Lively Lessons: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


This week’s Lively Lesson contributed by Dr. Tally Burkhart. Tally has been involved with Discovery Education for over ten years, beginning as a DEN STAR in 2006, and a member of the DEN Leadership Council since 2009.  She usually works as an Instructional Coach or Secondary English teacher, but is currently an Education and Technology Consultant with Literacy Rules! and is composing English curriculum for an International School.

Each year, we throw away millions of tons of paper, glass bottles, plastic containers, aluminum cans, yard clippings, and other types of solid wastes. Increasingly, we are realizing that we are running out of places to put this waste as our landfills fill up.

In this Lively Lesson, students explore the importance of reducing the materials, energy, and resources we use, reusing what we can, and recycling materials to protect the Earth from pollution.


As described in SOS: Twenty Questions, print images from Discovery Education and display them around the room. Image suggestions include: sludge pipe, smog, damaged leaf, fish kill, fish and acid rain, smokestack, traffic, urban development, and tree damage. Share with students the overarching question:

What will happen if humans continue to

produce waste without recycling or reusing?

Polaroid_Fish_kill_caused_by_acid_rain_pollutionHave the students move around the room and take a moment at each photo to think of and document questions they may have about the overarching question. Continue until all of the students have had a chance to analyze each photo, then come together as a group and have the students share the questions they created. Print or post students’ collective questions around the classroom so that your class will be able to refer to the ideas throughout the lesson.

Display the following terms/vocabulary for students to see:

  • Pollution
  • Exhaust
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

Have students work in pairs to discuss the words to ensure they have an understanding of what each word means.

SOSAs described in SOS: Vocabulary Scavenger Hunt, explain to students that you’ll be playing a video segment with these words embedded. Each time they hear one of the vocabulary words spoken, they should clap once.

Smokestack_polaroidPlay the video segment Protecting Earth and pause after you hear the first clap. Ask students to share what word they heard, what it means, and how it was used in context. Repeat each time a word is used for the first time. After the segment is complete, ask students to share other vocabulary words they heard that support their understanding of the overarching question. Tip: enable closed captioning as the video plays to assist visual and language learners.


Immediately following the video, use SOS: The Rest of the Story and have students write a short paragraph on what they think the future of our planet will be if humans continue to produce waste without recycling or reusing.

Exchange Ideas:

Share with other other students about the recycling programs in your school or community. If no program exists, then discuss ideas to start a recycling program.


Have students use Discovery Education Board Builder to show ways to recycle and its benefits.


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