Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students will explore how recyclable materials are separated according to the material they are made of, using their physical properties. They will read about physical properties, then apply their understanding when watching a series of short clips that show materials being separated. Students will then work in small groups to design their own way to separate one specific recyclable material from other objects by exploiting its physical properties. 

This activity has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 70 years Visy has been committed to finding sustainable solutions for Australia’s recyclables and helping to reduce local landfills. Visy collects, receives and sorts paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, steel and aluminium from households, businesses and schools with the purpose of reusing these products in the re-manufacture of new packaging products.

Learning intentions:

  • Students understand that there are recyclable and non-recyclable categories
  • Students understand how to categorise materials according to their physical properties.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingFlexibilityGlobal CitizenshipInitiativeProblem FindingProblem SolvingTeam Work

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 7 Science

  • Change to an object’s motion is caused by unbalanced forces, including Earth’s gravitational attraction, acting on the object (ACSSU117).
  • Scientific knowledge has changed people’s understanding of the world and is refined as new evidence becomes available (ACSHE119).
  • Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology, may impact on other areas of society and may involve ethical considerations (ACSHE120).
  • People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE121).
  • Communicate ideas, findings and evidence based solutions to problems using scientific language, and representations, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS133).

Syllabus outcomes: SC4-10PW, SC4-15LW, SC4-11PW, SC4-13ES, SC4-9WS.

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.8.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Science achievement standards: Students represent and predict the effects of unbalanced forces, including Earth’s gravity, on motion. Students draw on evidence to support their conclusions. They summarise data from different sources, describe trends and refer to the quality of their data when suggesting improvements to their methods. They communicate their ideas, methods and findings using scientific language and appropriate representations.

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Secondary Science.

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – teacher will facilitate the scientific design process.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheets (one copy per student)
  • Device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • 16 items of litter and recyclable materials found around the school (wash before using)
  • 2 bins or buckets labelled ‘Recycle’ and ‘Landfill’.

Keywords: Recycling, materials, design, problem-solving, physical properties.

The information and statistics included in this document are approximate and have been simplified for educational/illustrative purposes. They should not be relied upon for any other purpose.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... understand that there are recyclable and non-recyclable materials
  • ... understand how to categorise materials according to their physical properties.

Success criteria: Students can...

  • ... classify materials into recyclable and non-recyclable categories
  • ... identify one physical property of certain material that can be used to separate it from other materials
  • ... apply their knowledge about materials to design a way to separate out a recyclable material.

Teacher content information: What do you do with the things you no longer want or need, such as the packaging from the food you buy or bottles you drink from? Many of us have grown up thinking of this as 'waste', as something we need to just get rid of. But what if we think of these materials as a resource for creating new and useful products? What if we can re-imagine how we think about and use these materials?

Thinking of waste items as the resources

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: Physical properties include: appearance, texture, colour, odour, melting point, boiling point, density, solubility, polarity, and many others.

1. Watch this clip ( Your teacher will screen it for you in class.

Then respond to the prompts below:

One thing presented in the clip that was surprising or interesting:
One thing I didn’t understand:
Any vocabulary that I want to know:
One thing that reminded me of something that I already know:

Physical Properties

A physical property is a measurable characteristic that can be observed with one of your five senses. Different materials have their own unique set of properties that don’t change.

Read through the table below, then fill in the last column.

Physical  property: Description: Material that has the  physical property:
Magnetism Can pull certain types of metal towards it.
Density How compact an object is – the more dense the objec
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