Character Education and the Green Classroom
- Grades: PreK–K
It really is easy being green. In this post, you'll find some great ideas for teaching character education in the context of the green classroom — just in time to plan for Earth Day.
• Have students check for leaks in all the places where water can be found in the room. Inform them that a water leak is the same as a steady stream in terms of waste. Let them test for toilet leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank and waiting for 15 minutes. If the tank water turns color after 15 minutes without flushing, there's a leak.
• Food is energy, but some foods are healthy and some are not. What kind of energy do the toys in the classroom eat — electricity, batteries, or wind-up — and which kind is healthiest? Have students search for energy hogs. Energy hogs are "nasty critters that hide all over your home [or school] and pig out on wasted energy."
• Have students search the classroom for energy vampires. Energy vampires are appliances that constantly suck energy, even when you think they're off. Look for items plugged into electrical outlets and discuss which ones students should always turn all the way off.
• Assign a student to be the light monitor.
Tip: Invite students to put the Lorax energy saving reminder sign on items in the classroom.
• Have students come to school on a "walking school bus." Arrange for at least one parent volunteer to walk all the children in their area to school by setting up a route, meeting places, and a timetable. If that's not possible, suggest carpooling and remind parents to turn their engines off instead of idling them.
• Encourage students who bring lunch from home to use a lunch box or cloth bag, with a thermos or water bottle, reusable food containers, silverware, and a cloth napkin.
• Have a paper-free school day where your students use only reusable writing tools: chalkboards, whiteboards, Magna Doodles, glow slates, etc. If you can afford it, get one for each student and use them in place of paper as much as possible throughout the year.
• Set up a recycling factory where students can collect and sort recyclables in bins, as well as weigh them on a scale to calculate how much paper is being saved. We recycle some of our own paper using a paper blender and presser. We also recycle crayons using a crayon maker.
• Set up receptacles for pop tops, box tops, bottle caps, batteries, and glue sticks and bottles. We do this schoolwide!
Tip: Join the Elmer's Glue Crew Recycling Program to recycle Elmer's glue bottles and glue sticks. All you have to do is collect the empties, clean them with warm water, and either take them to your nearest Walmart (beginning Earth Day, April 22, 2011) or mail them to Terracycle using a prepaid shipping label.
• Have a recycling drop-off point for parents and the community, too.
• Try out this Recycling Think and Sort game as a center activity. Cut out recyclable and nonrecyclable items from magazines, tape them onto card stock, and have the kids sort each item into one of two containers.
• Ask students to bring in water bottles and jugs to take to refilling stations or exchange for new ones.
• Have students help refill glue bottles and paint containers.
• Let students bring in used electronics for you to return through company buy-back, take-back, trade-in, and e-cycling programs. Visit the EPA to find places to return these materials locally or online.
• Have kids help organize a donation drive for used cell phones and printer cartridges. Let them draw the promotional posters.
• Have a repair shop in the dramatic play center. Include old appliances (no cords), tools, parts, tins, and aprons.
• Find different uses for items, or have students be creative and come up with their own uses.
Baby food jars can be repurposed endlessly. Pictured from top left: Halloween luminaries; jar animals; snow globes; frame globes; night lights; sand art; garden-in-a-jar; tub tint gift jars; calendar jars; Winnie-the-Pooh party favors; and candy jars.
Child Central Station has ideas for repurposing dried-up markers. Use the ink to make paintings, gloop, or dropper dye art; use the caps to make ladders, bridges, necklaces, stools, or finger puppets; use the bottoms to make teeth, eyes, or hats; and use the barrels to make logs, houses, fences, rocket ships, snakes, and more. Now that's repurposing! Find many more ideas for repurposing items in their series What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays.
Images at right © Child Central Station.
• Start a compost bin. Not only can you throw in food scraps, you can also add things like paper plates, napkins, tissues, cotton balls, pencil shavings, sticky notes, latex balloons, pet droppings and food, hair, old clothing, and the contents of your vacuum.
• Have students bring in pine needles and other items from their yards for the compost.
• If a compost bin isn't an option, consider arranging for a pig farmer to get your food scraps.
• Make the class aware that not all garbage is safe to pick up, and not everything can go in a compost bin. Take them on a garbage hunt in the room and outside.
For more character education ideas, see my post "Character Education in PreK and Kindergarten." For more Earth Day reading, check out these books:
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