Pick It Up!

By Jennifer Manglicmot, December 10, 2009

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Graphic Design

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

5 sessions total; Part 1: 45-60 min for each session; Part 2: Allow 4 hours for field trip and debrief; Allow 2 hours for final design work sessions, sharing, and assessment. If possible, teacher may allow quick 10 minute consultation meetings with each


In this problem-solving and action-oriented lesson, students will explore the problem of littering on their school campus, and the environmental effects of littering in their community.  Students will brainstorm ideas to address this problem, and they will research and collect ideas for receptacle designs, as well as ideas for graphic designs around the world that discourage littering and promote cleaner spaces and recycling.  They will design and create a receptacle that holds trash and recyclable items, and will include a graphic design that encourages the community to pick up trash and to recycle.

National Standards

Language Arts

Standard 1. Level II. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

5. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, organization, point of view; determines knowledge and interests of audience) to write for different audiences (e.g., self, peers, teachers, adults)

6. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas)

Standard 4. Level II. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

1. Uses a variety of strategies to plan research (e.g., identifies possible topic by brainstorming, listing questions, using idea webs; organizes prior knowledge about a topic; develops a course of action; determines how to locate necessary information)

7. Uses strategies to gather and record information for research topics (e.g., uses notes, maps, charts, graphs, tables, and other graphic organizers; paraphrases and summarizes information; gathers direct quotes; provides narrative descriptions)

Visual Arts

Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts

Standard 2. Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art

Standard 3. Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts

Standard 4. Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures


Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment


Students will:
  • conduct research to learn about existing receptacle designs and graphic designs that promote environmental clean-up and recycling collection
  • consider which receptacle designs and graphic designs will work in their community and which will promote a remedy for the littering problem
  • observe the current littering problem that is present in their community
  • design a receptacle that collects litter and recyclable items
  • create a graphic design that may be imprinted on the designed receptacle


computers with internet access http://www.in.gov/indot/3218.htm (Indiana Dept. of Transportation)


  • chart paper (with a ready-to-fill-in research graphic organizer drawn on it)
  • chart markers
  • Graphic Organizer (to gather information about receptacle design and environmental graphic design)
  • Rubric for Receptacle Design (see sample rubric)
  • poster paper
  • pencils
  • colored pencils
  • crayons
  • markers
  • cardboard
  • clay
  • scrap wood
  • string


  • design: to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan
  • graphic design: the art or profession of using design elements (as typography and images) to convey information or create an effect; also : a product of this art
  • impact: the force of impression of one thing on another: a significant or major effect
  • receptacle: one that receives and contains something; container


Step 1: Building Background and Brainstorming

The purpose of this activity is to activate students’ awareness of the current littering issue on their school campus and in their neighborhood.

1. Involve class in a discussion about littering.  Ask:

  • What is littering?  Why is it a problem?
  • Where have you seen litter?
  • What kinds of litter have you seen?
  • Have you observed people littering?
  • Why do you think people litter?

2. Tell students that littering creates more damage than most people may think.  Share these two Web sites with them, and read them together as a class, to find out more facts about littering and its impact on the environment (introduce vocabulary: impact):

http://www.in.gov/indot/3218.htm (Indiana Dept. of Transportation)

3. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a piece of paper. Ask students to brainstorm solutions to the littering problems that are present on their school campus and present in their neighborhood.

4. Explain the Brainstorming Process:

  • a) State the problem that you are trying to solve and write it on the top of your paper.
  • b) Take time to think about the problem.
  • c) Have each group member take a turn talking while all members listen. Accept all ideas and record them on a piece of paper.
  • d)  Take time to think about the ideas your group generates.
  • e) Reflect on your ideas and decide which ideas should be developed.
  • f) Share your ideas with the rest of the class. These ideas will be used in the next activity.

5.  Have groups share their suggestions with the class. Record the groups' ideas on the board. Discuss how each idea could help raise awareness of the littering problem and discourage littering and promote cleaner spaces and recycling.

Step 2: Design: Brainstorm, Research, and Create

In this part of the lesson, students will brainstorm ideas to design a receptacle that will encourage community and school members to pick up trash and recycle.

1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a graphic organizer that will help them gather ideas from the Internet about receptacle design and design that promotes picking up trash and recycling.  Students will split up into partner groups in order to share computers to research and record information.

2. After the collecting process is over, gather students to share their results.

3. Give each group a blank piece of chart paper.  Ask students to brainstorm ideas to design a receptacle and graphic designs that will encourage community and school members to pick up trash and recycle.  Encourage students to think about the materials that will be used to create receptacle, as well as the shape, and overall design of the receptacle.

4. Students will be provided with a list of questions to help guide them through their design process, particularly to help students choose their final designs.  Questions to ask:

  • What shapes will we use to create the design?
  • What materials will be used to create ther receptacle?
  • Have we sketched different designs?  How are they alike?  How are they different?
  • Which design discourages littering, and promotes recycling and maintaining a clean environment?
  • Which design is the most creative? Why? How will community members feel about the design?
  • How do we create the graphic design?  Where will it be placed? Why?

5.Students will sketch and label their designs.  Teacher will conduct at least one ten minute session with each design group, to promote group and self-reflection on the designs that they have created.  They will present their designs to a panel of school and community members, as well as their peers.


Receptacle Design Rubric:  Based on the co-created chart and sun bear adaptation notes (see my other lesson plan), allow fifteen to twenty minutes to review the Receptacle Design Rubric with students (See sample rubric). The rubric will consist of four criteria: Group and class discussion participation; following the design process; effort and perseverance; and meeting the functional and graphic design criteria for the receptacle design.

Differentiate Instruction: Monitor partner and small groups to make sure that they are supporting each other through research, design, and writing tasks.

Enrichment Extension Activities

LANGUAGE ARTS: Students will write business letters, as well as e-mail correspondence, to receptacle manufacturing companies, explaining the importance of their receptacle designs and the need for these designs to be produced for their school and for their neighborhood.

MATH: Students will take a survey in their school and neighborhood communities, to gather information regarding recycling habits.  They will create graphs to represent this data.  They may use this data to begin a campaign to raise awareness of people’s impact on the environment (i.e. “carbon footprint”).

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