Activity: Design a Recycling Game!



Earth is running out of space in our landfills and our non-renewable resources are being depleted! How can we reuse some of our garbage so that we begin to throw away less? Students will design a game where players try to come up with alternative uses for used products. Students will brainstorm ideas for an effective board game format.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY [1 = Least Difficult : 5 = Most Difficult]



Two 40-minute class times (one for designing the game and one for playing the game and discussion)


none (use available materials)


2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience.

How to think creatively to reduce waste products.
Board game design techniques.
How to work cooperatively in a group.

Natural resources are the materials in our environment that are used to make products, e.g. wood from trees to make paper.
Non-renewable resources are those materials that cannot be replaced by natural ecological cycles or sound management procedures, e.g. oil, plastics.
Recycling is done to use a product more than once so that natural resources can be saved and so that we won't need so many garbage dumps and landfills. There are different ways to recycle. One way is to find a different use for a product. For example, use empty cans as pencil holders. Another way to recycle is to use heat, chemicals, bacteria, or pressure to break a product down into its basic materials, and then to form these materials into the same or a different product.

Poster board
Spinner (can be made out of thumb tack and paper)
Dice (optional)
Game pieces (can be made out of bottle caps)
Construction paper
Assemble materials
Optional: make a game to show the students as an example.


1. Introduce the topic. Discuss recycling and different objects that are recycled. Brainstorm ideas for recycled materials. Some examples are plastic/foam cups, old tires, old clothes, egg carton, cardboard tubes, milk cartons, milk jugs, paper bags, baby food jars, shoe boxes, bottle caps, jar lids, etc.
2. Group students and have them come up with as many different board games as they can. Once they have created a list, have the group break there list into categories such as dice, spinner, or cards. On the board document all of the different types of games that the students thought of.
3. Optional: Demonstrate a game that you made ahead of time. An example game format might be a spinner board game. On their turn, students spin the spinner, which is labeled with numbers, and move the indicated number of spaces. Each space is labeled with a used product. As the students land on the spaces, they must think of an alternative use for the product or else go back to their previously landed space. The first to reach the end wins.
4. Activity. Group the students into teams of three or four members.
5. Have each group develop a list of ideas for materials that can be recycled and reused.
6. Have each group design and build a board game. The games may be any type of game as long as they incorporate the idea of finding alternative uses for the materials that they listed. The games must include instructions.
7. After each team has designed and built their game have the class switch games between groups and play another teams game.

What different uses for used materials could you think of?
How can used products be reused?
Why do we need to recycle?
Which board game did you like the most? Why?
What game did you find the most challenging? Why?
Kessler, James H. and Andrea Bennett. The Best of WonderScience: Elementary Science Activities. Boston: Delmar Publishers. 1997. ISBN: 0827380941 pg. 220, 222. *
*Adapted with permission from The Best of Wonderscience, Copyright 1997, American Chemical Society Published by Wadsworth Publishing, Inc.. If you enjoyed this activity check out, Your Science Place in Cyberspace, for free elementary physical science activities.


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See Associated Download.