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If you have been teaching about waste management and would like a fun game to help kids understand, check out Landfill Bill!

Landfill Bill is a very simple game where waste materials come down the conveyor belt and Bill has to throw them to the correct bin: glass, plastic, paper, or metal. It is a surprisingly addictive yet very simple game. After students play it, here are some talking points:

  • Were any of the items coming down the conveyor belt trash? (no)
  • Were you surprised by any of the items that Bill recycled? Do you usually put those items in the trash? What could you do with them next time?
  • What happens if Bill didn’t recycle fast enough? (the items ended up in the landfill)
  • What happens when the landfill gets too full? (the game ends; there is no more space for any kind of waste)

While the game does not make this explicit, the whole point of recycling is to find a better use for waste than the landfill. Proper recycling keeps items out of the landfill, extending their life, and reducing the need for new landfills. Playing Landfill Bill is an engaging way to introduce that idea to your students!

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Water cycle

As this image from the United States Geological Survey shows, the water cycle has many steps and can go in multiple directions at the same time. It’s a lot for students to learn! To help them, we have a great game recommendation for you to help students see the full complexity of the water cycle in action.

The Water Cycle Game was produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and could be used for grades 1+. (It might be a little complicated for 1st graders, but with proper explanation should be a really meaningful addition to your study of nature, water, or human impact on the environment.)

The game requires a little bit of set-up, but is very simple. Each student portrays a molecule of water that moves through the environment. There are markers for each of the places a water molecule can go: animal, plant, cloud, groundwater, lake, ocean, river, glacier, and soil.

Once there, students roll a die (template included online; has to be assembled before playing). Each face of the die is something that can happen to that molecule. In the case of a molecule of water currently in the ground, it could stay underground, filter into a lake, or into the river. Each student rolls a die and then moves or stays accordingly. After playing the game for 10 turns or so, the game stops and students chart where they went. It gives students a fairly complex understanding of the possibilities in the water cycle.

The full instructions and materials are available on NOAA’s website for free download.

Extensions: After doing the game, the instructions suggest extensions for math or an extension to study how pollution moves throughout the water cycle.

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