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Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature

Aluminum Altruism


In honor of the Iowa quarter, teach your students the value of recycling with this environmentally friendly activity!


On a large piece of poster paper, create a four-column "Recycling Chart".  Label each column "Week 1", "Week 2", "Week 3", and "Week 4" respectively.  Hang this poster in a conspicuous place in the classroom.

Show students an aluminum can.  Ask them to brainstorm three things the empty can is good for.  Have students share their answers.  If it is not included in the responses, introduce the idea that empty aluminum cans are good for recycling and, in many states, can earn the recycler some extra change!

Explain to students how the recycling process works. Cans are taken by consumer to a recycling facility (supermarkets often have them) and many states offer a five or ten cent refund in return for each can.  The aluminum cans are melted down and made into new aluminum cans.  This process saves a lot of money for American citizens.  Not only do we save on the cost of hauling away aluminum cans to a landfill, but we also save on the cost of soda and other beverages because it costs so much less to make the aluminum containers when using recycled material!

Show students a small round sticker.  On this round sticker, write the amount of refund that your state gives for recycling one aluminum can.  Place your aluminum can in a collection box and affix your sticker to the "Week 1" column of the Recycling Chart.

Explain to students that this is the beginning of a month-long class-recycling project.  Each aluminum can a student brings in will be added to the collection box and he/she will get to add one sticker to that week's tally.  At the end of each week, the class will tally up how much money they will have earned once the cans are brought to a recycling facility.  The collection period will last four weeks.  After that, students will be able to decide how their earnings can be spent in an environmentally friendly way that will improve their school.

At the end of each week, bring the cans to a local supermarket and recycle them.  Bring the change into class and place it in a class bank.  When the month of collection is up, have students total up the total amount of money they earned.

Have students decide what environmentally friendly gift they could purchase for their school.  Perhaps their earnings could purchase a few flowers, or maybe even a tree, that could be planted in the schoolyard in Spring!


This activity could be extended as a competition between classes and/or grades to see who can raise the most money for the school.  All of the proceeds could go towards a larger school project, like building a school courtyard.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Mathematics Standards

Number and Operations:  Students will use multiplication and addition in order to calculate their earnings. Measurement:  Students will use multiplication and addition in order to calculate their earnings.

Social Studies Standards

Civic Ideals and Practices:  Students will explore the value of recycling.  Students will also consider the importance of giving back to their school community.

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