Image by Word Swag
A trashy treasure hunt: an activity for children of all ages. Is there a place in your area that is looking a bit trashy and neglected? Cleaning up trash in your community is a simple activity that will have a big impact on not only the environment but in children as well. In this activity, children will learn the big difference they can make in a small amount of time by donating their time and energy in collecting trash in a neglected area around their home.
*This activity was adapted from a post on mykidsadventures.com.
- gloves (work or gardening gloves work best)
- close-toed shoes
- play clothes
- lots of trash bags
- water to drink
- hand sanitizer
- a trash grabber (optional)
- camera (optional)
- Choose a really messy (yet safe) location to pick up trash – a park, beach, baseball field, local school, etc. Be sure to involve the kids in this decision and get permission (from park ranger or school principal) if necessary.
- Discuss the environment and recycling. Consider reading Recycle!: A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons or The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle by Nuria Roca. Also read this interesting article on how Ugandan Ruganzu Bruno raises environmental awareness through his art“. “We were trying to bring out the message that the hand is the one which is throwing this trash into the environment and at the same time it could be used to collect [them] and save the environment,” says Bruno.
- Talk about littering and why it’s important we throw trash away in appropriate containers.
- Take a few before pictures of the area.
- Hand out the supplies, making sure to give each child two bags (one for trash and one for recyclables). Educate on which items go in which bag prior to collecting the trash.
- Discuss possible dangers – such as no picking up glass, animals (dead or alive) or poop, or talking with strangers, etc.
- Make a game out of picking up trash. You can create a scavenger list or time them as they quickly and thoroughly collect the trash.
- Pick up trash!
- Whistle for them to return after a pre-determined time (based on age of the children, the temperature, the size of the area to clean, and/or the amount of debris).
- Count the number of bags of trash and recyclables collected.
- Wash hands thoroughly or use hand-sanitizer after removing gloves.
- Take pictures of the area after it has been cleaned.
- Congratulate the children on a job well done.
- Ask each child to share about some of the items found. What item did they see most often? Did anything surprise them? What was the most unusual item they collected? How do they think the item could have gotten there?
- If items were found that were scary (beer bottles, needles, dead animals), address these issues as deemed appropriate.
- Discuss volunteering in community service and being a part of a team, the responsibility we have and the contributions we can make in taking care of the world we live in. Talk about service and stewardship, hard work, awareness and ownership of our surroundings.
- Talk about how they feel after cleaning up the trash – proud, responsible, selfless, etc.
- Bring the items to the recycling center.
- Celebrate by awarding the young community service workers with a small prize or a pizza party, and/or giving them the money collected from the recycling.
We found a dollar while collecting trash!