Trash & Treasure

“Trash and Treasure”

This is one of my Mom’s favorite lines, “Trash and Treasure.” She always loves garage sales, thrift shops and antiques stores. She often says, “Ones trash can be your treasure.”  Let me share with you our different “treasured” experience with trash!

I was faced with the task of teaching another set of 3 R’s (Reduce, Reduce and Recycle) to four children below 10 years old and at the same time, introducing Measurement in Math (the more known 3 R’s of basic education are: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic)

When I think of ways of merging lessons and creating a “unit study” for multilevel kids, I just think of what could be most relevant, practical, doable and above all,  most FUN given our specific conditions and limitations.

So this is what I thought of: we were to choose a “road” or “street” strip of 50 meters or 1/20th of a kilometer and survey the kind of dry, non-disease producing trash we discovered in that given area. Gross? Well, I am a doctor in training and I think it would be very difficult to gross me out. So I was all game for this. Basically, we would collect (and the same time do our village a service) trash, sort them, measure and weigh them (introducing grams/kilograms).

The chosen area !


What did we need to do this?   First, I had a simple lesson on Garbage/ Trash and the whole idea of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For the older students, you can teach the concept of biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials, and the effects of non-biodegradable trash to our environment. You may even push this further to topics about “Global Warming,” “Depletion of the Ozone Layer,” and the improper waste disposal to urban problems like flooding.

Second, we had to prepare our materials:

  • masks
  • gloves
  • long disposable or “old” tongs
  • pails
  • labels
  • charts for tallying or a black or whiteboard
  • measuring tape

I don’t know what it is with boys and “eeky and stinky” stuff but the kids couldn’t contain their excitement as I told them the plan.

I also had to teach the kids about simple measurement: one centimeter is made up of ten millimeters, 100 centimeters make one meter. They had to physically see and understand what these lengths meant. Whenever lengths are mentioned, I always try my best to make them “get it” first before proceeding. I even use my husband’s height like 180 cm or a famous, tall basketball player like Yao Ming or Kevin Garnett. That structure is like 10x Papa’s height or 6x Yao Ming’s height.

So we set out to measure a 50-meter strip of sidewalk and started “cleaning up”.

We had to mark the 50 meter strip with chalk.


Look at that ! Curiosity at its best!
Look at that ! Curiosity at its best!
The cutest garbage collected ever!
“Look Mama, we got a big one!”

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Of course, consider safety first at all times. You might encounter broken glass or bottles, pieces of wood with splinters, nails or sharp objects. Caution the children about these potential dangers.

You may use  old boxes, pails or sacks to collect the trash and then assign separate pails as you sort these out.  We then sorted the trash according to the following: bottles, plastics, paper products, and a miscellaneous category (yes, as expected we discovered  one slipper! Can you magine the conversations and laughter as we discovered the weirdest things? ).

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Trash&Treasure09Imagine how excited the boys were seeing these huge piles of junk!

You can also have a short discussion on garbage collection and disposal.  You can ask the children on how they can do their part in better waste management (tied with Social Studies). You can discuss current issues facing urban cities like Manila regarding garbage disposal.

You can use charts so the smaller kids can do tally marks (and skip count by  2s and 5s). They can count how many bottles, plastic bags, snacks wrappers, paper, etc.  You can also weigh them if you have a good weighing scale.  Now you can stretch this to teach more Math concepts (addition, fractions, percentages, graphs).  Older kids may be taught how to create charts and graphs manually or  by using Microsoft’s Excel software program. I think the the most trash we found were plastics: bags, wrappers of candies and snacks!



Trash&Treasure27After the lesson, we all took a bath and scrubbed all the germs! (that’s why I love HomesCooling!).  I think the faces (though hidden with their masks) show how fun the kids were having with this activity.   We collected so much trash in such a small strip of land! Because  of this, they were able to imagine how much more trash there were if you collected from a wider or longer distance!

This was one of our memorable unit studies ever.   There were so many lessons learned in such a a fun (and maybe yucky for some) experience for kids of all ages! Now who wouldn’t call that finding “Treasure” in “Trash”?


Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,