In this lesson plan, children use recycled objects to build boats that float and that can be moved by wind. They begin by watching a video in which Curious George gathers trash to help clean up the city streets and discovers that he can create something special with his found treasures. Children then use recycled materials to build toy boats that can sail. They discuss ways to make objects move with wind, then use child-generated wind power to move their boats in water. They conclude by sharing their boats with each other and brainstorming other ways in which they could recycle materials in the classroom. As children go through the activities, they will be using the following science skills: planning and building, making predictions, and experimenting.
- Understand that you can reuse or recycle materials to make other things.
- Understand that wind can move floating objects.
Prep for Teachers
- Set up a Boat Building area (with recyclable materials) and a Boat Sailing area (with basins of water).
- Build one or more sample boats.
- Find and display the pictures and photographs of objects made from recycled materials and of windy days (see Supplies).
- Recycling bin or other object with the recycle symbol on it
- Pictures and photographs of objects made from recycled materials, such as playground swings and climbing structures made from tires
- Windy day pictures of sailboats, wind farm windmills, trees blowing, child blowing a pinwheel, and so on.
For the Build-a-Boat Area
- Clean, recycled materials for building toy boats: small plastic food containers, lids, trays, and bottle caps; foam water “noodles” sliced into discs; etc.
- Craft sticks or coffee stirrers (for masts)
- Paper rectangles and triangles cut from colorful magazine pages (for sails)
- Waterproof modeling clay and duct tape (for attaching masts and sails)
For the Sail-a-Boat Area
- Large, shallow basins of water
- Drinking straws, cut in half (for air power)
- Pieces of cardboard (for fanning the boats)
- (Optional: small, battery-operated, handheld fans)
1. Watch the video.
- Review with children the concepts of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Ask: Do you reuse or recycle at home? Describe what you and your family do.
- Point out the recycle symbol on the bottom of a container and discuss what the symbol means.
- Before showing the video, explain to children that Curious George and his friends are part of a Pretty City Committee that is helping to clean up the streets. Although George has been helping by picking up trash, he realizes that one person’s trash may be another person’s treasure. He decides to create something special with his trash collection. Then, play the video Curious George: Going Green.
2. Build the boats.
- Tell children that they are going to reuse materials to build toy boats.
- Have children build their boats. As they work, circulate throughout the classroom and engage children in conversation. Say, Tell me about your design. Why did you choose those materials?
- Praise children’s efforts. Point out the variety of strategies that children are using to build their boats.
3. Sail the boats.
- Discuss the pictures of windy days that you have on display. Ask: Have you ever been outside on a windy day? What did it sound like? What did it feel like? What did you notice was blowing in the wind?
- Have children blow on their hands, first making a soft breeze and then a strong gust of wind.
- Have children demonstrate other ways to make the air move and create wind (e.g., waving their hands, fanning the air with objects).
- Invite children to use wind power to make their toy boats move across the containers of water. Can they make their boat turn in different directions?
- After the children have explored moving their boats by child-generated wind power, they may enjoy using small battery-powered fans. (Note: remind children not to put their fans in the water.)
4. Share and discuss.
- Ask children to share their boats with their classmates.
- Together, brainstorm other ways in which you could recycle materials in the classroom.
- If your school participates in a recycling program, bring in a guest speaker, such as the janitor, to talk about how the program works.
Copy and distribute the Going Green handout for students to take home and share with their families.
Extend with Books
Encourage children to use these books as they continue to learn about recycling.
- Curious George Car Wash by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). George and his friend Allie use ordinary household items to build their own version of a car wash.
- The Earth Book by Todd Parr (Little, Brown, 2010). From planting a tree to conserving energy, this book offers ways to “take care of the earth.”
- Garbage and Litter by Jen Green (PowerKIDS Press, 2010). From food to plastic to glass, this book explores ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. See also What Can We Do About Trash and Recycling? by Lorijo Metz (PowerKIDS, 2010)
- Recycle Every Day by Tammy Gagne (Amicus, 2013). Colorful photographs explain the “why” and “how” of recycling.
- The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle by Nuria Rocca (Barron’s 2007). This book suggests ways that children and their families can help the environment.
Extend with Apps
Children can use this free app in class or at home.
- Curious George’s Town (available through iTunes). With the friendly guidance of The Man With The Yellow Hat, children help Curious George do his chores—including collecting items at the grocery store, baking cakes at the bakery, and cleaning and recycling at the park—in order to earn coins and save up for new purchases.