Environmental concerns will have a huge impact on our students’ futures. And, yet, with so many mandated assessments and time constraints, teachers often feel forced to focus most of the school day on reading and math lessons. Remember, administration wants us to teach our students how to read, write, and do math but generally, there is room for creative content. Environmental awareness is a theme that can easily be integrated into the day’s lessons and still meet performance objectives of even the strictest standards.
Studies have shown that a lack of environmental education comes at a detriment to our students. Learning about the environment is not only important on a global scale, it can have a profound effect on the future of each child. The No Child Left Inside Organization has found that Environmental Education (1) Increases student success across the curriculum by integrating literature and math into meaningful lessons; (2) Improves the overall health of students by getting them outside and moving, and (3) Provides them with critical tools for the 21st century workplace.
Earth Day is the perfect time to start making environmental education an integral part of your classroom curriculum. Here are 10 creative, fun ideas that will get your class excited about this amazing planet of ours.
Celebrate and protect our earth with these incredible resources!
1. Have a party! Cookouts are a great way to celebrate the springtime warming of the earth. Even better if you can make them a learning experience for your students. Scholastic’s “Host a Solar Cookout” Lesson combines math, science, and community involvement to give kids an in-depth understanding of solar energy. Students will learn about the importance of renewable energy, sun safety, and engineering, all while creating tasty treats to be enjoyed with their friends and community members.
2. Start a compost pile! School lunches and snacks generate a ton of waste. Allow students to witness firsthand how “garbage” can be turned into valuable organic soil which can then be used in school gardens, or even sold to raise money for class projects. Organic Lesson provides a clear, colorful guide to composting to help you get you started.
3. Host a swap! We all have things that we don’t need or use anymore. Holding a classroom swap shows kids how what might seem like trash to them, can be treasure to someone else…. And it’s a ton of fun! Planet Pals has some good tips on how you can use a swap to teach kids about conservation and upcycling.
4. Take the Catalog Cancel Challenge! Over 19 billion catalogs are sent out yearly and less than 2% are used. This unnecessary waste results in the destruction of thousands of trees, the use of billions of gallons of water, and an enormous amount of pollution. The Catalog Cancel Challenge has already saved 1,400 trees and 1.4 billion gallons of water. Check out their website to see how your classroom or school can join and do your part to save the earth.
5. Conduct a role play! Role plays create an opportunity for students to do research and have meaningful conversations about environmental issues. They help build communication skills and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Asia Society offers two excellent lesson plans to help you bring environmental role-play into your classroom.
6. Adopt a Species! We are experiencing the worst species extinction rate since the time of dinosaurs. Up to 99% of these extinctions are caused by human activity. If nothing is done to stop this, as many as 30-50% of all species could be extinct by mid-century. These are alarming statistics. Fortunately, there are things we can do to slow down this mass extinction. Learning to Give provides a lesson plan that shows how you can make adopting an endangered species a meaningful class project.
7. Make something interesting! Science teachers add the extra challenge of creating the rube Goldberg with items found in nature! Nature is full of beautiful and unique items. A simple hike outside can get your creative juices flowing to revamp a lesson to include Mother Nature’s gifts. Want specific ideas? Tinker Labs has collected an incredible list of online resources you can use to create a wide variety of things using objects found in nature.
8. Cut down on packaging! Packaging accounts for a large amount of the waste that we create. Doing a self-audit can really help students become aware of excessive packaging and ultimately empower them to purchase without such waste. These are the types of lessons that trickle home and have the greatest impact. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has created a lesson plan that helps kids understand the dangers of excessive packaging and some key waste reduction techniques that they can employ in their own homes.
9. Learn about sustainability! Population growth is a crucial component to many of the environmental issues we face today. Population Education provides a wealth of resources to help your students understand how we can create a sustainable living environment for our growing world. Their website offers comprehensive packets of lesson plans for various age groups that can be used on Earth Day or any day!
10. Grow a garden! Whether you have a big or small, indoor or outdoor, space available… School gardens offer an interactive, authentic way to get your students involved in nature. The Teacher’s Academy offers an online course that will show the basics of creating a classroom garden, as well as how to use gardening to create meaningful, interdisciplinary lessons.
The Creating a School Garden Course is only one of the many valuable courses that the Teacher’s Academy offers. All of our course fulfill Pennsylvania Act 48 requirements and can provide you an economical, convenient way to earn professional development courses from home. Sign up for your first class today!