THEME: Reusing materials before they are thrown away can conserve landfill space and natural resources.

GOAL: Students will realize they can reduce the trash load by redefining waste as a potential resource.

METHOD: Creating a class treasure chest

SUBJECTS: Art, language arts, social sciences

SKILLS: Creating, observing, making value judgments

MATERIALS: Trash can; old box; scraps of fabric, yarn, paper, ribbons, etc.; egg cartons; glue; scissors

TIME: 45 minutes


Getting Started

Does everything that we throw away have to be trash?


  1. Fill the trash can with the various scrap items and explain to the class that these are things that would normally have been thrown away, never to be used again.
  1. Have the children come up one at a time and ask them to select several items out of the trash can. Have students use these materials to create whatever they want-a picture, a sculpture, jewelry.
  1. With the leftover materials decorate the old box to make it look like a treasure chest and have the students come up and place their new "treasure" in the chest.
  1. Point out that the garbage can is now empty. The students have both reduced the amount of garbage that has to be disposed of and reused it to make something new.


  1. Read aloud the poem "Johnny." Ask the class to think of other items at school or home that could be reused instead of being thrown away. Have the students create drawings to illustrate these objects and how they would be used in new ways.
  1. Have the students write a short story or poem about the item they just made. Where did it come from? What did it become? Is it trash or treasure?



To Johnny a box
is a house
or a car
or a ship
or a train
or a horse.

A stick
is a sword
or a spear
or a cane,
and a magic carpet
is magic,
of course.

by Marci Ridlon 

Source: Adapted from AVR, Teacher's Resource Guide

Source: Used with permission of the author