Timeline of Stuff

Age group: 10-15

This page provides you with a snapshot of this activity that looks at the history of our 5 most common waste materials. We use paper, plastic, glass, metal and organic matter in our everyday lives. But do we actually know where they come from and when they started to be used? In this activity, we will explore the history and some interesting facts related to these raw materials. Use your creativity to make a huge timeline and help other students learn more about these materials and their important role in our lives.

We recommend that you use the ‘Introduction to Solid Waste’ activity before any of the other activities as it is a good starting point for students to learn about waste and provides a comprehensive overview of how waste is generated and its impacts on animals, the environment and us. If you have already done so and wish to continue to download the rest of this free activity please click on the download icon below. Enjoy!

  • Create a timeline with the history and facts related to the materials – organic matter, paper, glass, metal, plastic – that human beings use
  • Discover how these materials developed through time in relation to the needs of society and consumers

Whole class

  • Handout fact sheets
  • A4 coloured paper (5 different colours but white paper can be used instead)
  • Colouring pens/pencils
  • Pinboard/empty classroom wall
  • Pins/adhesive putty (like Blu-Tack or Tack-It)
  • Scissors

Preparation: 20 minutes

1-2 class period(s).

  • 1st class period – steps 1-2: (approximately 40-50 minutes)
  • 2nd class period – steps 3-4: (approximately 30-35 minutes)
Skills used:





  • Print the handout
    fact sheets (1 copy).
  • Get coloured A4 paper (5 colours,
    4 sheets of each).
  • Make small cards out of the coloured
    paper by cutting each piece into four.
  • Assign a colour to each timeline category, for example:
    Organic – Green
    Plastic – Pink
    Paper – Blue
    Glass – Yellow
    Metal – White
  • Create a timeline template out of a thin strip of paper or string:
    • Choose the length of the timeline according to the space and the location where it will be displayed.
    • Mark time intervals along the paper/string timeline. Check the fact sheets in order to arrange the facts from the oldest date to the most recent. Note: the timeline spans a large timescale from billions of years ago to the present day; therefore, it does not have to be to scale, but it should give some indication of time and direction. See an example diagram below of how to mark time intervals.
    • Pin or stick the timeline paper on the classroom pinboard or wall where there is enough space for students to place their fact cards.
    • Write organic matter, paper, glass, metal and plastic on the same coloured paper that the students are using for each category. Place these above the timeline as a key.

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Lesson plan (English)
Students Handout (English)
Lesson plan (Tamil)
Students Handout (Tamil)