Litter monsters

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Get rummaging for rubbish to make these monster creations!

Many children will be aware of the idea of recycling materials such as glass, newspaper or garden waste. However, they may not have much idea about what happens to these items once they have been taken to a recycling centre, nor the extent of the problems people create by throwing away huge amounts of litter.

The activities on these pages will encourage children to think about the amount of waste we produce. It will also get them to consider whether once something is finished with, does it automatically become rubbish? Why not make it into a piece of art instead?

Getting started

  • Start by explaining to the class that the society we live in can be enormously wasteful, and that recycling is important. If children are to really appreciate the extent of the problem, though, it needs to be demonstrated to them in a visual way.
  • Bring two bags into the classroom: one containing a selection of items from the week’s shopping, another containing the ‘leftovers’ of last week’s shopping. Ensure that this second bag has a range of materials in it – glass bottles, plastic containers, newspaper, cardboard, vegetable peelings. Ask the children to suggest which of the items could be recycled – they may know that vegetables can be composted and that bottles can be taken to a bottle bank – and record their suggestions on the board.
  • Encourage the children to reflect on the amount of rubbish that is thrown away every day in the classroom and around the school. Use the activity sheet ‘School litter survey’ from to help. There is potential here to draw links with other curriculum areas: in science, the children could categorise the different materials that they find in various bins, while a maths lesson could focus on handling the data that emerges from their research, such as which class produces the most rubbish.l If some of the children don’t like rummaging through rubbish, give them a more creative task. The practice of recycling materials to make art dates back to Picasso, who memorably transformed a bicycle saddle and a pair of handlebars into a bull’s head, while Tony Cragg’s Britain Seen From the North is a particular favourite of young visitors to the Tate Britain. An internet search for ‘rubbish art’ will also lead you towards contemporary artists such as Tim Noble and Sue Webster. Their sculptures, carefully constructed from piles of rubbish, provide the inspiration for the following activities.
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