As the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, it’s a great time to discuss the worldwide trend of “Going Green.” People all over the world are making positive changes to improve global sustainability, and you can get your students in on the action with some great lesson ideas that promote responsible use of natural resources, green technology, and sustainable agriculture.
American mailboxes are inundated with junk mail. More than 100,000,000,000 pieces of junk mail are delivered each year— more than 800 pieces per household. In addition, 44% of that mail goes to the landfill unopened! One of my favorite activities to get kids thinking about the volume of wasted paper in our country involves asking them to bring in junk mail from home over the course of one week (making sure they black out names and addresses to prevent identity theft once the mail is eventually placed in the recycling bin). In small groups, I ask students to list potential problems caused by the large amount of unsolicited mail sent to households each day. Responses might include the cost of sending it out, the natural resources used in producing it, and the landfill space it takes up once it’s thrown away.
Once your class has accumulated a week’s worth of mail, divide it evenly among groups of three to four students. Each team should go through the mail and categorize the industries from which it came (supermarkets, credit card companies, etc . . .). Hold a group discussion in which students can draw some conclusions about where most junk mail comes from, along with the different reasons for it. Finally, place all the mail in a large container and weigh it on a bathroom scale to get the approximate amount for the weight of a week's worth of junk mail. From this, students can calculate the amount of junk mail they’ll receive per month and per year. It’s also interesting to determine the average amount of mail per family each year, using that number to calculate how much the average person will receive during his or her adult life. The results can be staggering! As an extension, kids can develop solutions to the junk mail problem, and write letters to their congressmen about the issue. You can also partner with your art teacher to find some creative ways to use the paper for an art project (such as origami).
For other ways to incorporate Earth Day into your curriculum, see the following lesson plans.
This lesson has students do experiments to find out how acid rain effects objects. They use vinegar to represent acid rain, and living things, such as leaves to show harmful effects. They also test the effect vinegar has on non-living things. Then students discuss how acid rain causes problems.
In this lesson students get into groups to form engineering teams that work for a energy consulting firm, called Greenewables, Inc. Each group takes on an are of renewable energy, such as solar, wind power, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and hydrogen. As the culminating activity for the lesson, students design posters and make presentations.
This lesson has students learn about predators and the food chain. They conduct a food hunt. They learn about Earth day, design a poster, and learn about the environment.
In this lesson students discuss natural resources. They get into small groups and complete worksheets about ways people misuse natural resources and they create fliers demonstrating how to conserve resources.
This lesson has students discuss the cause and effect of oil spills or other types of pollutants. They choose an environmental hazard they would like to focus on, and develop a plan to minimize the threat to wildlife.