A Shredding We Will Go

K, 1, 2

After studying the process of composting, learners will recycle paper from their school to be taken to a compost pile in a local nursery.  A return visit to the nursery will show students how their paper has become part of the compost pile and is no longer recognizable as the shredded paper they brought to the nursery.  A part of this compost pile will be returned to help beautify the trees that the learners have previously planted.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Thirty-Minute Class Periods, Several Days of Collection, and One Half-Day Class Period

The learner will:

  • develop a service plan to recycle paper from their school.
  • chart and graph the weight of shredded paper.
  • interpret the data from a graph.
  • demonstrate how to be a philanthropist by making a common area more beautiful.
  • write a letter to the nursery that helped to create the compost.
  • plastic tub filled with various kinds of decomposable garbage
  • materials for making posters or informational fliers
  • collection containers (recycle bins, cardboard boxes, etc.)
  • paper shredder(s)
  • trash bags (preferably recyclable)
  • scales to weigh large bags of paper
  • copy of Handout One: Paper Collection Chart
  • read-aloud copy of The Giving Tree (see Bibliographical References)
  • Compost Guide  https://www.compostguide.com/  Accessed November 30, 2005.  Scroll down to read "The Compost Decomposition Process" and "Composting Tips."
  • Silverstein, Shel.  The Giving Tree.  HarperCollins, 1964.  ISBN:0060256656


  1. Anticipatory Set: The instructor will show the learners a plastic tub filled with decomposable garbage (possible items could include: old newspapers, paper scraps, leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, carrot peelings, tea bags, apple cores, banana peels, egg shells,and sawdust.) For added excitement, instructor could run his/her gloved hands through the garbage to see the variety of materials. Pose the question, "What could we do with this garbage?" Write the suggestions on the board. The instructor will then ask, "Which of these suggestions are helpful to people and which are not?" Circle the useful suggestions and cross off the "wasteful" suggestions.

  2. Tell learners that garbage can be turned into a usable and useful product called compost which can be used as mulch/fertilizer for plants inside and outside. Refer to information on the Internet about compostprocess and uses. (See Bibliographical References.)

  3. Discuss with learners the things in the school that could be recycled and made into compost.

  4. Ask learners, "Which of those things does the school have in abundance?" (Lead the conversation to the fact that paper is used often in school and then thrown away.)

  5. Ask learners, "How could we be philanthropists, using our time, talent, or treasure, to make good use of this used school paper?" (The main idea you would like to solicit from this conversation is that we could collect the paper and turn it into mulch which could be put around trees on the school grounds or other areas.)

  6. Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to the students to illustrate the concept of giving. Tell the students that they are going to give back to the trees by providing them with some good mulch.

  7. Show the learners the collection containers that will be used to collect the paper from the school. (Instructor should have gotten permission from his/her administrator about possible locations for the collection containers.) Discuss the management of the paper-collecting project, using student ideas as much as possible. The containers should be labeled "PAPER ONLY PLEASE." Attach these labels to the containers so that they will be very visible.

  8. Day Two:

  9. Discuss possible ways to explain this recycling project to the school. Possible communication tools could include having a student make an announcement over the public announcement system, designing flyers to post around the school, writing an announcement to be distributed to classrooms, etc.) Be sure to include in the information that no snack papers, plastic, etc. should be put in the collection containers. After the class has decided on the communication tool to be used, have them write the announcement or make the flyers and then announce or post.

  10. Have learners take the containers to the selected locations after the announcement has been made.

  11. Make arrangements for collection of the paper. This will vary depending on the size of the collection area. The students should collect the paper on a daily basis and bring back to the classroom, or specified area.

  12. Subsequent Days:

  13. Obtain a paper shredder to shred collected paper. Have learners take turns shredding the paper (on a daily basis) and putting it into a collection bag. If the students need additional help in completing this task, have older volunteers help each day.

  14. Using scales, help learners weigh the bag of shredded paper each day. Have learners record this information on a chart, such as the one in Handout One. This will be done every day during the collection process. (If you have a smaller amount of collected paper, you could choose to weigh the paper at a different interval, such as after a week, two weeks, a month, etc.)

  15. After you have accumulated a specified amount of shredded paper (ask the nursery what they will accept), take this shredded paper to a cooperating nursery to be added to its compost pile. The ideal situation for this activity would be for the learners to accompany you to the site and watch the addition of the paper to the pile. If money is a constraint, the instructor could take the paper to the site, andtake a photograph or video as it is being added to the compost pile.

  16. Using the information gathered on the chart, make a class graph of the mass of paper collected each day.

  17. The learners will interpret the information on the graph to make conclusions. (Example: On which days did the school have the most paper trash? On which days did the school have the least paper trash? What conclusions can you draw with that information? Why did some days have a lot and some days have a little?)

  18. Guide the students as they make a service plan for how to use the complete compost mulch to fertilize some trees (preferably the trees they planted in the previous lesson). Write out the plan and assign duties to students.

  19. Final Day:

  20. After a designated time period (check with the manager of the nursery to see how long it will take for the shredded paper to turn into compost--two weeks at a minimum), arrange a field trip to the participating nursery and take learners to see the compost pile that has had their shredded paper added.

  21. Transport about one yard of the compost back to the designated location and have the learners spread the "recycled product" around the trees.

  22. Have students write thank-you letters to the nursery.


Through observation, assess student enthusiasm for the project and understanding of the contribution to the common good.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners manage a school paper-recycling project. Then, they use the compost made from therecycled paper to beautify trees planted in a common area.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.
    2. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a service plan.