Trash Olympics

 The Trash Olympics project engages young people in the design and implementation of neighborhood games involving garbage cleanup.

(learning guide by Leo Burd)
Goals and Values
What were your activity’s community goals? 
  • Reflect about and raise awareness (of kids and adults) to garbage-related issues that affect their neighborhood
  • Do something to improve the existing situation
  • Provide kids with a voice (note: this is a project that has been conceived/idealized by young people themselves based on a series of conversations held beforehand)
  • Have fun
What do individual participants get out of the activity? 
  • Skills:
    • Event organizing
    • Leadership
    • Presentation
  • Knowledge:
    • Different spaces in the community
    • Recycling
    • Health-related issues
  • Things created:
    • Games related to garbage
    • Maps of the region
  • Friendships:
    • Connections with the participants
    • Connections with local decision-makers (who, unfortunately, never showed up)
What You Need For This Activity
Who can participate?: Individuals 9-14 years old
What resources are necessary? (tech, space, a regular meeting time)
  • Bags
  • Flipcharts + markers
  • Recyclable materials (cans, bottles, etc.)
  • Decorations + food
What kind of mentors/facilitators with what skills does it require?
  • Mentors/facilitators to help kids plan their games and explore the region to figure out what to do where
  • We had 2 mentors for a group of 8 kids; the mentors had to meet for about 1 hour each week just to plan for that week’s session
How long does it take? 
  • The event itself took one afternoon; planning happened over 4 weekly sessions of about 2 hours each
Describe the places and social context that this project is amenable to: 
  • Community organizations located close to where children live
How to Do This Activity
Tell a story about how to do this activity.
  • Break the activity down into steps, telling us about
  • preparation
  • Dedicated space for the kids to meet and plan the activities for the Games
  • recruitment
  • Participants came from our host organization, the Boys and Girls Club of Charlestown
  • Recruit the press and local decision-makers
The process of the activity itself:
  • Plan the games and invitations
  • Build the materials required for each game
  • Distribute the posters and invitations throughout town

How participants shared what they did

  • Distributed invitations to their friends and families
  • Created a little video telling the story of their project
  • In order to do that, participants were encouraged to take pictures and make notes throughout the entire project


  • We didn’t do anything
  • We believe that local decision-makers did not show up mostly due to the negative/confrontational image passed by the project, which raised awareness about gaps in city trash cleanup efforts.
Technology use
  • Kids used google maps to visualize their neighborhood
  • Cameras to document their process
  • PowerPoint to produce invitations

Context: Trash Olympics was carried out by the youth activist network at the Charlestown SC Boys and Girls Club. Leo Burd has written about this project in his PhD thesis (pdf) on Technological Initiatives for Social Empowerment.

Posted in Community Impact, Media-Making, Youth Designed