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April 11, 2016

Canceling Catalogs = Saving Trees = An Easy Earth Day Project

By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Catalogs aren’t just annoying junk mail. Over 100 million trees are cut down every year to produce catalogs and other advertising mail! And making the paper for the catalogs releases as much CO2 as what two million cars emit in a year. Is your blood boiling yet? Share these stats with your students, and catalogs will quickly become public enemy number one in your classroom!

    Reducing waste from catalogs is a straightforward environmental cause that elementary school kids can easily get behind. In fact, when part of the solution is as simple as making a phone call to cancel a catalog “subscription,” this is possibly the best Earth Day project ever! Read on for tips to plan your own catalog canceling-project in your classroom.

     

    The Catalog Canceling Challenge Courtesy of The Park School

    Canceling catalogs as an environmental stewardship project was not my own idea. A group of fourth graders and their inspiring teacher Ted Wells began the Catalog Canceling Challenge at their elementary school in Brookline, MA seven years ago. Since then, they’ve built an amazing website, been interviewed on TV, and inspired at least 10,000 kids around the country to cancel more than 80,000 catalogs! Wells has been a professional role model for me; the project based learning he facilitates with his students is an awesome example of what kids can accomplish when given the chance.

    First I watched their student-made how-to videos and read through the wealth of resources in their Organizer Packet. Soon, I felt ready to plant the seed for the idea with my students to see how they wanted to tackle the project.

     

    Catalog Canceling, Class 3-344 Style

    Introducing the Catalog Crisis

    I brought in a stack of catalogs I collected at home and from my neighbors — enough for each student to have one — and I asked my students what they thought about catalogs. Some loved getting Lego catalogs or American Girl catalogs, but most had given catalogs very little thought. So I pushed a little harder, asking why catalogs might be a problem for our planet. Immediately students decided that catalogs were a waste of paper. “But don’t catalogs serve a purpose?” I asked, playing devil’s advocate. How bad could catalogs be?

    Getting the Facts: Research Time

    Rather than telling them lots of facts and statistics about the evils of catalogs, we reviewed pertinent vocabulary that they’d need to support their Internet research. Then I sent them off to figure out just how bad catalogs are.

     

    I provided a research guide with links for students who needed more support, and a recording page for students to record their facts and sources.

    Goal Setting: Let’s Save 10 Trees!

    After sharing out their research, my students were understandably appalled at how wasteful catalogs are. They were ready to do something about it! Rather than making it a competition, my students wanted to make it a group challenge. We decided to make 600 catalogs out goal — this would mean that we saved 10 trees! With this plan, each student would need to cancel about 20 catalogs.

    Catalog Canceling Practice Makes Perfect

    We canceled some of the catalogs that I brought in together, with my cell phone on speaker so all of the kids could hear how the catalog canceling played out. It was interesting how my confident, talkative students suddenly became a bit tongue tied when talking with a stranger on the phone. It was one of those moments of realization: my students are still young kids, and 8-year-olds don’t talk to call center adults all that much. 

    I also modeled how to use the website CatalogChoice.org to cancel catalogs online. Some of the students thought it was fun canceling the catalogs by phone, but many students were happy to have an online option.

    Spreading the Word

    While pairs of students took turns canceling a catalog by phone and online together, the rest of the students either worked on making posters to hang around the school about our catalog canceling campaign, or writing scripts to explain the project to the other classes in our school.

    Collecting Catalogs and Graphing the Results

    Students did the bulk of the catalog canceling at home as “homework,” and then brought the canceled catalogs in to be counted and graphed. This is the letter I sent home to my students’ families to explain the project (adapted from Wells’s letter.) They were so excited to add to the tally each day, and the catalog graph became a coveted class job.

     

    Catalog Canceling and Beyond!

    I encourage you to set aside at least a few hours this month to discuss the perils our planet is facing and to plan a student-centered project so they can actively work towards making things better, even if just in a tiny way. Canceling catalogs is a wonderfully concrete project that does not need to take up a lot of class time. Here are some other ideas for Earth Month projects:

    Global Warming: Easy Make & Learn Project: Use this Printables activity to teach your students the basics about greenhouse gases and global warming.
    "Eight Books for Earth Day and Beyond": Read-alouds, independent reading books, and a printable cause and effect activity to accompany the book Earth in Danger.

    "Host a Solar Cookout for Earth Day!": Plan a picnic that harnesses the power of the sun to “cook” pizza melts and s’mores.

    "Earth Day Poems": Kriscia Cabral’s students created the most beautiful illustrated poems about environmental topics that mattered most to them.
    "Earth Day With STEAM: Creating Tunnel Books": Meghan Everette’s students made 3-D “tunnel book” reports about ecosystems and ecology.
    "Earth Day Activities to Help You Plant the Seed": Friendly letters to the Earth, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” sing-alongs, and more! This blog post is full of fun primary grade ideas.

    I’d love to hear what you have planned for Earth Day in your classroom! Leave a comment below, or reach out on Facebook or Twitter!

    Catalogs aren’t just annoying junk mail. Over 100 million trees are cut down every year to produce catalogs and other advertising mail! And making the paper for the catalogs releases as much CO2 as what two million cars emit in a year. Is your blood boiling yet? Share these stats with your students, and catalogs will quickly become public enemy number one in your classroom!

    Reducing waste from catalogs is a straightforward environmental cause that elementary school kids can easily get behind. In fact, when part of the solution is as simple as making a phone call to cancel a catalog “subscription,” this is possibly the best Earth Day project ever! Read on for tips to plan your own catalog canceling-project in your classroom.

     

    The Catalog Canceling Challenge Courtesy of The Park School

    Canceling catalogs as an environmental stewardship project was not my own idea. A group of fourth graders and their inspiring teacher Ted Wells began the Catalog Canceling Challenge at their elementary school in Brookline, MA seven years ago. Since then, they’ve built an amazing website, been interviewed on TV, and inspired at least 10,000 kids around the country to cancel more than 80,000 catalogs! Wells has been a professional role model for me; the project based learning he facilitates with his students is an awesome example of what kids can accomplish when given the chance.

    First I watched their student-made how-to videos and read through the wealth of resources in their Organizer Packet. Soon, I felt ready to plant the seed for the idea with my students to see how they wanted to tackle the project.

     

    Catalog Canceling, Class 3-344 Style

    Introducing the Catalog Crisis

    I brought in a stack of catalogs I collected at home and from my neighbors — enough for each student to have one — and I asked my students what they thought about catalogs. Some loved getting Lego catalogs or American Girl catalogs, but most had given catalogs very little thought. So I pushed a little harder, asking why catalogs might be a problem for our planet. Immediately students decided that catalogs were a waste of paper. “But don’t catalogs serve a purpose?” I asked, playing devil’s advocate. How bad could catalogs be?

    Getting the Facts: Research Time

    Rather than telling them lots of facts and statistics about the evils of catalogs, we reviewed pertinent vocabulary that they’d need to support their Internet research. Then I sent them off to figure out just how bad catalogs are.

     

    I provided a research guide with links for students who needed more support, and a recording page for students to record their facts and sources.

    Goal Setting: Let’s Save 10 Trees!

    After sharing out their research, my students were understandably appalled at how wasteful catalogs are. They were ready to do something about it! Rather than making it a competition, my students wanted to make it a group challenge. We decided to make 600 catalogs out goal — this would mean that we saved 10 trees! With this plan, each student would need to cancel about 20 catalogs.

    Catalog Canceling Practice Makes Perfect

    We canceled some of the catalogs that I brought in together, with my cell phone on speaker so all of the kids could hear how the catalog canceling played out. It was interesting how my confident, talkative students suddenly became a bit tongue tied when talking with a stranger on the phone. It was one of those moments of realization: my students are still young kids, and 8-year-olds don’t talk to call center adults all that much. 

    I also modeled how to use the website CatalogChoice.org to cancel catalogs online. Some of the students thought it was fun canceling the catalogs by phone, but many students were happy to have an online option.

    Spreading the Word

    While pairs of students took turns canceling a catalog by phone and online together, the rest of the students either worked on making posters to hang around the school about our catalog canceling campaign, or writing scripts to explain the project to the other classes in our school.

    Collecting Catalogs and Graphing the Results

    Students did the bulk of the catalog canceling at home as “homework,” and then brought the canceled catalogs in to be counted and graphed. This is the letter I sent home to my students’ families to explain the project (adapted from Wells’s letter.) They were so excited to add to the tally each day, and the catalog graph became a coveted class job.

     

    Catalog Canceling and Beyond!

    I encourage you to set aside at least a few hours this month to discuss the perils our planet is facing and to plan a student-centered project so they can actively work towards making things better, even if just in a tiny way. Canceling catalogs is a wonderfully concrete project that does not need to take up a lot of class time. Here are some other ideas for Earth Month projects:

    Global Warming: Easy Make & Learn Project: Use this Printables activity to teach your students the basics about greenhouse gases and global warming.
    "Eight Books for Earth Day and Beyond": Read-alouds, independent reading books, and a printable cause and effect activity to accompany the book Earth in Danger.

    "Host a Solar Cookout for Earth Day!": Plan a picnic that harnesses the power of the sun to “cook” pizza melts and s’mores.

    "Earth Day Poems": Kriscia Cabral’s students created the most beautiful illustrated poems about environmental topics that mattered most to them.
    "Earth Day With STEAM: Creating Tunnel Books": Meghan Everette’s students made 3-D “tunnel book” reports about ecosystems and ecology.
    "Earth Day Activities to Help You Plant the Seed": Friendly letters to the Earth, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” sing-alongs, and more! This blog post is full of fun primary grade ideas.

    I’d love to hear what you have planned for Earth Day in your classroom! Leave a comment below, or reach out on Facebook or Twitter!

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