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Trash Corners: Organic, Inorganic, or Toxic?

Nicaragua bottle classroom

This warm up or review activity gets students to think on their toes and race to categorize waste materials!


To learn the various categories of garbage, the necessary first step toward learning how best to dispose of it


  • Paper
  • Marker
  • Tape
  • Source of music (e.g., CD player, your voice, guitar)


20 minutes


This is an active game in which kids can test their knowledge of trash categories while getting a lot of exercise. Prior to the activity, write “Organic,” “Inorganic,” and “Toxic” on three sheets of paper and tape them in three different corners of the room (or on three separate trees outside). Prepare a list of trash items found in your community, placing them in these three categories.


  • Organic: coffee grounds, food scraps, banana peels, bread crusts, paper, paper towels, cardboard
  • Inorganic: Plastic soda bottles, glass, yogurt cups, spoons, cellophane, aluminum cans, plastic bags
  • Toxic: Batteries, pesticide containers, medicine bottles, motor oil, cell phones

Gather the kids and explain that there are three types of garbage. Ask if they know what they are and what they are called, and then define:

  1. Organic waste: All waste of biological origin (which was once alive or part of a living thing).
  2. Inorganic waste: All waste from non-biological origin (industrial origin or any non-natural process).
  3. Toxic trash: Trash that releases dangerous substances, such as toxic chemicals and poisons.

Having cleared a space in the middle of the room or outside, get the kids out there running around, dancing, etc. Begin playing music, but periodically, stop and yell a particular kind of garbage: e.g., “Mango husks!” The kids should race to the station where they think the item belongs. Those who raced to the wrong station have to sit down. Those who ran to the right station get to keep on dancing or running around. Play until only one participant remains.

This lesson plan is an activity from the Environmental Activities for Youth Clubs and Camps, a resource developed by the Peace Corps Office of Overseas Programming and Training (OPATS). It was contributed by Peace Corps/Dominican Republic.