Trash doesn’t belong in nature… let’s clean it up!
The impact your student will have by hosting a Clean Up will go far beyond the aesthetic benefits. Reducing the amount of trash in your community/beach will allow the opportunity for living things to flourish in addition to establishing a beautiful community.
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
- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Why It’s Important
Trash damages the environment, harms animals/people, wastes municipal/district money, and makes communities feel under-valued.
What You Will Accomplish
Students will take action to host a Clean Up event in their community or local beach.
Teacher Project Plan Step-by-Step
Step 1: Determine Participants
- A small group of students (1-6 students)? Organize a single Clean Up
- A larger club/class (6 – 24 students)? Organize a Clean Up every month
- Is your whole school participating? Split up into teams by classroom or grade level and organize multiple Clean Ups in multiple locations on a single day
Step 2: Set Learning Objectives
- Students will analyze their community for an optimal location to host a Clean Up event
- Local Beach
- Local Park
Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the information they have collected
- Students will count how much trash they collected
- Students will report what type of trash they collected
Step 3: Educate Students on the the Effects of their Energy Consumption
The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.
Education Materials: Why Should You Host a Community/Beach Clean Up?
Beach Clean Ups are Important!
As waste continues to grow across the world, reducing the amount of trash in the environment becomes an ever growing necessity. Oceans in particular require much needed attention due to the dangers imposed by excess waste on marine life. Coastal regions and supporting waters employ over 28 million people, which rely on a clean environment to operate. In addition, 85% of US tourist attractions are located along coastal regions, which highlights the importance of beach Clean Ups. 
Trash Can Land on Our Plate!
Without thoughtful waste processing, a significant amount of trash can enter the environment and disrupt food webs. As various levels of marine life consume human disposed trash, the concentration of plastics increases with increasing trophic levels. When we catch and consume these fish, we are also ingesting some of the items they consumed as well. According to a study in Belgium, it is estimated that the average seafood consumer eats 11,000 micro fragments of plastic annually, which can accumulate in our body and have varying health issues. 
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. 
Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to reduce waste!
Waste is an Environmental Justice Issue
Oftentimes, BIPOC and/or disenfranchised communities have a higher rate of litter according to many studies such as the CalEnviron Screen. These communities do not have access to as much waste removal as their wealthier counterparts and usually consume more items–such as fast food and other single use packaging–which turn into litter. Also, recycling facilities, waste transfer stations, incinerators, and landfills are often placed in developing regions internationally or in disenfranchised communities domestically. Any one or a combination of these facilities can cause widespread pollution in addition to health issues for communities that live nearby.
Step 4: Pre-Activity Reflection Questions
Reflection and Educator Observation 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.
- How does excess waste and litter affect the environment?
- What are ways to reduce the amount of waste we create and how can we better manage it?
- What are the implications of trash entering the environment? How does this affect humans?
- Why do individuals deliberately throw trash into the environment?
- What answers did you hear from the reflection questions?
Step 5: Take Action – How to Start a Community/Beach Clean Up
Lead students through the “Community/Beach Clean Up” activity with guided instructions. Check out “Pro Tips” with each step for useful help:
1. Create a Team Lead
Who is leading the Clean Up? A class, club, student government?
2. Decide Who’s Participating
Decide who is planning the event and how you will gather people to participate in your Community/Beach Clean Up. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Sign Up Sheet to stay organized. In addition, review our Community/Beach Clean Up Invite and Safety Guidelines to ensure each participant stays safe.
3. Pick a Location
Where do you want to host your Clean Up event? Have students make a list of public areas in your community that would benefit from your campaign. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Organizer to make note of your selected location.
4. Make a Plan
Before you start gathering participants for your clean up, it is important to plan out the logistics. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Organizer to keep track of your plan. Here are some important things to consider:
- Determine a date and time to host your clean up event.
- Do you need permission or a permit to host a clean up event?
- How long will your clean up event last?
- Will clean up materials be given to participants or should they bring their own?
- Where will you dispose of the trash after it is picked up?
- Will you host any activities before, during, or after the clean up event?
Team up with an organization to host your clean up event! Creating a partnership with groups like Surfrider, Heal the Bay, or your local municipal office, can help grow participant interest and they can provide you with the materials you need to lead a successful clean up.
5. Get the Word Out
Now that you have your clean up event organized, it’s time to invite people to join you! There are multiple ways you can find volunteers to join; here are a few ideas:
- Invite your friends and family
- Create flyers to post around your school campus and/or community
- Create an Instagram or other social media account for your team that team members can access and post on (if your school already has an account, ask if they can feature your event)
- Create an event on Facebook and invite fellow students and friends
If using Instagram, make sure the Instagram account is a business account. This will allow you to see impact statistics on how many people you are able to reach, how many people share your posts, etc!
Create a free account on Canva.com and use their social media templates to create instagram posts/flyers.
6. Prepare Your Materials
Gather supplies for the clean up event and find an accessible location where they can be stored. This can include:
- Trash Grabbers
- Bags for trash and for recycling
- Clipboards with printed Community/Beach Clean Up Trackers for each team
- Writing utensil
Use the Litterati app for your Clean Up. Litterati will provide a code that all participants can use. Take pictures of what you collect during the clean and Litterati will track how much waste your clean up saved from your community!
7. Launch Your Clean Up
Now that you have your plan, participants, and materials in place, it’s time to launch your Clean Up! Here are some ideas to make your event run smoothly:
- Post signs to lead participants towards your clean up location
- Have a centralized location where participants can dispose of their trash. Store everything here until you finish your clean up.
- Keep track of all the trash you pick up with our Community/Beach Clean Up Tracker
If you are hosting a beach clean up, you can separate plastic from sand by putting large handfuls in a bucket of water. Many plastics are buoyant and will float to the surface when you mix the sand/water mixture.
8. Dispose Your Trash Safely
Congratulations! Now that you’ve collected all of the trash in your selected location, it’s important to dispose of it properly. Here are some places to you can responsibly throw your trash away:
- Local waste hauler
- School dumpster
- Dumpster at Clean Up location (if applicable)
Step 6: Post-Activity Reflection Questions
Student Reflection and Real World Application Questions
Once students have completed their Community/Beach Clean Up, use the questions below to have students reflect on their 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 trash items did you find the most of?
- Examples: cigarette butts, plastic bags, plastic forks
Real World Application
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 the Community/Beach Clean Up Wrap Up Form.
- Community/Beach Clean Up Sign Up Sheet
- Community/Beach Clean Up Invite and Safety Guidelines
- Community/Beach Clean Up Organizer
- Community/Beach Clean Up Tracker
- Community/Beach Clean Up Wrap-Up Form
- Community/Beach Clean Up Slides
Congrats on completing the Community/Beach Clean Up Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here!