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The TerraCycle Curriculum Series

In nature, there is no such thing as “waste,” but as humans, we produce tons of it— nearly 220 million tons per year! The TerraCycle Curriculum Series, developed by The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, focuses on how we can solve this problem.

To learn more about each Lesson Set or to download any of our lessons, click the links below.

Natural Laws and Principles of the Materials Cycle

In nature, the waste of one living system is food for another. Drawing upon the first and second laws of thermodynamics, students learn that to achieve sustainability, human production and waste systems need to emulate nature, and must work towards a cradle to cradle approach.

Grades K-2

Where do apples go? A story about the nature of materials

How can we make beautiful things out of what we don't want any more?

This lesson wraps itself around the reading and discussion of a book about a little girl who learns about the materials cycle.

Students are then engaged in a sorting and categorizing exercise to look at the similarities and differences between materials made by Nature and materials made by people. The lesson ends in a design opportunity.

For a preview of this lesson set click here.

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Grades 3-5

The materials cycle and me

Students investigate the material cycles of their school, determine and analyze the amounts and types of materials produced.

They learn about where material goes and the difference between what happens to what Nature makes versus what happens to what humans make.

Based on what they discover, they create and propose a plan for material cycling in their school. Students will apply what they have learned about the material cycles to a problem in their home, school or community.

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Grades 6-8

Biomimicry: Nature as model, measures and mentor

This lesson revolves around the ideas and practices of biomimicry - looking to Nature to help us solve our problems.

Students will study examples of biomimicry and then apply what they have learned to a problem that they identify in their home, school, or community.

What can Nature teach us about the principles of sustainable design?

For a preview of the student handout click here.

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Grades 9-12

An exploration of cradle to cradle design thinking

Students explore beliefs, strategies and actions related to the concept of Cradle to Cradle design, and make connections to their lives.

They share their response to the question, "Why is it important for global citizens to understand the basic natural laws and principles?"

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The Healthy Commons

What is the state of our commons and how can we take care of them? This lesson set introduces students to the concept of the "commons" - those elements of our world such as air, oceans and even playgrounds that are shared and used by all, and for which we are all responsible. Questions are raised about the benefits and sacrifices associated with reconciling individual rights with our responsibilities as citizens to tend the commons.

Grades K-2

How Can We Take Care of Our Commons

This lesson is framed around a book about two little girls who learn what a Commons is, how to take care of a Commons, and the importance of everyone doing their part to keep their Commons healthy and beautiful.

Students apply what they have learned from the story by determining how to best take care of their classroom Commons.

Students collectively identify goals and rules to keep the classroom Commons healthy, and individually commit to specific actions that they themselves can take to ensure this is the case.

For a preview of the story click here.

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Grades 3-5

Where are our Commons?

In this lesson, students develop an understanding of the Commons, as a concept and a reality.

Interpreting and synthesizing information from several sources, students create their own definition of a Commons and apply that definition as they identify and map the various Commons in their school.

Students engage in discussions about rights, roles and responsibilities to and for the Commons, supporting the further annotation of the map to include how each Commons represented is important to the school community and how it can be taken care of.

If desired, a large version of the School Commons map can be posted in a prominent place where it can promote awareness of the Commons for members of the school community as well as for those who visit.

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Grades 6-8

What is the State of Our Commons?

Students use their school and/or community as the context for learning about the Commons.

They explore what defines a Commons, categorize spaces and things as examples, and walk their community to discover its visible and hidden Commons.

Finally, students select one Commons to focus on, and create a “State of the Commons” report as a way of increasing school and/or community awareness about the Commons.

For a preview of this lesseon plan click here.

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Grades 9-12

The Commons: Our Right and Our Responsibility?

In order to respond to the question, “How can we reconcile the conflicts that exist between our individual rights and our collective responsibilities for the Commons?” students examine a variety of documents (artwork, an essay, a law, a graph, etc.) and develop a list of criteria that they believe will support the reconciliation of individual rights with collective responsibilities.

The drafted criteria are then tested when students apply them to a series of scenarios.

As a result of these test runs, and subsequent critical conversations, the criteria are revised and posted.

During the course of the rest of the year, they are used to mediate conflicts that arise between individual rights and responsibilities to the Commons.

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