Teach kids why we recycle with this Earth Day STEM activity for kids. Looking for ideas for Earth Day? Kids will learn what happens to trash in this fun hands-on activity.
Before we teach students how to recycle, they need to know why recycling is important. Three R’s = Reduce, Reuse, THEN Recycle.
Kids can see that items don’t just “magically disappear” with this experiment.
This Earth Day STEM activity for kids experiment teaches what happens to trash that ends up in the ocean and water pollution.
Before starting this experiment it is important to provide the kids with background knowledge. The books we read: books Compost Stew, Thank you Earth and I Love the Earth.
After we read the books we talked about where trash goes. We wanted to learn what happened to trash that ended up in lakes or oceans. We wanted to know if things dissolved once they were in water.
How to set up the Earth Day STEM activity for kids
Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable Materials: any type of paper, plastic, metal, cardboard
Jars with lids, water to fill the jars
Sticky notes and a pen for labeling jars
We chose: bottle plastic, grocery bag plastic, an old cardboard book cover and bond paper to put into our jars of water.
We filled four jars up with water. Then out a few pieces of each item into a jar. One with paper pieces, one with bottle plastic pieces, one with grocery bag plastic pieces and one with cardboard pieces.
I asked the students what their prediction was. They decided that all of the items would dissolve in water.
We checked our covered specimens every day, a week later the cardboard and paper showed signs of dissolving. The book cover turned the water a bit green. After a week the plastic had not changed at all. We were ALL surprised that the bond paper was only soft, not dissolved yet.
What we learned: Plastic doesn’t dissolve in the water. That’s why we recycle.
However, there is no way to recycle some material like plastic grocery bags. That’s why we “reduce” by using cloth bags. That’s we we reuse things. The more we reuse things the less we have to throw away.
Finally, we watched the video The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This 3-minute video shows what happens to trash in the ocean.
The video provided transition to our compost experiment that we did next.
Watch and see what happens: the boys still check the jars daily to see how the paper is changing.
This experiment is one of the earth day activities you can do at home or in class.
If you liked this fun earth day activity about water pollution you might like this activity about what happens to things in landfills.