Class Ideas

Let's Think About Recycling

Author:Junko Nichols

Topic/Goals:Comparison、Connection、Global Issues、Link with Other Subjects、Link with Outside of Classroom、Nature and the Environment


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Using visual resources and text about recycling art and artist, students will learn about creative recycling. By making recycle art and learning the concept of Mottainai, students think about what they can do for the environment.


Learn about recycle artists.
Learn about recycle art, think about recycle art, and try making original recycle art.
Become familiar with environmental issues and think about what one can do oneself about the environment.
Think about what has value and what is not so valuable among the things around you.

Target Years 5-8 (some of the activities can be used for working with high school students)
Japanese Level Beginners
What to prepare


1. Hints for Introducing the Topic
● Introduce Using a Photograph
(1) Show the photograph at the top of the following page without giving any explanation in advance.

(2) Start the questioning by saying something like: "This is Yamada Yuka's art. What do you think of it?"
Help the students learn the adjectives that they want to use to describe it.
Ex.) きれい (pretty, beautiful), おもしろい (interesting, fascinating), ふしぎ (curious, fascinating, mysterious), すてき (cool, splendid, amazing), etc.

(3) Ask "What is this art made out of?" and get the students to imagine what it could be. If they don't guess correctly, tell them it is toilet paper cores and ask what they think about that. Help them learn the Japanese for describing their reaction.
Ex.) びっくりした (What a surprise! Wow! I never guessed!), すごい (That's pretty amazing! Incredible! Really!), おもしろい (That's really interesting! Wow, so cool!), etc.

● Introduce Using Photos and Text
・ After having students read the rewritten text, ask questions to check their understanding of the content.
a) Where does Yamada live?
b) What work does Yamada do?
c) What does Yamada use to create art?

・ Answers
a) Shizuoka prefecture
b) Artist
c) Toilet paper cores

・ True or False
a) Ms. Yamada is an artist.
b) Ms. Yamada makes her art with new materials.
c) Japanese toilet paper cores are weak and easy to break.
d) Ms. Yamada uses toilet paper cores after painting them.

・ Answers
a) T
b) F Ms Yamada uses recycle items such as toilet paper cores to make her art.
c) F The cores of Japanese toilet rolls are strong.
d) F She does not color the toilet paper cores for her art.

・ Discussion Points
a) What kind of art does Ms. Yamada create?
b) What does Ms. Yamada use to make her art?
c) Why do you think she uses recycle items to make her art?
d) Have you ever made any recycle art? If so, what did you make? If you haven't, what would you like to try?

2. Hints for Related Class Activities
● Recycling-related Activities
・ Playing a game with flashcards, learn the names of items that are recycled.
(cans, PET bottles, paper, glass bottles and jars, plastic containers, etc.)
・ Research the kinds of items being recycled in your home and make a chart. (Trying using supermarket/newspaper flyers to make a collage-type chart.)
・ Make a chart showing the kinds of items being recycled in your town.
・ After guessing what kinds of items are recycled in Japan, learn what are actually recycled. If available, show photograph of a Japanese signboard for sorting recycled items.
・ Compare the recycling done in Japan and in your area or country and consider what is similar and what is different.
・ Think about composting.
(1) Make a sign about the school composting program in two languages (Japanese and another language).
(2) List up the names of various foods in a chart. Think about whether scraps of which foods can be added to the compost, and which should not be added. Introduce the expressions ~てもいいです (okay to add to compost) and ~てはいけません (not okay to add to compost), and other categories, and use x's and o's for each food.

Sample chart

オレンジ ×


チーズ ×

・ Make a Poster
Using the expression「~ましょう」make a poster to encourage recycling activities.
Ex) Put PET bottles (plastic bottles) into the yellow bin!

● Mottainai Activities
(1) Explain the meaning of "mottainai" ("it's a waste!"). For example, say there are two teachers eating their lunches, and one eats up everything, but the other one leaves lots of food left over. The one who ate everything says to the one who left food uneaten, "Mottainai!"
(2) Read the picturebook "Mottainai baasan" (Mottainai Grandma). Sing the "Mottainai Grandma" song.
(3) Sing and dance the "Mottainai Ondo" song.

● Activity Focused on Recycle Art
・ Make recycle art
(1) Ask the students "What kind of recyclable goods do you think can be used for art?" and get the students to brainstorm about the subject.
(2) Have the students think individually what kind of recycle art they want to make and create a plan.
(3) Show examples of art by Japanese children or by Australian children.
(4) Havae the students create their own designs and then present them to the class.

・ Craft Work
(1) Make chopstick rest or stool out of paper milk cartons.
(2) Make an object in the shape of an Australian animal out of recycle goods and donate to sister school.
(3) Make toys out of recycle goods and play with class buddies.
(4) Make instruments out of recycle goods and put on a performance; use them as props for a skit, etc.

・ Make recycle art as an art project for the whole class or the whole school.
(1) Make a recycle item on the motif of an animal that is endangered in a certain region or country.
(2) Make a rainbow-colored object out of plastic of various colors.
(3) Use recycled goods to make some Japan-themed item (e.g., koi-nobori streamer, cherry tree with blossoms, tinted maple leaves of autumn, a Daruma doll, etc.
(4) Using recycle art, make a poster or object to call attention to the problem of trash polluting the oceans.
Try to choose materials that will send a strong message.

・ Hold an exhibition of recycle art and invite parents and siblings. Raise funds to donate to an environmental group.

■ The Chuden Recycle Art Contest

■ Recycle Art: Junior High School Students

■ Recycle Art: Elementary School Students

● Activities Focused on the Plastics Problem
(1) Create pairs of all sorts of household goods and alternatives that are better for the environment (prepare cards made using photographs or hand-drawn pictures). Using the pairs, create sentences in the following sentence patterns.
・ I use ____. I don't use ____.
・ ____ is good. ____ is not good.
・ Which is better? [I think] ____ is better.

Paper coffee cup vs. ceramic mug you can use over and over
Putting garbage in the trash vs. making compost heap/using a compost bin
Regular paper vs. recycle paper
Throw away vs. repair
Bottled water vs. thermos bottle [personal portable water bottle]
Plastic shopping bag vs. reusable shopping bag
Plastic dishes vs. ceramic dishes
Plastic fork vs. stainless steel fork
Disposable chopsticks vs. personal chopsticks

Using flashcards, have the students pick one and make a sentence about it.

(2) Discussion
Ask the students questions--like Why do people recycle things? What would happen if we didn't recycle goods?--and have them think about them.

■ Pictures of Sea Life Threatened by Discarded Plastic

■ Pictures of Plastic Garbage in the Ocean
(3) Group discussion
Have the students discuss in groups what kinds of things they can do to help reduce plastic trash. Have them decide on one activity they can actually carry out and create a plan to accomplish it.

■ Green Peace Proposal

■ Calculating the amount of trash in the world's oceans. Learning the facts.

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