PrintTwo 45 Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify and explain the different ways we dispose of trash.
  • describe what happens in a landfill.
  • create an edible landfill.
  • identify the Core Democratic Values of individual freedom and responsibility for the common good and the role they play in determining the opportunity costs of proper trash disposal.
  • Peanut butter (You can also use butterscotch pudding to avoid peanut butter allergies)
  • Finely chopped walnuts
  • Jelly-type fruit strips- two per learner. (You can also make small circles of finger gelatin as a substitute or flatten taffy.)
  • String-like pieces of licorice (You can use multiple flavors of licorice, i.e. black, red, etc. to form a twist.)
  • Crushed chocolate cookies
  • Vanilla favored wafers or honeyed crackers - crushed
  • Hard rock-like candy or suckers
  • Plastic straws
  • White chocolate chips
  • Bite size black licorice
  • Green cake decorating sprinkles (A small amount of green tinted applesauce may be substituted)
  • Box of plain rice cereal
  • Silver balls used for cake decorating
  • The Trash Trail (Handout One)
  • Conscientious Engineering (Handout Two)
  • Filling Up (Handout Three)
  • Definitions of terms (Handout Four)


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the learners to explain what happens to the unwanted materials; packaging, clothing, building materials, furniture, appliances, computers, food left-overs/scraps, grass clippings, etc. when people want to get rid of them? Have them guess what percentage of the whole is recovered and recycled, what percentage of the whole is burned, and what percentage of the whole is placed in landfills. After they have reached some sort of a consensus of opinion, share with them that 30 percent is recovered and recycled or composted, 14 percent is burned at combustion facilities, and the remaining 56 percent is disposed of in landfills. Day One:

  2. Distribute a copy of the Trash Trail Recording Sheet (Handout One) to each learner. Ask them what they think it means to reuse unwanted materials. Explain that this means that the discarded item remains the same with the same purpose, but is used again, often times by someone else. Ask learners to share examples of items that they think would be reusable. Ask if they know someone who has donated clothing or other items to charitable organizations or donated something to a disaster relief fund or shelter or family in their community.

  3. After a few minutes of discussion ask them to write a definition in the square for reuse and then write some examples. Follow the same procedure with each of the other terms. Students may work independently or with a partner to complete the Trash Trail Recording Sheet. (Teacher Note: Make a copy of the definitions contained in (Handout Four) or give each learner or group of learners a copy to use while they work)

  4. Day Two:

  5. Show an overhead, poster, or model of a cross-section of a landfill. Be sure to point out these components: clay liner, drainage pipes, sand and gravel filters, alternating layers of dirt and trash, and a thick layer of dirt over top covered with grass.

  6. Explain the function of each component:

    1. clay liner is used to prevent liquids from seeping into the groundwater supply. This is known as leaching the drainage pipes carry the liquids away from the bottom of the landfil
    2. sand and gravel layers act as filters. The sand and gravel hold the solid particles and allow the liquid to drain through -after the trash is put into the landfill; dirt is placed over that trash
    3. dirt layer contains microbes which can decompose the organic trash. After this layer of dirt is placed in the landfill, another layer of trash is placed over the dirt, then soil, trash, soil, etc. The alternating layers also prevent scavenging animals from picking at the trash. The layers also help control odors.
    4. thick layer of dirt covered with grass over the top of the landfill helps to make the land usable again.
  7. Distribute a copy of Conscientious Engineering (Handout Two), and Filling Up (Handout Three) to each learner and the materials listed for creating the landfill.

  8. Display a cross section of a landfill. Instruct learners to use the landfill materials to construct a representation of the various components of a landfill.

  9. To conclude this lesson, ask learners to reflect on whether or not people should have the right to do whatever they choose with their waste materials. Be sure to discuss the Core Democratic Values as they pertain to individual freedoms vs. community responsibilities and the common good.

  10. As a journal entry, have learners summarize the making of a landfill as discussed in class, including a short paragraph representing their point of view about the relationship between individual freedoms vs. community responsibilities and the common good when dealing with issues of trash disposal.

  11. Have the learners enjoy eating their landfill.


The learner’s involvement in the class discussion, the successful completion of The Trash Trail Recording Sheet (see Handout One), the construction of a landfill and the Journal Entry summarizing the class discussion and reflection on individual freedoms vs. community responsibilities as they pertain to trash disposal form the basis for the assessment of this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
      2. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.