Recycle Relay, and Activity for Earth Day and Everyday!




Recycle Relay, an Activity for Earth Day and Every Day!

Earth Day Printable


Kids at any age can learn to love and respect our planet. For me this starts with lessons in caring for our homes, schools and other places we share, as well as environmental conservation.

In learning the simple act of recycling, students also can learn responsibility, respect, sorting, counting and even materials science! Recycling means different things in different places, depending on what waste removal services are available. As soon as children learn to sort, they can also learn to recycle. It is another home and school task that kids love to help with.

Play Recycle Relay

A fun way to learn more about the science of what things are made of, as well as a great lesson in conservation is to play “Recycle Relay”.

“Recycle Relay” is a non-competitive recycling relay race. Students examine various items and then determine how to sort them. It is easy and fun and allows kids to form environmentally friendly habits at an early age.


For this activity, you will need:
• Clean recyclables without sharp edges: empty yogurt tubs, water bottles, cans without smooth edges, paper, etc. (There will be no glass in this game!)
• Clean “trash” items: empty juice boxes or pouches, snack wrappers, etc.
• 4 empty plastic bins or small trash cans
• “Recycle Relay” labels printable

Learning to recycle!

Gather something made of plastic, something made of metal, and something made of paper. Have the students sit in a circle. Show the kids the items one at a time. Pass them around the circle and have them describe what each material is like. For example, plastic can be described as: hard, smooth, colorful, light or heavy, depending on the item. Metal could be described as shiny, hard, easy to bend or hard to bend, depending on the item. So on, and so forth.

This circle time would also be a good opportunity to read a picture book depicting kids recycling. I would suggest:
• Why Should I Recycle? by Jen Green
• Recycle! A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons
Once students have a vocabulary for describing and understanding the three materials you have introduced, you can start your relay. Label the empty bins with the “Paper”, “Metal”, “Plastic” and “Trash” labels. Set them up in a line along one end of the room.

Pour out the clean recyclables and trash items on the floor. Have the students sit in a line facing the labeled bins. Taking turns, kids can pick up an item, and run (skip, crawl, or wiggle!) their way over the bins and put it in the bin they think the item should go in. They can ask for help choosing from other students or the teacher if needed.

Wrap up Recycle Relay

Proceed until all of the students have had a turn or two and the items have all been placed in the bins. You can then dump out each bin and discuss what is inside. Using the descriptive words the students came up with during the circle time, decide whether the items are made out of the right material for the bin they were placed in.

You can extend this activity by counting the items in each bin, and creating a bar graph, or picture graph on poster paper that shows the recycled items.


Sarah Benton Feitlinger, M.Ed. is a former Preschool-6th science teacher, mom, blogger and science writer, curriculum consultant and developer. She is passionate about educating children, and loves anything and everything science! Check out her blog, Share it! Science for fun science, STEM and STEAM activities, lessons, science news, book reviews and other resources for kids, teachers, homeschoolers and parents.

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