In this lesson the students will become familiar with some ways that chemistry is present in their everyday lives. The teacher will read a book and show a short video about how a plastic bottle is made. Following these activities, students will interact with a variety of materials made of plastic, ultimately organizing them according to the recycling code printed on the bottom of each or by physical properties. Finally students will collect data and have an opportunity to construct a graph based on their data.
By the end of this activity, students should be able to
- Understand that plastic materials are made through a chemical process.
- Separate a mixture by differentiating between similar items and classifying them according to their label or physical properties.
- Record data in a data table and graph the collected data on a bar graph.
This activity supports students’ understanding of
- Separating Mixtures
- Physical properties
- Conservation of Matter
Teacher Preparation: 30-40 minutes (collecting materials)
Lesson: 45 minutes
- Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathon London, also available on video
- Assortment of recyclable items (with and without recycling code stamps), such as:
- plastic water bottles
- laundry detergent containers
- pouch drink containers
- plastic wrap
- plastic toys
- milk containers
- empty soda bottles
- empty shampoo/cosmetic bottles
- empty condiment containers
- How It’s Made Video(Video about how plastics are made)
- No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.
- This activity is most successful when students are split into smaller groups. However, it can also be done as one large group/class. Each group will need their own assortment of plastic materials.
- The teacher will need to collect a variety of materials that are made of plastic. This is best when done in advance. It is also helpful to ask students to bring in a number of items leading up to the day of the activity (this can be a homework assignment). Additionally, asking colleagues to save their products, or other school staff is helpful.
- For younger students it is helpful if all items have the triangle code and number imprinted on the material. However, it can be a good challenge to include items without the code as well, and ask students to determine how to sort it, or find commonalities between items without codes to those with codes. This will have to be determined by the teacher.
- Every group of students should have about 20 objects to sort. If you are doing the activity as a whole group/entire class then you would need 20 items total. Based on the approach, the graph could be a large chart graph for the class to do together or each group could complete their own graph.
- To begin, the teacher should read the book Froggy Gets Dressed or show the students the video on YouTube of it being read.
- Next, the teacher will then show the students a variety of materials that are made of plastic. The teacher should then begin an interactive discussion with students about their morning routine. Throughout this discussion, identify items that are made of plastic in their everyday life. For example: their toothbrush is made of plastic; their toothpaste is contained in a plastic tube, there is a plastic bag in their cereal box; there are plastic components in their shoes and their backpack. Students should be encouraged to offer examples, and the teacher could make a visual list of all of the examples produced through this discussion.
- The teacher will then show a video of plastic bottles being made.
- Finally the students will participate in an activity where they sort through a collection of plastic materials, and separate them by the recycling codes. Depending on the age of the students, teacher may want to show the students a web page about these codes and what they mean (link below).
- The objects could be made into a bar graph on the floor as the students sort the materials and then graphed on a paper in each group or as a class. Student should also keep track of their data in the provided data table by tallying the number of each item for each category. Again, based on the age, this could be done individually or in groups.
- As an extension, the teacher may have the students make a plastic monster from the products!
- Some background information that might be helpful included:
For the Student
- As a group you will sort through the many recyclable plastic items you have been given.
- Look carefully on each item (usually the bottom) for a recycle symbol and a number.
- Separate the items and organize them into groups based on their numbers.
- Record the number of each item in the data table below.
- Create a bar graph to display your results.
Recycling Code Number
Number of Items