Post-Blitz Teacher Discussion Guide


National Geographic and iNaturalist have lots of resources to help you and your students analyze your biodiversity observations. Here are a couple of our favorites:


You and your class collected data on the diversity and quantity of trash in a particular location. Now what?

Here are some topics you may wish to discuss with your class following collection.

I. Materials Comparison:

  • Trash definition: discarded materials or products that cannot be treated or processed for reuse.

  • Recyclable item definition: materials or products that can be treated or processed so that they are suitable for reuse.

  • Trash versus recyclable items: By comparing materials (trash verse recyclables), students will discover if they are producing more trash or more recyclables.

  • Essential questions: What was the most common material of trash you found?

    • Which of these materials can be recycled? How do you know?

    • Which of these materials cannot? What happens to this trash if it cannot be recycled?

II. Function:

  • Function definition: Function can tell us the action behind the item of trash we collected. What do people do with this item? How do they use it? What is it typically used for?

  • Essential questions: Most trash found will be associated with eating or drinking activities. This can be an opportunity for students to explore zero- or low-waste alternatives to single-use food and drink packaging.

    • What were people doing to produce this trash? Were they eating? Were they drinking? Were they smoking? Something else? What other actions produce lots of trash?

    • How can people do the same action and produce less trash?

III. Location:

  • Like function, discussing the location where trash was found will help students think about what kinds of activities create trash. Location can also lend insight into how easily trash moves around.

  • Primary context definition: Where the person who was using the item left them

  • Secondary context definition: A secondary context is where trash ends up after it’s been moved by animals, natural processes (i.e. weather/water flow), or other humans. Students will likely find more trash near waterways such as rivers, creeks, beaches, or storm drains. This trash is in a secondary context caused by natural processes.

  • Essential questions:

    • How did these items end up where you found them? Were they used and discarded right where they were found? Or did they end up in that location some other way? What kinds of things move trash around?

    • Did you find more trash items in a particular location than others? What location? Why do you think that might be?

Bonus Discussion Topics

I. Age:

  • Archaeologists often date archaeological sites by determining the age of items like a piece of pottery, a glass bead, or an arrowhead. Students can use similar methods to determine how old a piece of trash is, and how long its been there. This can help students visualize how long trash stays around after we’ve “discarded” it.

  • Essential questions:

    • Did you find any food packaging or bottle caps with an expiration or “best-by” date? Have any of those dates passed? This means that piece of trash was likely discarded sometime before that date! For example, a muffin wrapper with a “best-by” sticker that reads 01-01-18 was likely discarded over a year ago.

II. Fun stuff:

  • Sometimes it’s just fun to find weird things and speculate as to how they got there.

  • Essential questions:

    • What was the weirdest thing you found? What qualities make it weird?

    • Was it in a weird place? How do you think it got there?

  • Bonus Activity: students can create a "found object" story in which they tell the story how the object was lost or discarded.

EcoBlitz: Linking Trash and Wildlife

I. Reviewing the Numbers

  • Quantity definition: the absolute number of items

  • Diversity definition: the number of different types of items

  • Essential questions

    • Comparing quantity: Compare the number of total trash items with the number of total plants and animals found. Was there more trash or wildlife? Why do you think that is? Which did you expect to find more of? Why?

    • Comparing diversity: Compare the number of types of trash items with the number of species of plants and animals. Which was more diverse? Why do you think that is?

II. Experience

  • Essential questions

    • How did you feel when you found and categorized a plant or animal species?

    • How did you feel when you found and categorized a piece of trash?

A. What feelings did you experience? How would you illustrate, perform, or convey these feelings?

  • Did you see animals interacting with trash? How so? Do plants interact with trash? Why or why not?

  • What was one thing that surprised you while doing the EcoBlitz activity? Why was this surprising?

  • Why is EcoBlitz important?

A. For the school community?

B. For the local community?

C. For the global community?

* Arts integration: How would you illustrate, perform, or show the importance of EcoBlitz for these three communities?

III. Looking forward

  • Is there anything you can do to limit trash or increase biodiversity?

A. Locally?

B. Globally?

  • How can we learn from local “Eco-Warriors” like…. And global “Eco-Warriors” like… (Ex: Wangari Maathai, Greta Thunberg)

  • How does trash impact wildlife?

  • Where will this trash go in the future (imagine the lifecycle of the trash you found)? In one week? One month? One year? 10 years? How will trash impact species in the future?

  • Will any of the trash you found live longer than you?

  • How will this trash impact our Earth in the future?

Activity: Which lasts longer?

  • Group work: each group looks at one piece of trash and one wildlife species and compares the lifespan/life cycle.

  • Discussion questions

    • Do you think certain animals or plants are more affected by trash? Why or why not?

Activity: Imagine a trash free future

  • Design an invention that will limit trash or protect wildlife species and describe how it will protect nature

Activity: Class commitment

  • Come up with some tangible ideas that you and your class can commit to for the rest of the year to protect wildlife and limit trash (Example: Class commitment or pledge to be environmental stewards. I promise/I pledge to….)