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Youth Waste Reduction and Recycling Education

hrnclogoThe Waste Trac Education Team's offices are now located in their NEW Education Center at 1500 Bluff Street in Cedar Falls (behind the Cedar Falls Transfer Station/Recycling Center). Two educators are available to provide solid waste education programs throughout Black Hawk County at no charge during a visit to their Education Center, at the Black Hawk County Landfill, or at your school or group meeting location. All activities can be presented at your location, unless designated as a "Hartman Field Trip only".

hrnclogoThrough the Commission's partnership with Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls, Waste Trac programs can also take place during your filed trip to the nature center.

To schedule a FREE educational program, please:
(319) 266-8722 (TRAC) or
Tammy Turner ( or Lyndsey Anderson (

Click on the link below for more details:
Youth Programs Offered
Starting a Recycling Program at Your School
Standards and Benchmarks Reached Through Waste Trac Programs
Teacher Newsletter
Teacher Online Resources

Youth Programs Offered
Activities are listed below from those suited to preschool up to high school students.
Most programs can be adjusted for a specific grade or to cover certain standards and benchmarks.
Let us know how we can customize the activity for you!

wormbin Vermicomposting (Composting with Redworms!) (All Ages) - Learn how we put redworms to work eating our fruit and vegetable scraps!  We will bring our worm bin into your class and show how worms can recycle food scraps. A puppet show is available for students PreK – 1st, while older students will work in groups at different worm activity stations. Middle School/High School version available. (30 - 45 minutes)

Where Does Your Garbage Go? (PreK – K) - Mr. Gilly in the story, Trashy Town, likes to “dump in it, smash it down, and drive around the trashy town”.  The group will discuss the basics of trash collection and the students will see pictures of how their local garbage is smashed at the county landfill. After the story, students will model the activites in the book and complete a worksheet. (30 - 45 minutes)


Garbage Monster (PreK – 1st) - We will read the story, Garbage Monster and then learn how to remove trash from the garbage monster by composting, recycling, and reusing. (30 minutes)

michaelrecycle Michael Recycle (PreK – 1st) - It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a green-caped crusader! After the story Michael Recycle, the students will wear their own green super hero capes and fly across the room to recycle household items (such as cans and bottles) into simple categories. (30 - 45 minutes)

The Before and After Recycling Magic Show (PreK - 1st) - Many of us are watching our waste and recycling, but are curious as to what happens to our recyclables after we put them in the recycling bin. Do a short sorting activity and then watch the magic show. Kids will learn what milk jugs, steel cans and newspapers collected in city recycling programs are transformed into.  (30 - 45 minutes)


Give a Cheer For Reuse! (1st – 3rd) - After reading the Old Red Rocking Chair, students will be able to distinguish the difference between reusing an item and recycling it. Reused items will be repurposed into games for the students.
(30 minutes)


What Are Things Made Of? (1st – 3rd) - Yes, we purchase items at the store, but which resources are used to make everyday items? After reading, What Cried Granny, an Almost Bedtime Story, the students will be able to match up the resource to the end product. (30 minutes)

Picnic Activity

Picnic Activity (1st – 4th) - This active program will get kids hopping on a picnic blanket, sorting out items from the picnic that are either disposable, durable, or compostable. We will also talk about ways to pack a low-waste lunch.
(30 - 45 minutes)

landfilltour Guided Landfill Tours (1st and up, Field trip to Landfill) - Visit the Black Hawk County Landfill to learn about the environmental protections that are put in place during the construction of a waste cell. We will visit the small loads facility and hike to the cell to watch trucks unload. Middle School/High School version available. (45 - 60 minutes)

Lunch Recycling Program (1st and up, Field trip to HRNC) - During a trip to Hartman Reserve Nature Center, students will be asked to examine the waste created at lunch time. Can any of it be recycled or composted? Students will sort from their individual lunches. Prior to visiting, teachers may want to check out the Waste Free Lunch website at to give their students tips on ways to pack their lunch for their Hartman fieldtrip. (30 - 45 minutes, including time for eating; Hartman Field Trip only)

plasticbottle Water Bottle Tales (1st and up) - Plastic has invaded our everyday life, but do students know what resources are used or how plastic is made? Read the story The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle and stretch out a water bottle chain to see how many plastic bottles the average American uses (and how few are recycled each year). See some amazing products (such as teddy bears) that can be made from plastic bottles - IF we recycle them! Middle School/High School version available. (30 - 45 minutes)
everything Everything Comes From Something (2nd – 4th) - In this program, students will learn that everyday products started as earth ingredients. After reading the story Agatha’s Feather Bed; Not Just Another Wild Goose Story, students will learn what glass, steel, and other products are made from. (30 - 45 minutes)
wormandbanana Adventures with Redworms (2nd – 4th) - After reading the story, Compost, My Gosh students will understand the basics of setting up an indoor worm compost bin.  Students will search through the worm bin to find redworms, cocoons, the varouus food scraps that make a harmonius worm composting bin. (30 - 45 minutes)
School Litter Cleanup

Character Counts; Squash Litterbugs! (2nd – 5th) - Being a good citizen means doing your share. Kids of character know that part of being a good neighbor is to put litter in its place. We will read the story, The Wartville Wizard and then conduct a litter cleanup on school grounds or a nearby park. (45 - 60 minutes)

wasterace Waste Race (2nd – 6th) - Students learn to classify items common to local recycling programs and backyard composting. Students will then participate in a relay race to sort and place (clean) waste items in the appropriate recycling or composting bins. (30 - 45 minutes)

Mini Recycling Center (3rd and up) - Kids use their imagination and get to work sorting recyclables on our portable tabletop recycling unit. Our kid-powered conveyor simulates how recyclable materials are sorted in a recycling facility by humans and magnets. Discuss how these materials are baled for market and what they are transformed into. Middle School/High School version available. (30 - 45 minutes)

scavengerhunt Go Green! Scavenger Hunt (3rd and up, Field trip to HRNC) - The Gene and Betty Buckles Program Center at Hartman Reserve Nature Center is dedicated to promoting a better understanding of our environment through environmentally friendly practices. Students will explore this “Green Building” to learn about many of the recycled, re-used, and energy efficient products found throughout. Middle School/High School version also available. (45 - 60 minutes, Hartman Field Trip only)

Landfill Model (4th and up) - The Enviroscape 3-D model demonstrates how modern sanitary landfills differ in operation compared to the trash dumps of the past. We'll also discuss how the Black Hawk County Landfill is designed and how water monitoring and the leachate collection system are in place to protect groundwater. Middle School/High School version also available. (30 - 45 minutes)

throwaway Throw-away Society Skit (4th - 8th) - Through a group reading activity, students will learn how humans have dealt with garbage throughout history. We’ll make a few props and costumes, get into character, and put on our read-skit. After the skit, the students will offer their predictions for how solid waste will be managed in the future. (60 minutes)
greenshopping Green Shopping (5th and up) - There are many choices to make at the store, but we’ll look for environmentally friendly products at our pretend retail store. What is the packagign made from? Is the packaging recyclable? Are the products toxic? Are the products energy efficient? Students will also learn about renewable vs. nonrenewable resources while rotating through shopping stations set up in the classroom. Middle School/High School version also available. (45 - 60 minutes)
compostskit Life in the Compost Bin! (Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School) - Complete with costumes, students will act out the various creatures and ingredients that are necessary for a healthy backyard compost pile. Students will learn that a compost bin is an ecosystem in itself, full of predators and prey. They will learn that gardeners use a compost recipe and aim for a balance of greens (Nitrogen) and browns (Carbon). (45 - 60 minutes)
greenschool Green School (5th and up) - Working in groups of three or four, the students will search a Where’s Waldo type poster to find positive changes that a fictitious school has made to “go green”.  Students will search the various rooms and grounds of the campus for examples such as recycling, rain gardens, composting, reusable lunch trays, recycled-content paper, and carpet made of pop bottles. (45 - 60 minutes)
landfillsite Virtual Landfill Tour (Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School) - Want to learn about the landfill, but don’t have the time or bus funds to visit? Invite Waste
Trac to visit your school to present a PowerPoint to learn about: the 5 leading categories of garbage headed to Iowa landfills, landfill construction and technology. current disposal rates, banned items, and appliance & tire recycling. See photos of the small loads area, scale house, and the landfill cell. (45- 60 minutes)
Recycling Tour Cedar Valley Waste Tour (6th and up, Field trip to various locations) - Middle and high school students will learn where both their solid and sewer waste ends up. On this fieldtrip, students will visit the Black Hawk County Landfill, waste water facilities of Waterloo or Cedar Falls and a local recycling processor to see how various types of wastes are managed in the Cedar Valley. The Waste Trac Education Team will make all of the arrangements for the tours; teachers will need to arrange school permission slips and busing. All students MUST wear closed-toed shoes (no sandals). The field trip can include 2 or 3 tours, depending on the amount of time your group has available. (2 - 3 hours)

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Want to Start a Recycling Program at Your School?

During the fall of 2012, Waste Trac worked with the 7th grade Service Club students at Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School to develop a school recycling plan. The program was such a success that Waste Trac is offering those same educational services to any school in Black Hawk County. Whether you need help with a recycling plan or want to conduct a waste audit, give Waste Trac a call! recyclebin

As part of the Blessed Maria project the students sorted garbage during waste audits around the school on two seperate days. The students geared up with gloves, tarps, and scales, then compiled their data from several classrooms, the main office, the library, and the school lunchroom. Waste Audit #1 showed that 45% of the overall trash at the school was recyclable, while Audit #2 resulted in a recycling rate of 49% overall. Working with their teacher, the janitor, the school princial, and the school waste hauling company, the students created a recycling plan for their school. The school purchased recycling bins and students designed recycling signs.

To educate their fellow students and get them excited about the new program, the 7th grade students presented an assembly to the entire middle school. They showed pictures of their waste audits and their tours to the landfill and a local recycling facility. They played recycling games and then presented their plan to the school!

A few months have passed and Blessed Maria reports that their 25+ recycling bins are working great! Each home room is responsible for emptying their bins, while "clean-up crews" help with recycling in the common areas of the school.

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Standards, Benchmarks, and Goal Areas

The following list shows many of the standards, benchmarks, or goal areas that can be addressed during various Waste Trac activities. Programs can be adapted to emphasize a specific topic.

Topics include:

·  Describe, classify, and sort objects according to common characteristics.

·  Understands personal and societal changes and responsibilities that affect health, world resources and
the earth’s environment.  Lists their responsibilities to the environment.

·  Makes inferences about the effect of pollution on living things.  Gives examples of actions and events
that produce pollution.

·  Explains how recycling protects the environment.

·  Identifies harmful and non-harmful substances.

·  Develops an awareness of natural resources.  Knows that recycling, reusing, and reducing consumption
conserves resources.

·  Students will understand science-related personal and social issues and develop decision-making skills.

·  Identify natural resources and describe their importance.

·  Describe and apply the concept of natural and designed objects.

·  Identify an appropriate problem for technological design, design a solution or product, implement a
proposed design, evaluate the completed design or product, and communicate the process of
technological design.

·  Classifies natural resources as renewable or non-renewable.

·  Compare/contrast ways in which physical geography, environmental conditions, natural resource
availability and human characteristics have led to changes in human society.

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Teacher Newsletter

2013 Teacher Newsletter (Printable PDF version)

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Online Teacher Resources and Educational Links 
The go-to website for when you’re not sure where to take a certain item for recycling or reuse.  Just plug in an item and your zip code and let the site find the answer to your disposal dilemma.

Waste Reduction Grants   
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers solid waste reduction grants on a quarterly basis through their Solid Waste Alternatives Program (SWAP).  Grants can be used for recycling equipment, collection, workshops, purchase of recycled content products, or salaries related to a project.

2011 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study   
Find out what is actually in Iowa garbage.  This 2011 study discovered that 25.2% of the material headed to Iowa landfills is paper! Plastic comprises another 16.7 %.

Sign Your School up to become a TerraCycle Brigade
TerraCycle offers national programs (Brigades®) to collect previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste such as snack bags, candy and energy bar wrappers, drink pouches, cheese packaging, electronics, solo cups, personal care and cleaner packaging, writing utensils, and much more. While some programs have a cost, most of the Brigades offer free shipping as well as a donation back for each piece of garbage that is collected. The difficult-to-recycle packaging and products will then be repurposed into affordable, innovative products.

Go Green with Your Sack Lunches                        
Great site to review before fieldtrip days or use it year-round for cold lunch students. They have a great
information that will help students and their families aim for a low-waste lunch. Click on the "Tips for Parents" link or the link to the The Waste-free Lunchbox Pamhplet.

U.S Environmental Protection Agency                                               
Great resource for K-12 teachers, parents, and students which includes teaching resources, grant information, free posters and program materials, and student online activities. Covers topics including garbage and recycling, water and air quality, plants and animals, the environment, and climate change.

Performing a School Waste Audit                    
Engage your students in an audit that will uncover wasteful habits and missed recycling opportunities.  The project (from California) crosses curriculum as students interview each other and faculty, start campaigns/create posters, weigh garbage and recyclables, graph results of the audit, and give a written or oral presentation to the school board.

Cool School Challenge                            
Take the challenge at your school and learn about everyday actions you can take to reduce your environmental impact locally and globally. Click on the “Activities” link for lessons that focus on the connections between energy use, transportation, solid waste and recycling, electricity and global climate change.

Carbon Footprint Calculator            
Students can calculate their family’s impact on the environment, learn about home solutions for reducing CO2 emissions, and find out about Carbon Offsetting Programs that are taking place worldwide.

America Recycles Day                                        
Learn why recycling is important and how it works. Cool tools and lots of links to help you calculate the impact of your recycling. Download resources for organizing and promoting an America Recycles Day event in your school or community.

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