Unit 8

Skills Building: One Plastic Bag and the Recycling Women of Gambia (PK-5)

Unit 8 Skills Building

Written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Pre-Reading Questions

  1. What does initiative mean to you?
  2. How do you think one plastic bag starts a movement?
  3. Why is recycling important and how could it change or help a community?
  4. How could you show initiative with one plastic bag?

Post Reading Questions

  1. Why do you think the discarded plastic bags bothered Isatou?
  2. Why do you think others i n the community belittled and mocked Isatou and her friends for recycling the bags into crocheted purses?
  3. How did you see initiative in this story?
  4. Is there something in your community you could recycle and transform into something new?

Creative Enrichment Activity: Plastic Bag Jewelry

Overview: I n the book, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, we read about women who took trash that was polluting their neighborhood and made it into jewelry and other items to sell. Isatou saw a problem in her community and took the initiative to turn the problem into something beautiful that also made her money for her family. Taking trash and making it into something new and creative is called “upcycling” and is a great way to reuse materials. In this activity, we will make jewelry out of plastic bags!


  • Plastic grocery bags (Collect these from the students a few days or a week prior, it is good to have bags of varying colors. One plastic grocery bag can make about six bracelets)
  • Scissors
  • Beads
  • Masking tape or painters tape (clipboards can be used instead of tape)

Duration: 45 minutes (for staff: 5-minute pre-activity setup, 15-minute prep)

  • 5 minutes: Introduce the activity using the book and examples.
  • 10 minutes: Assemble the book
  • 10 minutes: Write or draw i n the book pages
  • 10 minutes: Decorate and add the book wings
  • 5 minutes: Clean up
  • 5 minutes: Reflect


  1. Introduce the activity using the book and the examples.
  2. Staff prep: For younger students, cut the bags ahead of time so that each student can start with three pieces. Let the students choose the colors of bags that they want. A few older students can cut the bags themselves and distribute pieces to the group.
  3. Lay the bag flat on a surface and smooth it out
  4. Cut the handles off the top
  5. Cut the bottom edge off
  6. Cut the edge of the bag so it can be opened up
  7. Open up the bag and then fold it in half and then in half again
  8. Cut the bag i n strips about 1.5 i nches in width
  9. Each student chooses three or four strips of plastic of varying colors
  10. Students tie the pieces together to form a knot at the top
  11. Use the tape to tape the plastic pieces on a hard surface (a clipboard can be used here to secure the plastic pieces as well)
  12. Twist the each piece of the plastic bag until it is more like a string
  13. Twist or braid the pieces together. Students who already know how to macrame, can use four pieces
    and make a macrame bracelet.
  14. Students can add beads as they desire.
  15. The students can tie the bracelet off at the end or tie i t around their wrist
  16. Clean up the materials.
  17. Reflect as a group.


Instructions to Tie a Square Knot

Reflection Questions

  • How did you show initiative in this activity?
  • Did this activity give you ideas on other ways to upcycle?
  • How can you show initiative about recycling i n your community?
  • What was easy or difficult about this activity?

Unit8 PaperBagJewelry