Unit Overview

Students become environmental engineers as they work to save Danny the duck from a polluted pond. They explore animal habitats and ecosystems, humans’ impact on the environment, and recycling and environmental stewardship as they engineer their own trash collectors. Pairs well with Sort It Out: Programming Robots to Recycle.

  • Kindergarten
  • Setting: In school
  • Science connection: Human impact on the environment
  • 9 lessons
  • 20–70 minutes per lesson

Standards alignment

We’ve developed the EiE for Kindergarten units with careful attention to educational standards in science, computer science, and technology/engineering. View Standards Alignment for state and national standards, including CCSS ELA and Math.

Unit Map

Students learn that many of the items they use every day— like pencils, shoes, and tables—are technologies designed to solve problems. (25 min.)
Students learn that engineers are people who figure out how to make technologies, and that to do so, engineers use an engineering design process. (20 min.)
Students read the first chapter of Taking Out the Trash. They meet Danny the duck and notice the problem that there is trash in the pond where he lives. Students brainstorm ways to get the trash out of the pond. (40 min.)
Students explore various materials and brainstorm how they can be used to pick up trash from the water. (40 min.)
Students consider the shapes of different tools as they fold and curve paper to create a variety of options that can pick up trash. (40 min.)
Students test and evaluate the trash collector materials by dipping them in water to determine which ones work well. (45 min.)
Students use what they’ve found out about which materials work well in water and how they might shape the materials to imagine some ideas and record a plan. (40 min.)
Students use their plans to create, test, and improve their trash collectors in a model pond. (55–70 min.)
Students gain inspiration by participating in a gallery walk of their peers’ designs. Students then apply their engineering knowledge to a larger context to consider ways they could clean up trash in their communities. (35 min.)

Sample Classroom Video

Sample How-to Video

What's Included?

  • Teacher Guide (PDF)
  • Illustrated Story (PDF)
  • Print Materials (PDF)
  • Additional Resources