Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students explore the opportunities and benefits of upcycling cardboard and find out how design thinking can be applied to upcycling projects.

Subjects: Design and Technology.

Year Levels: 5 & 6.

Topics: Design Thinking, Recycling, Sustainability.

Teaching Time: 50 minutes.

This lesson may be used as part of a two-lesson unit on upcycling cardboard; however, both lessons can stand alone. This is lesson 1; lesson 2 can be found here.

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 material sent to landfill. 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.

21st-century skills:

Critical Thinking

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 5 & 6 Design and Technology:

  • investigate needs or opportunities for designing, and the materials, components, tools, equipment and processes needed to create designed solutions (AC9TDE6P01)
  • generate, iterate and communicate design ideas, decisions and processes using technical terms and graphical representation techniques, including using digital tools (AC9TDE6P02)
  • select and use suitable materials, components, tools, equipment and techniques to safely make designed solutions (AC9TDE6P03)

Syllabus outcomes: ST3-14BE, ST3-15I, ST3-16P, ST3-5WT.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Year 5 & 6 achievement standards: Students explain how social, ethical, technical and sustainability considerations influence the design of solutions to meet a range of present and future needs.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Support students in independent work.

Resources required:

  • A device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Coloured markers, paints, stickers or tape
  • Design Thinking Image
  • Side Table Template – one for each student or group of students. These can be printed on A4 or A3-sized paper depending on the size of the cardboard you have (we would recommend the A3 size as the cutting and construction of the side table will be less fiddly).
  • Side table assembly instructions – the assembly instructions document includes instructions for a full-sized nightstand; in this lesson, you will use the smaller Side Table Template, which follows the same assembly instructions as the full-sized nightstand.
  • one A3-sized piece of thin cardboard for each student (this card should be the same as you would use to make cards. It will need to be large enough to trace the template onto)
  • scissors or a paper-cutting knife (depending on your confidence with students using a sharp paper-cutting knife).

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 why upcycling can improve the recycling loop
  • … understand the steps in the design thinking process.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … answer questions and identify examples of the steps in the design thinking process
  • ... follow instructions to create an upcycled cardboard mini side table.

Teacher content information: What do you do with the cardboard you no longer need? Most of us are used to putting cardboard straight into the recycling bin (go us!) so that it can be recycled and turned into new cardboard. But what if we could re-imagine the cardboard packaging that we use as a material that can be used to make art, craft, instruments, homewares and even furniture?

Thinking about how we can use an object in a completely new way is called 'upcycling'. Unlike recycling, upcycling does not break the product down to its raw materials for repurposing. Instead, it transforms the existing materials

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