Create a clean, green oasis at your school by adopting a spot!
Help your students keep their school campus litter-free by “Adopting a Spot!” The same way they would adopt a new puppy or pet, once students adopt a spot, they have the amazing opportunity to take responsibility for a designated location and keep it clean and healthy!
Why It’s Important
Litter damages the environment, harms animals and people, wastes municipal or district money, and makes communities feel neglected and under-valued.
What You Will Accomplish
Students take action to ensure a specific campus area(s) stay litter-free.
Teacher Project Plan Step-by-Step
Step 1: Determine ParticipantsUse our Adopt-A-Spot Sign-Up Sheet Template
- Working with a small group of students? Choose 1 or 2 campus spots to adopt.
- Working with a larger team? Split up into groups and each adopt a different campus spot.
- Is your whole school involved? Split up by classroom or grade level and identify a campus spot for each group.
Step 2: Set Learning Objectives
- Students will analyze their campus for litter “hot spots”
- Count the number of pieces of litter found in a specified area over a five minute period of time
- Discuss which areas would be most impacted by litter (environmentally, economically or socially)
- Evaluate which areas are most accessible or safe for litter collection
- Students will identify routines to accomplish their goal
- Students will practice leadership skills by delegating tasks to each other
- Students will identify routines to accomplish their goal
Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the impact of their project
- Take a weekly photo of the adopted spot to compare litter collected week-over-week
- Tally of pieces/bags of litter collected to compare litter collected week-over-week
- Report the impact of their work to the school/city/community
Step 3: Educate Students on the Environmental Impact of Litter
Educate your students on the environmental impacts of litter.
Education Materials: “Why Litter is Rubbish!”
1. People Make A LOT of Litter!
You might only see a few pieces of litter on your street, but researchers found that on average there are more than 13 thousand pieces of litter per mile of American roadway. All together, it’s estimated there are 51 billion pieces of litter on all US roads at any moment.  If you add in ocean litter, there are more pieces of plastic in the seas than there are stars in the galaxy.
2. Litter Travels!
A plastic wrapper dropped in the parking lot doesn’t stay there for long. It gets blown to the curb, washed through storm drains into rivers, and out to sea. Scientists estimate that almost 9 million tons of plastic litter end up in the ocean—every year. This is the equivalent of five grocery bags filled with plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. 
3. Litter Hurts!
Litter affects animal and human health. It’s estimated that over 1 million land animals and 100 million sea animals die each year after eating or becoming trapped in litter. Litter also releases chemicals and microparticles as it breaks down in the environment. These toxic particles end up in the air that we breathe, the soil where we grow food and in the water we drink. 
4. Litter is Contagious!
When people see litter or others littering, they are more likely to litter themselves. In fact, research shows that about 15% of littering activities are motivated by existing litter in an environment. 
Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to keep your campus clean!
Heal The Bay follows the journey of a plastic bag.
A lesson on littering.
Environmental Justice: “Why Litter is a Social Justice Issue”
Communities with higher average incomes tend to have more waste hauling and sanitation services than those with lower average incomes making litter an environmental justice issue. People in underserved communities are more likely to live amongst trash, and the litter that accumulates in these areas can have serious health effects. Communities that are underserved are more likely to be affected by microplastics, harmful pieces of plastic that harm oceans and wildlife, because the food they eat is more likely to be contaminated by microplastics, creating a health hazard. In addition to the physical problems, studies have also shown that litter can have a negative psychological impact on humans due to the emotional connection people have with nature. It is important to make sure that all communities have the resources to remove litter.
Step 4: Pre-Activity Reflection Questions
Use the following questions to guide students and reflect on what they’ve learned. Provided questions can be accessed in slideshow or worksheet format.
Reflection: Let’s Think About it!
- Describe places in your school or community where you see a lot of litter.
- What kinds of litter do you see? What are the most common types?
- Why do you think these items become litter so often?
- Why do you think you may sometimes look past litter when you see it?
- What answers did you hear from the reflection questions that addressed the learning objectives?
Step 5: Take Action – Adopt-A-Spot Lesson Plan
Lead students through the “Adopt-A-Spot” activity with guided instructions. Check out “Pro Tips” with each step for useful help:
1. Assign Roles
- Determine who and how many students/staff are participating.
- Invite attendees to support your clean up efforts. Use the Adopt-A-Spot Invite and Safety Guidelines Template.
- Use the Adopt-A-Spot Sign Up Sheet to track additional participants.
2. Map it Out
Look at a map of your school or neighborhood. Make a list of areas that are full of litter and can be “up for adoption”.
It’s amazing how much more people care about something once they’ve given it a name. Just like you would name a pet, naming “your” spot can build a real feeling of ownership and pride. (Plus, it’s fun!)
3. Prepare Your Materials
Gather your litter collection supplies and choose an accessible location where they can be stored.
- Garden Gloves
- Trash Grabbers
- Bags for trash and for recycling
- Clipboards with printed litter tracker for each team
- Writing utensil
4. Make a Schedule
Decide a time for each group to begin cleaning the litter in their spots. Set up a schedule to check on your spot and keep it clean daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the needs of your spot.
- Determine the start and end dates of your campaign. If it is ongoing, plan to check in from time to time to monitor your progress.
- Use our Adopt-A-Spot Team Organizer to help keep your team organized.
- Remember to keep your team safe!
Take pictures of your team working in “your” spot. Everyone loves to see themselves and their friends in action. It’s a great way to build a sense of belonging and community. Create a unique hashtag or social media page for your photos.
You never know what strange and unexpected items a litter pick-up will uncover. Keep a “treasures” list and read the list periodically. Being a litter-buster has a fun side!
5. Track Your Impact
Each group that has a spot should track their progress with our Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker. Collect sheets weekly to keep track of your impact.
Take note if certain items are littered more than others, or at different times of the year – like fun-size candy wrappers after Halloween. Are there things you could do to reduce these items?
Recycle or compost as much of the waste as you can. (Contact your city or waste hauler to find out more)
Create a leader board or use the Litterati app to track your litter pick up to see who picks up the most. Offer a prize for the winning person, team, or classroom!
Step 6: Post-Activity Reflection Questions
Student Reflection: “How did it go?“
Once your teams have completed 3-5 Spot Clean-Ups, use the questions below to have students reflect on their Adopt-A-Spot Campaign.
- What were some small wins that happened during your project?
- Examples: we found a dollar coin, met my lifelong friends, collected 10 bags of trash
- What could you do to up your game next time?
- Examples: use gloves (ew!), collect trash more frequently, write down what we found
- What’s the coolest thing you found?
- Examples: snowboard, diamond ring, left AirPod Pro Headphone
- Which items of litter did you find the most of?
- Examples: cigarette butts, plastic bags, plastic forks
Real World Application: “How will this apply to your life?“
- What will change in your life now that you have completed this project?
Step 7: Report Students’ Impact
Compile all the data that your teams gathered and complete Adopt-A-Spot Wrap Up Form.
- Adopt-A-Spot Team Organizer
- Adopt-A-Spot Invite and Safety Guidelines Template
- Adopt-A-Spot Sign Up Sheet
- Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker
- Use the Litterati App to track your litter cleanup efforts: https://www.litterati.org
- Kids Go Green: Litter and Our Oceans
Congrats on completing the Adopt-a-Spot Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy Adopt-a-Spot? Find your next project here!