A Second Life for Markers

Standard Met: NGSS ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
What You Need: Collection tubs or large boxes, old Crayola markers
What to Do: In 2013, students in the environmental club at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, California, decided to make a difference. They petitioned Crayola, maker of nearly half a billion markers annually, to take back their used markers. After students collected more than 90,000 signatures on their Change.org petition, Crayola established a marker-recycling program called ColorCycle.

To implement the program at your school, register at crayola.com/colorcycle. Show the ColorCycle video to your class. Students will be in awe of how the markers are melted to produce fuel. Fun fact: 308 markers make one gallon of fuel!

Have students place collection tubs at key school locations and publicize the program to parents, teachers, and other classes. Then collect, count, and pack the markers. Print a free shipping label from the Crayola site, and contact FedEx to pick up the markers.

Pollution Solutions

Standard Met: NGSS ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
What You Need: Tub of water for each group, cooking oil, glitter, paper towels, fabric squares, cotton balls and swabs, feathers, dish detergent
What to Do: Third graders in Randi Smith’s class at Antioch Elementary School in Dalton, Georgia, thought oil, if spilled in the ocean, could be easily scooped out of it with buckets. This experiment changed their minds. Each group of students “polluted” a tub of water with cooking oil and glitter, and then used various supplies to try to remove the oil. “The kids found the cotton-based material was useless,” says Smith, who blogs at Teaches Third in Georgia. “They talked about how the cotton fibers weren’t holding on to the oil. They found paper towels were better.” Students also placed feathers (to represent birds) in their tubs and observed as the oil-coated feathers sank.

Afterward, the class watched online videos showing how volunteers use dish detergent to clean up oil-covered animals in real-life oil spills. “We repeated the experiment with the detergent, and the kids were amazed at how it repelled the oil,” says Smith.

Earth-Kind Picnic

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.10; 3.MD.B.3
What You Need: Bag lunches, pencils
What to Do: Jen Smith, a third-grade teacher at Greenville Elementary in Wisconsin, wanted to show students how to reduce the trash generated by their lunches. She instructed them to pack their lunches as usual for day one of the activity. As they ate, students kept track of how many pieces of trash they threw out. For day two, Smith sent home a note asking parents to help their children pack lunches as free of trash-generating items as possible. She talked with students about how they could pack things like reusable containers.

On day two, students counted the trash from their second lunch and kept track on a tally chart, then transferred the information into a bar graph and a pie chart. These visuals compared how many pieces of trash the class generated before and after their efforts to cut down on waste.

Earth Day Poets

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
What You Need: Circular cinquain template, pencils, construction paper, scissors, glue, tape
What to Do: Christina Schneider’s second graders at Allenwood Elementary School in New Jersey cap off Earth Day studies with poetry and a craft. Schneider, who blogs at School Daisies, teaches a mini-lesson on cinquains, or five-line poems. After she models writing a poem, students craft their own Earth Day cinquains on a template. “I thought they would struggle with fitting into the 1-2-3-4-1 pattern of words, but they followed it with no hesitation,” Schneider says. Students then cut out the circular poetry pattern.

Next, they create a paper craft called “Earth Man.” Students cut two circles the same size as the poem pattern from blue construction paper. They decorate one circle with Earth Man’s face, attaching green cutout continents, as well as construction-paper eyes and a smile. On the second blue circle, students glue arms and legs made from accordion-folded strips of paper. Earth Man even gets red hearts for hands and feet. Students then glue their cinquains on the second circle. To finish, the Earth-conscious poets tape both circles at the top so the poem is revealed when Earth Man’s face is lifted. 

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