they took toy boats, cars, rockets and coloring sheets. The toys were not ones the kids might have seen in a store, though. These toys were all handmade by the club members from recycled plastic and paper waste such as plastic water bottles, plastic spoons, rubber bands, paper cups and cardboard.

The collaborative project between first-graders in Sofia Maxick’s class and the high school Climate Action Club, advised by high school math teacher Alexandria Fabiano, used toys to educate the young students about the problem of global plastic pollution and the importance of recycling.

Watch a video of the activity stations!

Maxick and Fabiano are part of a UB Research and Mentorship program to raise awareness about global plastic pollution concerns related to plastic waste, recycling and upcycling. The official title of the grant program is the Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program on Valorization of Plastic Waste via Advanced Separation and Processing sponsored by the National Science Foundation and held at University at Buffalo. The grant includes a broad range of focused activities to facilitate a diverse student cohort. Maxick and Fabiano take what they learn in the program and develop ways to raise recycling awareness in younger generations through classroom activities. The bulk of their work in the program was completed over the summer but they are in contact with their mentors all school year.

recycling activityboat racesThe Climate Action Club gathered all the materials and with help from the STEM club, they built the toys used in four activity stations with the first-graders. As they interacted with the younger kids, the high schoolers talked about how the toys were made, but also about ways the kids could recycle at home and keep their environment clean by not littering.

  • At the car station the kids raced cars made from plastic water bottles. Some were heavier and faster than others, so they talked about heavier plastic and the design of the car.
  • At the boat station, plastic bottles were used as the boat body and a rubber-band and plastic spoon mechanism as the propeller. The kids wound up the propeller to race in a tub of water, but there was trash (a pop can and paper) in the water that slowed down the boats. They talked about how they could keep waterways clean.
  • They launched paper cup rockets at one station and had flashcards that quizzed the kids on different materials that may or may not be recycled.
  • Another station had a coloring sheet created by one of the club members. 

This project created ways for our students to be engaged, collaborative and imaginative, which aligns with our mission to prepare all students to excel in a dynamic world through the development of their abilities to reason, solve problems, apply knowledge, communicate and collaborate effectively.

group shot  kids with plastic cars