Last Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Learning for sustainability, throw stuff away? That’s rubbish! – first level

What is this?

Children will learn about the idea of a “circular economy” and how it can help reduce waste. Tasks include design and re-use of packaging, and related expressive arts activities. The activities are designed to be used in class or adapted for children while they are working remotely.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) experiences and outcomes: First level

Literacy and numeracy – listening and talking, reading, writing

  • I regularly select and listen to or watch texts which I enjoy and find interesting, and I can explain why I prefer certain sources.
    I regularly select subject, purpose, format and resources to create texts of my choice. (LIT 1-01a)
  • When listening and talking with others for different purposes, I can exchange information, experiences, explanations, ideas and opinions, and clarify points by asking questions or by asking others to say more. (LIT 1-09a)
  • I enjoy creating texts of my choice and I regularly select subject, purpose, format and resources to suit the needs of my audience. (LIT 1-20a)
  • I can present my writing in a way that will make it legible and attractive for my reader, combining words, images and other features. (LIT 1-24a)

Expressive arts – art and design, drama, music

  • I can create a range of visual information through observing and recording from my experiences across the curriculum. (EXA 1-04a)
  • I enjoy creating, choosing and accepting roles, using movement, expression and voice. (EXA 1-12a)
  • Inspired by a range of stimuli, and working on my own and/or with others, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through musical activities. (EXA 1-18a)

Sciences – topical science

  • I have contributed to discussions of current scientific news items to help develop my awareness of science. (SCN 1-20a)

Social studies – people, place and environment

  • I can consider ways of looking after my school or community and can encourage others to care for their environment. (SOC 1-08a)

Technologies – technologies in society, craft design engineering and graphics

  • I can take appropriate action to ensure conservation of materials and resources, considering the impact of my actions on the environment. (TCH 1-06a)
  • I can design and construct models and explain my solutions. (TCH 1-09a)
  • I can explore and experiment with sketching, manually or digitally, to represent ideas in different learning contexts. (TCH 1-11a)

Purpose of the activity

Children will learn about the idea of a “circular economy” and how it can help reduce waste. Tasks include design and re-use of packaging, and related expressive arts activities.

Learning activity

Tell children that they are going to learn more about why we need to protect our environment. Children will carry out a task which encourages them to think about reducing waste.

In preparation for that task, it will be helpful if you can gather some packaging such as small cardboard boxes.

Ask children to tell you their favourite toy, game or activity. How would they feel if, in future, children like them could not have the same favourite thing because all the materials it was made from had been used up?

Now show children this short extract from Wall-e.

Discuss the extract with children. Some of them will know the movie. Ask what Wall-e is doing and ask children how they feel about all the waste. They will see that Wall-e keeps some of his favourite things, some of which are quite surprising!

Then read children the following story about Ellen McArthur. You might encourage children to role-play parts of the story, for example when Ellen is steering her yacht through a storm, or looking up at the stars as the deck of the yacht rolls and pitches. (You can find out more about Ellen McArthur at

Ellen McArthur became very famous as a sailor. She sailed around the world, and from New York to Britain, faster than anyone else.

On one of her long voyages, she realised how important it was that she took good care of her yacht. She needed it to survive! She realised that she could only use energy that she could supply from the resources on the yacht. If anything broke, she had to repair it with materials she had on the yacht. Can you picture her, steering her yacht through a big storm?

When Ellen thought about it, she realised that our life on Planet Earth was really the same. We only have one planet, so we only have the food, energy supplies and other resources we can find on Planet Earth – just like her yacht. We need to use these resources wisely, otherwise what will be left for children in the future?

Ellen then thought of a very important idea. She wondered why, when something like a bike wears out, we throw it away. She realised that we could, instead, keep all the pieces of the bike and send them back to the factory. The engineers in the factory could repair all the pieces properly, and then build a fine, brand new bike. That way, nothing would be thrown away.

(This story is a simplified description of the “circular economy”. You can find out more at the following link if you wish.)

Now introduce children to their challenge. Tell them that their task is to create new packaging for a baby’s soft toy, like a dog, a cat, a lion or a polar bear. Ask children to choose from the packaging materials you have set aside. Ask them to decide how they will use the material to create the new packaging for the soft toy.

  • Can it be used as it is, with a new outer cover?
  • Can it be turned inside out?
  • Can it be cut, carefully, to form a smaller package, or a different shape? (If children choose this option, ask them how they might still use the pieces of packaging that are left. For example, they could “shred” the material to provide more protection for the soft toy.)

Children should now create their package. Help children as necessary, for example, if they decide to cut the materials you have provided.

Next, children should design new graphics for the outside of the packaging. Ask them to draw the soft toy of their choice, with as much detail as they can. (Children can find images of suitable toys online or from store catalogues). Ask children to choose a suitable name for their toy, to show on the packaging. They can design their graphics manually or using computer graphics.

Extension activity

Ask children to carry out one or more of the following tasks.

  • Design a small “label” to attach to their package. The label should explain how the packaging has been made from recycled/ upcycled materials. Ask children to write a suitable script for the label.
  • Think of a good “business” name or brand to put on the label – “Iona’s eco wrap!” or “Harris boxes clever!” or, better still, children’s own choice.
  • Design a logo for their “brand” – encourage children to think about the idea of a “circle” or continuous loop in their design.
  • Create a “jingle” or rap to promote children’s “brand”, again emphasising the ideas of no waste, and a circle or continuous loop.

National Benchmarks

Literacy and numeracy – listening and talking, reading, writing

  • Selects spoken texts regularly for enjoyment or to find information for a specific purpose and gives a reason for preferences.
  • Selects and shares ideas/information using appropriate vocabulary in a logical order.
  • Selects and uses, with support, appropriate resources to engage with others, for example, objects, pictures and/or photographs.
  • Presents writing in a clear and legible way using images and other features as appropriate.
  • Creates texts selecting subject, purpose, format and resources for a range of purposes and audiences.

Expressive arts – art and design, drama, music

  • When creating images and objects to express ideas, thoughts and feelings: chooses and uses technology and a range of media.
  • Creates, chooses and takes on a role within a drama, for example, a real or imagined situation, re-enactment of a story, a traditional tale.
  • Shares thoughts and feelings by expressing personal views in response to musical experiences, for example, performances, school shows and music from different styles and cultures.

Sciences – topical science

  • Discusses and expresses opinions about science topics in real-life contexts, including those featured in the media.

Social studies – people, place and environment

  • Presents an informed opinion on rights and responsibilities using their own experience.
  • Makes informed decisions on an issue having listened to others.

Technologies – technologies in society, craft design engineering and graphics

  • Understands how and where we waste materials and resources.
  • Creates and justifies a solution to a given design challenge considering who is it for, where and how will it be used.
  • Uses appropriate tools and joining methods to construct a model.
  • Creates manual and / or digital sketches to represent ideas.

Possible approach to assessing learning

This task should be assessed holistically, as it embraces several experiences and outcomes. The components of the assessment should include the technical aspects of language, knowledge and understanding, alongside the expressive and technological aspects.

When planning your approach to assessing learning, please take account of the latest guidance on assessment approaches.