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Don't mess it up!

Dare to care about litter

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To enthuse children about their local area in order to challenge them about messing it up by dropping litter.

Preparation and materials

  • Bring in a bag containing litter (at least one example each of smoking-related litter, drinks-related litter, sweet wrappers, fast food litter) and some chewing gum.
  • You will need five readers.


  1. Leader Take time to enthuse about the local area surrounding the school – for example:

    Isn’t this area wonderful? Most of you live in this community, don’t you? I expect you enjoy playing out on the streets in the summer months. There are so many places to ride a bike and the playing fields are great for playing football. It’s lovely that we have a fantastic park so near by. It’s good to be able to see the trees changing as the seasons change. I love watching the birds, squirrels and other wildlife. When you’re out and about, you meet so many people enjoying the fresh air, taking their dogs for a walk or simply getting some exercise. Then we have the shops and churches, the library and the community centre, the play area and the health centre. We are so fortunate, aren’t we?

  2. Leader Now introduce the subject of chewing gum.

    Actually, my throat is a bit dry and I have a strange taste in my mouth. I hope you don’t mind if I chew some gum.

    Look for the chewing gum in the litter bag you created and start throwing the litter out of the bag all over the floor as you search to find it. Pop a piece of gum in your mouth and chew throughout the next section.

    Isn’t chewing gum wonderful? Did you know:

    the oldest piece of chewing gum found so far is around 9,000 years old;
    humans are the only animals on Earth who can chew gum;
    chewing gum while peeling onions will prevent you from crying;
    there are over 1000 varieties of gum manufactured and sold in the United States?

  3. Leader Next, introduce the subject of chewing gum as litter.

    OK, I feel better now, but talking while chewing is quite tricky. I think I‘ll get rid of this chewing gum now, but where shall I put it? 

    Shall I spit it out on the floor with the rest of this rubbish? Shall I stick it under a chair? I can’t see a bin anywhere to put it in. I think I’ll do the right thing and wrap it in paper and take it home to put in my bin later.

    You may find the idea of me throwing chewing gum on the floor in here disgusting, but just take a look at our streets. Look at the area outside the sweet shop. Spitting chewing gum on the ground is a massive problem. Getting it stuck in the grooves of your shoe is disgusting. Blobs of gum on the street can make an area look really dirty. 

    Did you know:

    on average, a piece of chewing gum costs about 3 pence, but the cost of removing it from the ground is about 10 pence per piece;
    chewing gum takes up to five years to biodegrade, so a piece of chewing gum will not disappear or wash away for five years if it is not removed;
    the Council has to spend a lot of time and money removing chewing gum from our streets – so much that some countries are considering putting up the price of chewing gum to help pay for the clean-up costs;
    in Singapore, chewing gum is banned altogether.

  4. Leader Introduce the subject of litter in general.

    It’s not just chewing gum that makes a mess on our streets. What other kinds of litter do we see on our streets? 

    Invite the children to give their answers.

    The main types of litter are smoking-related litter, drinks-related litter, sweet wrappers and fast food litter. 

    Litter looks terrible. Litter smells. Litter attracts rats and flies, which can spread disease. Litter is dangerous for local animals. So, why on Earth do people drop litter? Why do you drop litter?

    Reader 1 I can’t be bothered to find a bin.

    Reader 2 Everyone drops litter so why can’t I?

    Reader 3 It’s OK to drop litter if no one can see you and you don’t get caught.

    Reader 4 There is never a bin when you need one.

Time for reflection

Leader These are just excuses. Maybe you drop litter sometimes – maybe you have used one of these excuses – but there is never a good reason to drop litter.

Let’s think about our lovely area and the damaging effect that litter can have as we listen quietly to these words.

You may need to change the wording of the following a little in order to fit the features of your area more closely.

Reader 5
I love my school.
I love the playing field and the playground and the garden area.
Let’s not mess it up.

I love my street.
I love the gardens and grass and flowers.
Let’s not mess it up.

I love our park.
I love the play area and the pond and the trees.
Let’s not mess it up.

I love our community.
I love the shops and the church and the community centre.
Let’s not mess it up.

Let’s be proud of our environment.
Let’s not mess it up.
Let’s not drop litter.


‘When God made the garden of creation’ (Come and Praise, 16)

Publication date: January 2014   (Vol.16 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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