As the number of smartphone users worldwide exceeds 2 billion, and as users update their devices with ever-increasing frequency, there are growing concerns about the impacts of smartphone manufacture and disposal on the environment and human health. In this activity, students use knowledge about Earth resources, as well as applying their working scientifically skills, to work out how to persuade phone manufacturers to make eco-friendly smart phones from sustainable materials.


Eco-phone is a way to make project-based learning easy, and get students more confident with real-life science issues. A Project simulates how students will meet issues in everyday life and provides less support than other ENGAGE activities.

The Project begins by engaging students with the dilemma. It sets up the ‘research questions’ for students to answer and provides a range of ‘sources’ containing the information they need. Students come to an informed opinion and communicate their views.

A project can be done in 2 lessons, or over a longer time. It makes an ideal opportunity to work with experts, such as ‘science ambassadors’, to learn about science in society. This video describes how a Project works





 Science objective

Materials for KS3 logo 2

Earth resources: Explain why recycling of some materials is particularly important. (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Enquiry objectives

Apply skills: Interrogate sources, critique claims, analyse patterns, examine consequences and communicate ideas (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Try the activity

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Eco-phone teachers guide

Size: 69.41 KB



Running the activity

Stage 1 Resources Running the stage
Set up the project
setting up the project icon

Eco-phone presentation

Size: 7.94 MB
Students play games to raise issues arising from the manufacture and disposal of smartphones, and the recycling of some of their materials.


Introduce the question ‘Can you convince phone manufacturers to make eco-friendly phones?’ Students write down their research questions.

Stage 2 Resources Running the stage
Analyse and solve
analyse solve icon
Real sources (weblinks on the Analyse and solve page and also below) Direct your students to the Analyse and solve page.
Adapted sources (students can download these from the analyse and solve page)

Ecophone thinking guides

Size: 1.63 MB

Grass-resin casing

Scientific paper

Size: 1.75 MB

Data sheet

Size: 526.13 KB

Tree fibre circuit board

Press release

Size: 35.43 KB

Scientific paper

Size: 44.39 KB

Sugar battery

Web article

Size: 831.26 KB

Scientific paper

Size: 40.49 KB
Students interrogate sources, critique claims and analyse patterns to answer the question ‘Can you convince phone manufacturers to make eco-friendly phones?’



They answer their research questions.

Stage 3 Resources Running the stage
communicate icon2
Student-led with a teacher intro.

Ecophone communicate presentation

Size: 2.04 MB
Students plan how to communicate their findings to a group of smartphone manufacturers.


Grass-resin casing

Video and web article An engineer talks about how his company build smartphone casings out of grass.

Research paper An investigation into the properties of a resin/grass composite. Students can read the abstract (the full paper is not in the public domain). An adapted version is also available.

Tree fibre circuit board

Research paper This article is available if students wish to see the original although the language is difficult. We have supplied an adapted version.

Press release about tree fibre circuit boards.

Sugar battery

Research paper This contains lots of technical language, which students will not be familiar with. We have created an adapted version with simpler language.

Web article A more accessible text that outlines useful information about sugar batteries.

Video Scientists developing sugar batteries discuss how they work and the advantages of them over conventional lithium batteries


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  • mromero says:

    Eco phones

    Engaging topics, meaningful context to apply knowledge, opportunities to develop inquiry skills, critical thinking and argumentation

  • cwills73 says:

    Eco phone great independently learning task

    this has enough resources to get the students interested and started in research the viability of eco phone. I completed this with year 7 but they struggled to take the initial research and argue the case of using and designing eco phones

  • corriewales says:

    Great resource with a very relevant theme for the students

    I am using this for an environment day science lesson. Very good!

  • samanthachapman says:

    Really interesting ideas

    My year 8 students really enjoyed thinking about how the phones they use could be made in a more sustainable way. It has led to lots of further ideas about how other things could be made more sustainable.
    The teachers guide allows you to follow the project through really easily and the resources provided are good quality.

    Really worked well as a group project.

  • schloo91 says:



  • roxigeo says:


    Reprezinta un material minunat din care putem invata multe lucruri noi.

  • tsagari says:

    An interesting aspect of learning

    I found that activity really interesting. I would try it and I am looking forward to see the impact to my students

  • livia13 says:

    F. interesant

    Eco-phone is a wonderful idea. It would solve the problem of radiation illness. (Translated from the Romanian).

  • stefimaggi says:

    The eco-phone class project

    This seems to be a very engaging activity. It inspired me to try it out with the year 10 students this year after finishing off the topic of energy sources. I look forward to see the links working and follow the suggested tasks closely. Thanks for the inspiration

    • Philippa says:

      Looking forward to hearing how it goes

      Thanks for your comment, Stefimaggi – I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes! Thanks Philippa (writing team)