Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson students will explore the topic of recycling within their classroom. Through the topic they will practise the core mathematical skills of counting, sorting and classifying and then apply their findings to reflect on and develop their own recycling habits.

This activity has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 60 years Visy has been striving for sustainability, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill by collecting recyclable materials and recycling them into new paper and packaging products. Click here to find out more about Visy and their innovative work in recovering and transforming recyclable materials into new products to preserve our earth’s precious resources.



Learning intentions:

  • Students will understand that paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminium and steel can be recycled.
  • Students will able to sort materials into groups.

21st century skills: 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Foundation Mathematics

  • Sort and classify familiar objects and explain the basis for these classifications. Copy, continue and create patterns with objects and drawings (ACMNA005).
  • Connect number names, numerals and quantities, including zero, initially up to 10 and then beyond (ACMNA002).

Syllabus outcomes: MAe‑1WM, MAe‑2WM, MAe‑4NA, MAe‑8NA.

General capabilities: Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Foundation achievement standards: By the end of the Foundation year, students make connections between number names, numerals and quantities up to 10. Students count to and from 20 and order small collections. They group objects based on common characteristics and sort shapes and objects.

Topic: Sustainability, Waste.

Unit of work: Bright Sparks – Primary Mathematics.

Time required: 50 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – explicit modelling, demonstration and monitoring of student activities required.

Resources required:

Keywords: Recycle, recycling, paper, glass, plastic, aluminium, steel, sustainable, reuse, environment, landfill.

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 understand that paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminium and steel can be recycled.
  • Students will able to sort materials into groups.

Success criteria:

  • Students can recall five main recycling categories (paper and cardboard, steel, aluminium, plastic and glass).
  • Students can group items into recycling categories.

Teacher content information:

Almost everything we do in our daily lives creates waste. We can describe waste as something we no longer want or need. The food and drinks we consume, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the transport we take, the stuff we buy, the energy we use in our homes and workplaces – all these things have waste as a part of their production.

Many of the things we use come to us wrapped in some kind of packaging. Think of the toast and jam you ate for breakfast, the tinned soup you ate for lunch, the shoes you're wearing, the computer you're using, and the shampoo you washed your

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: When we throw anything away it must go somewhere


When we put items in our bins, where do they go?


Sorting Recyclables

Draw the items that you sorted into each category. Then write the number of items you placed in each group.


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


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