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March 17, 2015 Ecology and Choice: 16 Student Projects for Earth Day By Meghan Everette
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Very soon, spring will be upon us. The time to start planning for Earth Day and spring activities is now! Get your planter boxes ready, and brush off the garden gloves. My students complete a unit that will wrap up around Earth Day that incorporates many of our objectives while teaching students about the environment.

    Smore make a differenceThis year, students are taking part in in a Project Based Learning unit centered on recycling, resources, and ecology. The final product will be one that they choose with their group members. An overview of our project is available on our Smore called Make a Difference. Previous years, I taught the skills in class, but I sent home a project with students to complete and bring back to present. There’s no one right way, but you can get the creative juices flowing with these ideas.

    I give my students a variety of project ideas and a list of apps and websites that may be helpful to them when getting started. Our school is a 1:1 environment, but many students and families need help identifying available programs for their presentations. Giving families a short list of easy-to-use resources, especially ones that have been used in the classroom before, can be very helpful.

    presentation sites

    Use Scholastic resources to help teach and support student learning during the project:

    The Power of Green


    Earth Day Activities


    Recycling: Everything You Need

    Kids' Environmental Report Card

    An interactive activity site about energy conservation for grades K-8.

    How teachers across the country celebrate Earth Day in their classes.

    Activities, lessons, articles, and more on recycling.

    Kids can write eCards to raise awareness about the environment.

    Earth Day and the Environment: Everything You Need

    Endangered Ecosystems: A Scholastic Explorers Activity


    My Clean & Green Community


    Top 5 Ideas for Getting Children to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in Your Classroom 

    Everything you need for teaching about Earth Day and the environment.

    A Scholastic Explorers activity about animals in endangered environments.

    A digital storybook and environment lessons from Keep America Beautiful.

    Five ways that teachers can teach reducing, reusing, and recycling in the classroom.

    the power of green


    One of the hallmarks of Project Based Learning is Voice and Choice — that is, giving students a chance to take ownership in their learning by having a say in the design and product options. It’s a small step, but offering some different choices allows students a chance to feel like their opinions matter and to pick the style that makes them most comfortable. Here are 16 ideas to get you, and your students, started:

    1. Select a book about pollution or the environment. Create a movie poster, book report, or other display of choice to tell what was learned from reading the book, and encourage others to read the book.presenting with poplet

    2. Visit a local museum and create a display, report, or presentation to tell what you learned about resources in our area. Some examples would be the Sea Lab, city museum, local state park, etc.

    3. Research pollution problems in our area and report on what you find. Examples might be the trash in a local river, dumping problems in waterways, the dead fish that washed up this past year in the area, arguments over hunting or fishing seasons, lasting effects of the oil spills, etc.

    4. Make a poster/display/presentation about different types of pollution (like air, water, land, noise, etc.) and ways to prevent them.

    5. Create a nature scrapbook from our local area. Take pictures or add in real samples. Label them as accurately as you can.

    6. Be a reporter. Create a mini movie (either real or animated) with yourself doing a news report on environmental issues. Highlight ways “viewers” can help.

    7. Figure out how much trash your family is creating in a day or a week. Record the amount in some way (pounds, earth journalnumber of trash bags, etc.) Figure out what parts of your normal trash could be recycled, reused, reinvented, donated, etc. Make a display of your findings.

    8. Conduct an interview with an environmentalist. You might have a friend, neighbor, or family member who works for the water board, utilities department, environmental agency, local volunteer agencies, etc. Interview them about conservation in our area and what we can do. Present your interview (show what you learned, create a mini movie, etc.).

    9. Take a walk in a public area and pick up trash. (You will need gloves and a trash bag.) Discuss how the trash probably got there, and ways to keep that area clean. Make a poster, mini movie, or other display to encourage others to keep the environment clean.

    10. Research what types of materials can be recycled in your town and how to recycle them. Make a poster or other display/presentation about recycling encouraging others to take part.

    11. Go on a nature scavenger hunt in your neighborhood or somewhere around town. Make a list of natural resources and man-made items you see. Record animals, instances of pollution, etc. Display your findings for others to see (make a poster, graph, chart, mini video, etc.). Extra fun: make a scavenger hunt list for your friends!

    12. Research the water cycle (try the kids section at Water Use It Wisely). Make a display or presentation showing why it is earth songimportant to keep our water clean.

    13. Make a play or puppet show (either live, videoed, or with an app of some kind) that teaches about protecting the environment. 

    14. Make a poem or song about recycling. Perform it in class or record it to share (either as a poster, video or audio recording, or using an app in some way).

    15. Create a game. Make a board game that helps review information about the environment, conservation, recycling, etc. Be sure to include rules. For extra fun: really make a game board and pieces and play!

    16. Complete the requirements for a badge in Girl or Boy Scouts in the environmental field. Record what you did and what you learned to share with the class.

    Print the family letter if you want to send home the project, or just print the project ideas sheet to help get students started. Either way, make sure to set aside plenty of time for students to present. Our class did presentations over a couple of days so students could truly focus on all the great work presented.

    earth day project ideas earth day family letter

    What ways do you teach ecology with young students?


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Susan Cheyney