Litter Scavenger Hunt

Grade Levels: K-3

Objectives: Students will become aware of the various forms of litter found around their school as well as in different environments.

Materials: A bag to collect litter. (Paper, plastic, or cloth bags, one per group)

Procedure:
Before beginning this activity with the students, have them complete the Litter Survey as individuals or as a group. Collect the completed surveys and save them to review later.

  • Ask the students “What is litter?” Litter is usually defined as materials that people have left on the ground as trash. This trash can cause problems for people and wildlife. Discuss how litter can be a problem. How could we solve this problem?
  • Select an area for study (school yard, parking lot, local park, etc.) and divide students into groups. Explain to the students that their goal is to pick up anything that they would consider litter.
  • Each group receives a litter hunt worksheet and a bag to collect the items. Students can label their bags “Goodbye Litter.”
  • Determine the length of time for this activity and have the students find and collect as many items as possible.
  • Have each group spread out newspapers and sort their collection into categories. The students can create their own category titles (such as Paper, Metal, Ugly Things, etc.) Have students count the items in each category.
  • After completing this activity, please have the students wash their hands!
  • Discuss the items found, having the students comment on how they think the items got there. Ask the students, “Do you like the way the area looked before you collected trash or after you finished collecting?” “What can people do every day to keep the areas where we live looking their best?”
  • Have small groups of students join together and make a graph of their common items. All members of the group need to come to some agreement as to the categories. Pie charts, bar graphs, or line graphs could be used to illustrate the items found.
  • Lead a classroom discussion about how litter can be a problem for wildlife. Ask the students if they have any ideas about how animals could be injured by litter. (Examples: Sea turtles have been known to eat balloons that have blown out into the ocean. A rubber balloon floating on the water’s surface looks like a jellyfish, a favorite food of sea turtles. Eating balloons can kill turtles. Small animals can get caught in the plastic rings that are used to hold soda six-packs. )
  • MicrotrashShow the students the photo of litter from the California Condor Classroom Kit. (Download a larger PDF version here.) A condor chick ate these bits of metal and pieces of plastic. See how many of the items the students can identify. The bird may have thought that these items were bits of bone and were good to eat. Unfortunately, the chick died and the veterinarian removed all of these materials from its body. Litter in natural places can cause serious problems for animals.

Follow-up:

  • Discuss the litter survey after completing the activity. Compare the students’ thoughts on litter before the activity to those after this project. Have their attitudes toward litter changed?
  • Have the students share what they learned with others. Create posters, a school newspaper, or visit other classrooms to encourage other students not to litter.
  • Have students participate in a scavenger hunt like the one below.
  • Have students pick up litter in an effort to clean up an area that needs help (i.e. a local park or beach).
  • Conduct the litter survey with other students at the school. Tally the results and post them to show how other students feel about littering.

Sample Scavenger Hunt

A trip to a park
Something lost by a person
A coin
Something glass
Evidence of people
Aluminum can
Fast-food wrappers

A trip to the beach
A crab’s claw
Sea glass
Driftwood
Something metal
Something aluminum
A shell
A battery
Something plastic

Around the school yard
Paper
Leaf
Something left by a person
Something aluminum
Food wrapper
Grass

Miscellaneous
Something blue
Something plastic
Something bigger than your nose

Student Litter Survey

  • Have you ever littered?
    If yes, why?
    • It was convenient
    • I didn’t think it was bad.
    • I didn’t care.
    • It was an accident.
  • Have you ever made a special effort not to litter?
    If yes, why?
    • Litter is ugly.
    • Someone else has to pick it up.
    • Litter hurts animals and people.
    • It is illegal.
  • If you saw someone else litter, you would:
    • Tell him/her to stop.
    • Pick up the litter yourself.
    • Tell someone (like a teacher or a police officer).
    • Do nothing.