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Bits and Pieces

Bit by bit our trash pile grows; where it will end, nobody knows! Show you are smart; turn your trash into art.

  • Grade 1
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Ask children to keep of diary of what they throw away in one day, at home, school, afterschool, etc. The next day have each student share from the diary and write a collective list on the board, noting frequency or quantity with tally marks. Urge students to consider how each small item would contribute to a large trash pile. Discuss where trash goes. Show pictures of landfills. Talk about the ways trash, especially plastic, sits in landfills. Discuss ideas for reducing trash. Introduce the Crayola ColorCycle program that repurposes used markers.
    2. Read a book about trash and recycling like “The Wartville Wizard” by Don Madden, or “Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey” by Melissa Slaymaker. Ask students to bring in a collection of small colorful, safe items they would ordinarily throw away. Emphasize that items should be their own, not from a trash collection, and that they must be clean and safe, with no sharp edges or dangerous liquids. (Teachers can review the Crayola recycled safety guidelines at Suggest yogurt cup lids, used marker caps, juice bottle caps, plastic spoons, beads, straws, etc. Emphasize the items need to be very small and light weight.
    3. Show pictures of junk sculptures, especially ones with small pieces of trash embedded into clay or cement. Give each student enough Model Magic to make a small sculpture. Show them how to roll it and mold it into various shapes. A marker makes a great rolling pin! Demonstrate how to add color with fresh markers. Invite them to create sculptures of their own embellished with small pieces of trash. Encourage creativity and imagination.
    4. Have students title their pieces and display them. Give each an opportunity to present their work and describe its creation. Remind students to recycle trash not used for the projects in the appropriate places.
  • Standards

    LA: With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

    MATH: Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

    MATH: Distinguish between defining attributes (e.g., triangles are closed and three-sided) versus non-defining attributes (e.g., color, orientation, overall size); build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.

    SCI: Provide evidence that humans’ uses of natural resources can affect the world around them, and share solutions that reduce human impact

    SS: Consider existing uses and propose and evaluate alternative uses of resources and land in home, school, community, the region, and beyond.

    SS: Show how groups and institutions work to meet individual needs and promote the common good, and identify examples of where they fail to do so.

    SS: Recognize and interpret how the "common good" can be strengthened through various forms of citizen action.

    VA: Use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

  • Adaptations

    Ask students to identify shapes found within their sculptures. How many circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles can they find? How does the shape and color of the trash item enhance the sculpture?

    Discuss what happens in landfills. Talk about what things are biodegradable and what things are not. What does biodegradable mean? Conduct an experiment to demonstrate how paper and cardboard are more biodegradable than plastic. Fill two containers with a little dirt. Bury a piece of cardboard in one and a plastic marker in the other. Water these dirt bins every few days. A month or two later, dig up the objects. Compare the cardboard to the plastic.

    Read and discuss “Here Comes the Garbage Barge” by Jonah Winter.

    Encourage students to collect used markers from family and friends at home to bring in for the school collection.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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