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The Recycle Games



Reviving Reviews: 
                          Refreshing Ideas Students Can't Resist

Return to Five Lessons Teach Students to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle



  • Physical Education: Games
  • Science: Physical Science:


  • PreK
  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced


Brief Description

These Recycle Games provide great exercise while teaching about the importance of recycling.




Students will


  • get physical exercise as they learn about local recycling efforts.
  • learn about the importance of recycling. `
  • learn how to sort trash for recycling.
  • display good sportsmanship during all activities.





Exercise, recycle, phys ed, physical education, relay, race, Olympics, field day

Materials Needed

  • Required materials depend on the races that comprise your Recycle Games. Most materials are common classroom, phys ed, or recycling props. See activity ideas below for specific materials.


Lesson Plan




In this lesson, students participate in relay races and games that make use of recycled materials and other "trash."

Before the Lesson.
Before the lesson, you might want to look at one or more of the following resources offering activity ideas you can include in your Recycle Games:

  • Recycle Relay
  • Recycle Relay
  • Games/Activities: Recycling Relay (pdf document, scroll to page 4)

    Some of the activities found in the above resources are just for fun, but others have purposeful instruction at their root. For example, some activities provide students with practice deciding which trash items are recyclable and sorting those items appropriately. Those activities are easy to adapt so they will relate to the specific rules/guidelines of your community's recycling program.

    Additional relays and games can be found below.

    The Lesson
    Decide in advance which activities will be part of your Recycle Games and how you plan to organize the games. Many of the activities can be adapted for use for individual or team fun and learning.

    For a fun and healthful exercise and education experience, incorporate the lesson ideas above with some additional ideas that emphasize the use of recyclable materials. You might

    • record individual students' times,
    • arrange students into relay teams (the first student to complete the course taps the next team member in line; the race continues until all team members have run the course),
    • or do the activities just for fun.

    The activity instructions below are written with small-team competition in mind.

    • Trash Can Relay. Set up five classroom trash cans in an obstacle course. The first student on the team runs the course, weaving in and out around the cans. When the student reaches the last can, he or she turns around and weaves back to the team. The runner taps the next team member in line, who takes his/her turn running the course
    • Bottle Bowling. Set up bowling pins made from 2-liter soda pop bottles, small bleach bottles, or tall dishwashing detergent bottles. Tip: Put about an inch of sand in the bottom of the bottles; the pins will still be easy to bowl down, but the bottles won't fall as easily as they would if there was no sand in them.
    • Waste No Water. Fill a clean open-topped non-breakable container (a plastic spaghetti sauce jar or a soup can work well) with water for each team; be sure the containers are the exact same size and filled to the brim with water. Set a start and finish point. At a signal, the first runner heads for the finish line, walks over the line, turns around and heads back to his or her team, and passes the container to the next person in line. At the end of the race, the team with the most water still in the container is the winner.
    • Newspaper Relay. Provide a stack of newspapers for each team and have team members divide the stack evenly among themselves. Set up a paper bag or recycle bin (or whatever container your community uses for recycling newspaper) at a finish line. At a signal, the first member of the team carries his or her stack of newspaper to the finish line, deposits it in the container, runs back to the team, and taps the next person in line.
    • Putt for Points. Paint five coffee cans with bright colors. Paint or draw a point value on each can. (Suggestions: Paint the number 5 on one can, the number 10 on another, 15 on a third, 20 on a fourth, and 50 on the fifth.) Set up the coffee cans in a row. Give students three golf balls and three chances to accumulate points for their team.
    • Tumbling Towers. This activity can be done one team at a time. Provide a recycle bin full of clean aluminum cans (for example, soda pop cans). At a signal, students have 2 minutes to stack the cans one atop another. Each student takes a turn at building a tower by stacking cans one atop the other. The student on each team who builds the tallest tower then represents his or her team in a final team-against-team stacking competition.


    Congratulate students on their good sportsmanship during the relay games.


    Lesson Plan Source


    Education World

    Submitted By


    Gary Hopkins

    National Standards


    GRADES K - 12
    NPH.K-12.3 Physical Activity
    NPH.K-12.4 Physical Fitness
    NPH.K-12.5 Responsible Behavior
    NPH.K-12.6 Respect for Others


    Don't miss dozens of lesson and project ideas in Education World's Earth Day Archive.
    Click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, Five Lessons Teach Students to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

    Originally published 04/11/2003
    Links last updated 11/11/2014