How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

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Five Reasons to Attend the 2017 Green Schools Conference and Expo

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The Green Schools Conference and Expo is coming up! From March 21–22, education, facilities and green building leaders and advocates will gather in Atlanta, Georgia, for professional development, networking and advancement of the green schools movement. Kappa Delta Pi is proud to partner with the U.S. Green Building Council to promote this conference and expo.

Here are the top five reasons to come to GSCE 2017, broken down for educators, administrators and facilities and building professionals:

Educators:

  • Get ideas for how to make the outdoors your classroom. Learn how you can develop a sense of place for your students in nature, using natural resources and sustainability to teach science and writing. Come away with a toolkit of new teaching habits that are designed to immerse your students in the natural world.
  • Tackle the challenge of helping students to apply new concepts. Hear ideas on how to use data to empower student action, and learn how to craft projects that engage students in the concepts of sustainability and stewardship to the environment and their communities.
  • Explore how to address math and literacy standards while exposing students to nutritious eating habits with a food preparation and taste test. Strategize ways to make lessons in gardening, the environment and nutrition relevant to students of all levels, and come away equipped with a model lesson that can be calibrated to fit your students.
  • Maximize student engagement by using the context of the entire school environment and community at large. Break down the barriers and receive direct instruction in how to make sustainability cross-curricular, student-centered and empowering and fun for learners of all ages.
  • Learn to use Visible Thinking Routines and Human-Centered Design to create a mindset of sustainability in your school community. Actively participate in sample activities you can replicate in your own classroom, and collaborate with others in your content area to brainstorm resources and best practices. Problem-solve obstacles you face within your professional learning community, such as time restraints, siloed curricula and the focus on high-stakes testing.

Administrators:

  • Go beyond “buy-in” to integrate sustainability with all of your faculty and staff. Learn from experts who have defined an evidence-based professional learning framework that addresses shifting culture and teaching practice through effective, ongoing relationships. Explore how to grapple with the challenges of integrating education for sustainability within the constantly shifting landscape of education standards and with diverse opinions about the value of sustainability integration in our public schools.
  • Learn how to leverage space as the “third teacher” to positively influence the physical, mental and emotional health of students. Hear from experts about the architectural concepts that emphasize quality light, color, materials and acoustics, which reflect the growing national priority to plan and design high-performance school environments.
  • Hear what it takes to build successful school–community partnerships to lead a school toward sustainability. Learn how to develop strong guiding principles that help all stakeholders filter important information, discuss options and consider educational models to support the best interest of the community.
  • Better understand the innovation that happens when curriculum- and facilities-related decisions are integrated to promote sustainability. Explore a clear pathway for achieving a powerful level of collaborative leadership within a school district. Learn about educational leadership approaches and strategic partnerships that can reinforce school culture and practices that are in alignment with sustainability. Develop systems of measurement and evaluation to ensure desired educational and sustainability outcomes.

Facilities and building professionals:

  • Learn to tackle some of the greatest roadblocks to innovative school construction: mixing public and private funding, working within public school regulatory environments, balancing participatory design and the realities of getting a building constructed by looking at the whole campus rather than a single building as the organizing focus, and implementing “bleeding edge” construction technologies that are new even to construction partners.

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(Original post by Anisa Baldwin Metzger of the U.S. Green Building Council on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Images via http://greenschoolsconference.org/five-reasons-attend-2017-green-schools-conference-and-expo)