Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this activity students are asked to investigate the idea of planned obsolescence and how this relates to what we consume and how much we consume. Students are asked to watch and respond to a short clip from a documentary in their own time, then analyse the planned obsolescence of a product that they or someone in their family recently purchased. Students will then recreate a product according to a more sustainable design model.

This lesson has been developed as part of the Schools Recycle Right Challenge for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week. Register your lesson or other activities so they can be counted towards the national achievement and to receive other free support materials.


Learning intentions:

  • Students understand the term ‘planned obsolescence’.
  • Students identify a range of ways that products are designed according to principles of planned obsolescence.
  • Students recognise the role of consumers in the sustainability of products.

21st century skills: 

Critical ThinkingProblem FindingTeam Work                

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Year 7 Economics and Business

  • The ways consumers and producers respond to and influence each other in the market (ACHEK017)

Year 7 & 8 Design and Technologies

  • Examine and prioritise competing factors including social, ethical and sustainability considerations in the development of technologies and designed solutions to meet community needs for preferred futures (ACTDEK029)
  • Investigate the ways in which products, services and environments evolve locally, regionally and globally through the creativity, innovation and enterprise of individuals and groups (ACTDEK030)
  • Generate, develop, test and communicate design ideas, plans and processes for various audiences using appropriate technical terms and technologies including graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP036)

Syllabus Outcomes: T4.1.2, T4.1.3, T4.4.1, T4.6.2, T4.2.1, T4.2.2, T4.5.2, C4.2, C4.3, C4.4.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding

Topic: National Recycling Week.

Time required: 100 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – oversee activity and facilitate discussion.

Resources required: Internet access, Student Worksheet.

Keywords: Planned obsolescence, upgrading, consumption, consumers, sustainability.

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

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand the term 'planned obsolescence' and are able to identify a range of ways that products are designed according to principles of planned obsolescence. Students will also recognise the role of consumers in the sustainability of products.

Teacher content information:


Cool Australia Presents Consumption from Cool Australia on Vimeo.

Hot tips: The next time a student, teacher or classroom has a product that breaks, see if you can find how to fix this product on this site: iFixit. Consider working as a class to repair the product.

Teaching Sequence

Work through this resource material in the following sequence:

20 minutes - Part A: Activating Prior Knowledge
40 minutes - Part B: Understanding Obsolescence
40 minutes - Reflection

Part A: Activating Prior Knowledge

Step 1. Vocabulary exercise: Ensure that students are familiar with and understand the term ‘planned obsolescence’

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: Did you know that we package some foods to last longer than some electronic devices?

What is planned obsolescence?

Watch this Story of Stuff video below from 12.18 - 15.40 and answer the related questions:

The Story of Stuff from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.


In your own words, describe what is meant by ‘planned obsolescence’:

How do you think ‘planned obsolescence’ and ‘upgrading’ are related?

Investigate a product

Working independently, choose a new product that you or someone in your family recently purchased, such as a phone or computer.

Describe this product:

Why did you buy this product?

How long would you like it to last?

How long do you expect it to last?

If this item stopped working, do you think could it be easily repaired? Can the battery be replaced?

Can this item be recycled? How do you know?

Why do you think it would be useful or good to upgrade this product in the future?

What programs exist to help this product contin

- or - to view worksheets

Leave your Feedback

We appreciate your feedback. Let us know what you like or don't like about this activity:

Sorry. You must be logged in to view this form.