Bringing Environmental Education into the Curriculum
Guest Post Written By: Kristin Lems
In these last “dog days” of summer, you are probably putting the finishing touches on your curriculum for the coming year. Have these hotter-than-ever “dog days” spurred you to think about how you can add some environmental education into your lessons and school activities? If it’s on your mind, here are five ideas to get you started.
1.) Thinkquest hosts class projects at its website from schools around the country on many subjects, including 18 about global warming as of today (Aug. 7, 2012). Your students can browse through them, or you can create and submit a class project of your own!
Here is how a class at Novi Meadow Elementary defined the greenhouse effect:
The greenhouse effect is when the temperature rises because the sun’s heat and light is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. This is like when heat is trapped in a car. On a very hot day, the car gets hotter when it is out in the parking lot. This is because the heat and light from the sun can get into the car, by going through the windows, but it can’t get back out. This is what the greenhouse effect does to the earth. The heat and light can get through the atmosphere, but it can’t get out. As a result, the temperature rises. This makes whatever the place might be, a greenhouse, a car, a building, or the earth’s atmosphere, hotter. This wonderful writing helps everyone understand the issue – and it was written for kids, by kids!
2.) Include fine children’s books about earth stewardship in your classroom library, and feature them in a larger unit. Five of my favorites are The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Man Who Planted Trees by Gene Giono, Just a Dream by Chris van Allsburg, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynn Cherry, and The Legacy of Luna, by Julia Butterfly Hill. You probably know many others. As children realize what is at stake, they can make better choices from an early age. Some of those books have movies, too!
3.) Hold an all-school shoe drive! Nike’s Reuse a Shoe site collects old gym shoes for use in creating playground surfaces and tracks. Nike has many related recycling activities described there, too, that can be added on to the drive. Look at the site to see the 5 steps needed to organize the drive.
4.) Sign up with Better World Books to sort and send used books to Indiana, where they are warehoused and resold through the internet. BWB pays $1 to your not for profit for each book they accept, and they provide the boxes, labels, and mail pickup. All you have to do is collect, sort, and pack the books! BWB not only helps keep books in circulation and out of landfills, but also donates to one of four literacy organizations on behalf of your organization. At my school, we have earned several thousand dollars for green activities through our continuing book collecting and sorting. The sorting events are fun, too. We get a half dozen pizzas and sort until all the books – and pizzas – are dispatched!
5.) An amazing comprehensive initiative was started by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, called the Wisconsin Green and Healthy Schools program. They provide wide-ranging curricular resources on many environmental topics, all for free, even if you’re not a “cheesehead!” They hold a Wisconsin “recycling bowl” in the fall, and have free webinars at the site on many topics. You can also get their Green and Healthy Schools newsletter.
Planning for climate change has already entered school districts and municipalities, so it doesn’t make sense to stick our heads in the sand. Although it is not possible to reverse extreme weather and climate change entirely, we can lessen its severity by how we choose to live our lives today. Through systematic environmental education, we can help lower America’s carbon footprint and help families lead more healthy lifestyles. Environmental education changes the way students live their lives, according to a study by teachers in one of the schools involved with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Students in the program learned to conserve energy and water, recycled, reduced car use, and were more involved in their community. Kids can change the world, but it is we teachers who will help show the way….oh, and, by the way, have you considered some serious carpooling with your coworkers? There’s still time to make some phone calls…
Last, but not least, let’s also consider strategies that kids and parents can easily bring into the new school year. As we all know, environmental awareness and respect for the planet must come from everyone. Victor Surma, a Penn State Alumni, is a passionate advocate for environmental awareness and positive health changes in our schools.
For the new school year, he offers some great tips for both students and parents alike:
-Students can donate clothes to shelters for the homeless, thus reducing waste.
-In addition to using green packaging for lunch items and staying away from packaged food, parents can look into buying items from their local farm.
-For transportation, if close and safe enough, kids should ride their bikes or walk to school. If this is not an option, kids should still ride in buses, as this does reduce the amount of cars on the road.
-Carpooling is still a great option to save money, fuel and time.
To read more tips about green, Eco-Conscious ways of living and choosing better paths toward health, interested readers will find Victor Surma a great resource.
Kristin Lems is a professor at National Louis University in Chicago, founder of the school’s Green Committee, and a fan of public transportation.
www.kristinlems.com – about the artist, itinerary, photos