Global Learning London

Clothes – Teacher Ideas

Activities: lesson plans, schemes of work and projects

Cotton facts
Set the class a research project on the production of cotton.  This everyday material can hold some real surprises. You could use the following questions to guide the research:

What is cotton?

Where is cotton produced?

Who produces cotton?

Who buys the cotton and imports it?  Why?

What is organic cotton?

How is Fairtrade cotton different?

The largest cotton producers in the world are China, India, USA, Pakistan, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Turkey. This project can help pupils to learn more about these diverse and interesting countries and the innate unfairness of the cotton trade, providing insight into the lives of the people who help make our clothes.

Design an ‘up-cycle’
Find a new purpose for an old unwanted t-shirt.  The only limitation is your imagination!  For a longer project you could ask learners to bring in an old, worn out t-shirt spend time in Art up-cycling it and then display the results.  For lots of inspiration visit:

Football Shirts
Share these two photos with your class, working in small groups.

You could ask the groups to consider the following questions to engage their interest:

What are the pictures of?

How are the pictures similar?

How are the pictures different?

Do you think the boys might be friends?

Do you think they go to the same school?

Or play on the same team?

What do they think the boys might do next?

What would you ask them if you met them?

Next show them the following un-cropped versions, showing more background information:

After the groups have had the chance to examine the photos ask them to:

Describe the photos now.

What would you ask the boys if they came into your classroom?

What do you think they do each day?

What do you think the weather is like where they live?

Do you think they live in the same country?

Which country or countries do you think they live in?

Finally share that this is the same football shirt, which was worn in Derby, England one season and then was donated to a textile bank.  It was shipped to Ghana, where it was sold at the market and is now worn in Ghana.  The boys have never met!

This activity makes an excellent introduction to the next activity: Global textiles recycling.

Global textiles re-cycling

Case study: Textile recycling

Textiles that are recycled are generally those that are no longer wanted, are unfashionable or outgrown.  An estimated 1 million tonnes of textiles are thrown away every year in the UK, 75% of these go to landfill and only 25% are recycled. Most clothes for recycling come from textile banks, curb side collections, charity shops and jumble sale pick-ups.  The textiles are usually taken to a specialist sorting warehouse.  Bags are opened and sorted into different grades – most simply, re-useable clothes and shoes and un-wearable rags.

For un-wearable rags it depends on the material.  Cotton and silk are made into wiping cloths for the printing and car manufacturing industry as they are ‘lint free’ and do not leave particles.  Sometimes the shredded fibres go into the manufacture of paper as the ‘long fibres’ make high quality paper.  Other textiles are classed as ‘rags’ and are used as filler in car doors, roofing felts, loud speaker cones, panel lining, furniture and mattress padding, woollen fibre for insulation material.Wearable clothes, blankets, curtains etc may go to either homeless shelters or finer items will go to charity or vintage shops to be sold in this country.  This helps raise money for charities.  Much of the clothing donated to charity shops and textile banks ends being sold in other countries.  There is often surprise that items donated for free in this country are ‘sold’ abroad.  However, there are issues that if the textiles were simply exported abroad and dumped on foreign markets they would ‘flood’ the local economy and produce major problems.  The ‘sale’ of the goods generates a welcome market and job opportunities and the clothes are often of better quality and more fashionable than those available locally.  On the other hand, there are arguments that the influx of ‘western’ style clothes is killing local textile producers and traditional dress.  Sumer clothes go to places such as Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola and India, whilst warm clothes go to Yugoslavia, Albania, Afghanistan and Northern Iraq.

Learn about these issues and then debate them in your class.  You could use the following questions to stimulate discussion:

Is this sustainable practice?  How does this affect the global textile trade and local trade in the receiving countries? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this system?  Who are the winners and who are the losers?

Ethical enterprise  
Hold an ethical enterprise week or event in place of the usual enterprise opportunities in your school.  This could be an ethical fashion week, where students have the opportunity to up-cycle fashion items and organise a fashion show, inviting parents and guests.  This will hone lots of 21st century skills such as problem solving, team work, critical and creative thinking and resilience.