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Forces & Recycling

  • Age range: 7-9 years, 9-11 years
  • Science topic: Forces, Materials
  • Type of enquiry: Comparative/fair tests, Grouping and classifying, Observing changes over time, Problem solving

The activities in this book provide opportunities for children to explore the topic of forces and to extend their understanding to the application of forces used in recycling.The key curriculum focus is not on materials and their properties as you would imagine for a recycling unit, but on the forces involved in the recycling process. The context is closely related to the recycling industry. Materials undergo the common processes of collection, sorting, shredding/crushing and separating. For most materials the final stage is melting and moulding or reshaping in some way. Paper and cardboard undergo the process of pressing and drying at this stage. There are many different types of plastic; some do not lend themselves to recycling and the sorting stage is very important. For more details and information about the products made with recycled materials, see Appendix 1.

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Introductory activity

Science topic: Materials
Type of enquiry: Grouping and classifying
Keywords: recycling, waste, materials, forces, metal, card, paper, plastic, glass, sustainability

Children consider the first step of any recycling process: sorting and classifying materials, and investigate and sort waste in school.


Marvellous magnets

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Grouping and classifying
Keywords: magnets, recycling,waste, aluminium,steel, forces, metals, electro-magnet

Children look at the next stage in the recycling processes: removing steel or iron from waste materials. Children explore the characteristics of magnets and suggest ways to sort magnetic and non-magnetic household waste.


Float and sort

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Comparative/fair tests
Keywords: floating, sinking, liquids, upthrust,materials, newtons, Newton meter

Children investigate the force of upthrust in different liquids and link it to a recycling process where materials are sorted in flotation tanks containing liquids of various densities.


Crush the can

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Comparative/fair tests
Keywords: recycling, force, crushing cans, weights, Push-meter, newtons

In this activity, children look at the process of crushing and baling aluminium cans and investigate the most efficient way of crushing a cylinder.


Fundamental friction

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Comparative/fair tests
Keywords: friction, force, surfaces, materials, Newton Meter

The children investigate the best materials to make conveyor belts to pass materials from one part of the recycling process to another.


Pulp to paper

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Observing changes over time
Keywords: recycling, waste paper, newspaper, pulp, forces

Children make recycled paper from newspaper by following the recycling process. They consider the forces involved and the efficiency.


Class debate on recycling

Science topic: Forces
Type of enquiry: Problem solving
Keywords: recycling, materials, impurities, waste, debate, presentation

Children consider issues surrounding the recycling of different materials and make a report of what they have found out.


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Gatsby Charitable Foundation Supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.‎‎‎‎