Recycle by Sight

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3.c

What You Need: Clean recyclable materials (cans, plastic bottles, newspapers, magazines); books on recycling; four medium-size cardboard boxes, labeled

What To Do: To teach young learners to protect our planet while honing literacy skills, Amber Osterman, a kindergarten teacher at Osseo Elementary School in Wisconsin, puts together a “Recycling Center” in her classroom.

Inspired by one of her student teachers, Osterman collages and mounts a recycling-themed word wall by stapling newspapers, magazines, plastic bottles, and cans to a bulletin board. (You can select materials that contain age-appropriate sight words, print out sight words and staple them to the wall, or do a little of both.) She then has students locate sight words within the mounted collage. Beneath the sight word wall, Osterman sets up a sorting activity using boxes labeled plastic, paper, metal, and glass, and gives students recyclable items to sort into the boxes. As they identify a word, kids also name the recycling bin the material should be put into, and then place the item in that box.

“The students really enjoyed playing I Spy, looking for sight words in all the recyclable material,” says Osterman, who blogs at Kindergarten Rocks.

Haiku Planet

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.1.2

What You Need: Chart and writing paper, pencils, markers or crayons

What To Do: This Earth Day, celebrate with your students by having them think critically about the planet and record their thinking in haikus. First, visit NASA Earth Observatory and share photos of Earth from space. Ask your students to describe what they see, focusing on colors, shapes, and landmasses. On chart paper, record their descriptions. Explain that there are more than 7.3 billion humans on the planet, all of whom depend on Earth’s resources to survive. Ask students why they think it is important to care for our planet. Record their reasons on a separate sheet of chart paper.

After the discussion, post both sheets of chart paper on the board. Announce that students will write a haiku describing Earth and promoting its conservation and care. Explain that a haiku is a form of poetry from Japan that often focuses on nature. Haikus are three lines long and have a set number of syllables in each line—five syllables in the first, seven in the second, and five in the third.

Write a few haikus on the board and read them aloud. (For examples, visit Haiku-Poetry.org.) Encourage students to use the words recorded on the chart paper as inspiration for their haikus, and help early writers as needed. (For children who aren’t yet writing, pass out copies of haikus and have them illustrate the poems.) Finish the project by having each poet read their work aloud and/or share what they have learned.

Super Soil

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.8

What You Need: Chart paper; digging tools (plastic spoons, trowels, small shovels and buckets); gardening gloves; magnifying glasses; soil

What To Do: Around Earth Day, Cristy Fogle, a kindergarten teacher at Arbor Springs Elementary in Newnan, Georgia, collaborates with assistant principal Page Tarleton on a soil study. Fogle and Tarleton tell the class they will be going outside to collect soil, but first they ask students to brainstorm what they already know about soil and record this on a thought web, with one idea building on another. Students then write a “soil collection plan,” deciding which tools they will need, how samples will be gathered, and where they will look on the school grounds for soil.

The class heads outdoors to collect samples. (If an outdoor space isn’t available, try using potting soil in boxes.) Fogle and Tarleton then have kids make close observations by mounting the samples on paper and viewing them through a magnifying glass. As they observe, students compare and contrast samples, as well as refer to their thought map to determine if their original inferences were correct. Students consider characteristics such as the colors and textures.

Fogle and Tarleton, who blog together at Kindergarten Squared, designed their own collection sheets, which include room for students to paste soil samples and a section for recording their observations.

Rainforest Mural

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.5

What You Need: Tree of Wonder, by Kate Messner; large sheet of canvas or butcher paper; acrylic paint in blue, green, yellow, and brown; paintbrushes; 2–4 cups of potting soil; pipe cleaners; construction paper or photos of rainforest animals

What To Do: Earth’s rainforests are filled with animal and plant life. Introduce your students to this lush environment by reading Tree of Wonder.

Before you begin, explain that there are four layers to the rainforest: the floor, the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layer. As you read, have students identify animals found in the rainforest and explain which layer they think the animals live in. After the discussion, tell the class they’ll be creating a rainforest mural, beginning from the rainforest floor up to the tops of the trees, and that you will auction off this mural to raise money to save the rainforest.

Then, break students into four groups, one for each layer of the rainforest. Have the first group glue potting soil to the bottom of the mural, to represent the floor. Have the second group paint tree trunks and large green leaves above the soil to represent the understory. The third group will paint leaves and vines as well as colorful flowers, such as orchids, to form the canopy. And the fourth group will complete the rainforest by painting the tops of the trees, the emergent layer.

As each group adds its layer to the rainforest, have the waiting students craft the animals that were identified for their own layer. For example, students representing the floor will craft insects, such as ants and spiders, out of pipe cleaners, and snakes, like anacondas, out of construction paper, while the understory group will create toucans, tree frogs, and capuchins out of various materials or printed images.

After gluing the creations to their respective layers, let the mural dry and mount it on a classroom wall. Hang a silent-auction bid sheet, and invite parents and others to place their bids. Donate the money you raise to a foundation that supports the rainforest, such as Rainforest Fund.

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Image: Courtesy of Kindergarten Rocks Blog