Create a clean, green, serene environment at your school by adopting a spot!
Keep your 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!
This toolkit address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: K-2 and 3-5
- Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
- Planning and Carrying out Investigations
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information
- Students will analyze their school campus to determine whether or not there are “hot spots” for trash
- Project Management
- Students will identify routines to accomplish their goals
- Students will practice leadership skills by assigning tasks to each other
- Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the impact of their project
Why It’s Important
Imagine waking up everyday to trash on the streets and limited efforts from the city and garbage collection companies to pick up that trash. Trash destroys the environment, harms animals and people, costs lots of money to clean, and makes communities with poorer, Indigenous, or People of Color feel ignored and less important than others. We feel sad when our Planet being treated badly, because we love the Earth. It’s important to remember to take care of it by keeping it clean.
What You Will Accomplish
Adopting a Spot encourages students to take action that ensures the areas around your school stay trash-free. Cleaning up trash will also help improve the health of the people and animals that live close by.
Educator Project Plan
Follow the steps below to set up a successful Adopt a Spot at your school! Need help? Contact us!
Track your metrics and submit your impact after implementing this toolkit. Your feedback helps keep our programs free for all across the globe.
Use our Adopt-A-Spot Sign-Up Sheet Template to gain participants.
- A Student Group such as (a club, before/after school program, non-school organization)
- A whole class
- The whole school
- 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.
Why Litter is Rubbish!
Educate your students on the environmental impacts of litter. The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.
People Make A LOT of Litter!
You might only see a few pieces of litter on your street, but scientists found that there are more than 13 thousand pieces of litter for every mile of American roadway. All together, there are about 51 billion pieces of litter on all US roads at any moment.  When you count all of the trash in the ocean, there are more pieces of plastic in the seas than there are stars in the galaxy.
A plastic wrapper dropped in a 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 believe there are almost 9 million tons of plastic in the ocean—every year. This is like five grocery bags filled with plastic sitting on every foot of every beach around the world. 
Trash in our environment hurts our health and animals because it leaves behind chemicals and tiny pieces of plastic. Each year, over 1 million land animals and 100 million sea animals die because they eat or get stuck in pieces of trash. For humans, those chemicals and pieces of plastic can get in our air and water. They can even get into the soil where we grow our food. 
Litter is Contagious!
When people see others throw trash on the ground, it makes them think it’s ok to do it too. When you “Adopt a Spot”, you help keep it clean, make less garbage, and teach others not to leave trash on the streets. 
Why Trash is an Environmental 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.
Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to throw away your trash!
Think About It!
- Describe places in your school or community where you see a lot of litter.
- What kinds of litter do you see?
- Why do you think so many of these things end up on the ground?
- Do you ever see trash on the ground and walk past it? Why do you do that?
Take Action: How to LAUNCH Adopt-A-Spot
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 you have already started, plan to check in from time to time to keep track of 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. Count Your Success
Use our Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker to track your group’s progress. 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!
How’d It Go?
- What were some good things that happened during your project?
- What were the most common pieces of litter you found?
- What are some ways you can think of to increase the amount of trash you pick up for your next cleanup?
Report Students’ Impact
Congratulations!! You’ve implemented Adopt a Spot! Don’t let all that hard work go unnoticed. Submit your results by clicking the green button below.
Project ongoing? No problem! Let us know what you’ve done so far.
By reporting your impact, Grades of Green can:
- CELEBRATE and elevate your students’ hard work and success.
- Offer our programs FREE for all students across the globe.
- AWARD stipends and certificates to hard-working educators and students.
Please take a few minutes to submit your results. Thank you!
- Adopt-A-Spot Team Organizer
- Adopt-A-Spot Invite and Safety Guidelines Template
- Adopt-A-Spot Sign Up Sheet
- Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker
- Adopt-A-Spot Slides
- Adopt-A-Spot Wrap Up Form
- Use the Litterati App to track your litter cleanup efforts: https://www.litterati.org
- Kids Go Green: Litter and Our Oceans
- Toolkit Resources – Google Drive Folder
Congrats on completing the Adopt-a-Spot Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here!