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Super Science @ Your Library
Recycling logo




Children will learn about and explore the characteristics of plastics and polymers, and why it is important to reuse and recycle plastic.
Grade Level: 3-5



Winter, Jonah
Here Comes the Garbage Barge!
In the spring of 1987, the town of Islip, New York, with no place for its 3,168 tons of garbage, loads it on a barge that sets out on a 162-day journey along the East Coast, around the Gulf of Mexico, down to Belize, and back again, in search of a place willing to accept and dispose of its very smelly cargo.
Burns, Loree Griffin
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
Describes the work of a man who tracks trash as it travels great distances by way of ocean currents.
Hammond, Richard
Super Science Lab
Everyday things are used to show how science works.
Edgar, David
Fantastic Recycled Plastic: 30 Clever Creations to Spark Your Imagination
Plastic is fantastic to craft with-and these imaginative, whimsical creations are out of the ordinary! From colorful canine silhouette pins and magnets and a holiday snowflake decoration to marvelous masks, they turn recycling into art.


Stick it to a Balloon

Latex is a polymer that exists in nature. The latex polymers in a balloon squirm around to allow the skewer to pass through them. The molecules are stretched out further when you inflate the balloon fully and are more likely to snap, and make the balloon pop.

Materials: latex balloon, vegetable oil, wooden skewers

  1. Blow up a balloon almost all the way and tie it with a knot.
  2. Dip the pointy tip of a skewer into the vegetable oil.
  3. Carefully twist and push the skewer into the broad end of the balloon.
  4. If you make it this far (without popping), continue to push the skewer through to the other end, near the knot.
  5. How many skewers can you get into one balloon?

Skewered Sandwich Bag

Materials: sandwich bags, water, vegetable oil, wooden skewers, sink or large bowl

  1. Fill a sandwich bag with water and seal it.
  2. Dip the pointy tip of a skewer into the vegetable oil.
  3. Over a sink or basin: carefully twist and push the skewer into the bag of water.

Can you get the skewer through the bag without getting wet?

The polymers in the bag are synthetic, which means they are artificially created. They share the same properties as the latex polymers and you should be able to stick the skewers in without spilling the water.

Playing with Polymers

Materials: beaker, scissors, pan, spoon, cornstarch, water

  1. Pour one cup of the cornstarch into a beaker
  2. Continue to add a small amount of water until the solution begins to thicken
  3. Pour some of the polymer into a pie pan.
    • Try to cut it with scissors as you pour it.
    • Tap the polymer in the pan with your hands
    • Pour some of the polymer into your hands: roll it into a ball, does it keep its shape?
    • Can you roll the polymer into a snake/rope?
    • Pull it apart quickly, what happens?
    • Use a spoon to try and draw in the polymer. Can you write your name?



Compound: To combine so as to form a whole; mix.To produce or create by combining two or more ingredients or parts.

Molecule: The smallest particle of a substance that retains the chemical and physical properties of the substance and is composed of two or more atoms; a group of like or different atoms held together by chemical forces.

Plastic: Any of various organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, cast into various shapes and films, or drawn into filaments used as textile fibers.

Polymer: Any of numerous natural and synthetic compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule.