In this guide, you will find six activities you can do with your students before Earth Day. They’re designed to help you teach your students about sustainability, show them why it’s important, and provide them with activities and resources they can use to take action throughout the year.
Why teach sustainability?
Sustainability requires each of us to do our part to ensure that the resources we need to survive – clean water, healthy food, electricity, shelter – will be available for generations to come. When you explore sustainability with your students, you ask them to think collaboratively and critically about important and real issues.
Finally, by teaching sustainability, you are also practicing it. This could mean using less plastic in your classrooms or finding creative ways to reduce energy consumption. Teaching sustainability enables your students to acquire knowledge, skills and values that they can apply in their personal lives and in their future academic or professional careers.
1. Create designs inspired by nature
In these difficult times, we need innovative solutions more than ever. Participating in the Biomimicry Institute’s Youth Design Challenge (YDC) is a fun way to inspire your students to flex their creative muscles while learning about sustainability. In this project-based learning experience, your students will design nature-inspired solutions to tackle the climate crisis.
This activity will introduce your students to Design Thinking , a creative problem-solving process they can use in any role or industry. It also allows them to apply the skills they learn to a real problem, which helps them feel more involved and engaged in the work.
2. Develop an e-waste collection and disposal campaign
Did you know that e-waste accounts for 2% of US landfill waste , but 70% of all toxic waste?
In this lesson, your students will learn about the realities of electronic waste, its place in waste management, and the dangers it poses to the environment. They will then use the knowledge gained to develop and implement an e-waste collection and disposal campaign.
Your students will leave with practical knowledge about sustainability that they can apply in their daily lives, as well as with enhanced soft skills, as the lesson involves a lot of collaboration, communication, creative problem solving and of critical thinking.
3. Check out candy supply chains
Most of us buy goods and products without really thinking about how they get to us. Yet buying something as simple as a chocolate bar at your local grocery store is the result of a relatively complex logistical network called the supply chain.
Every day, businesses rely on supply chains to deliver their consumer goods, but sustainability is often a sore point. The activities of consumer businesses typically account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions , and supply chains are a major contributor to this pollution.
In this lesson, your students will learn what a supply chain is using the concrete example of a candy bar, showing them the different activities involved that will transform the different raw materials into a tasty end product that we know and we all love. You can also have your students watch the documentary Illicit: The Dark Trade , which explores the black market.
4. Estimate your classroom’s energy use
It’s easy to flip a switch without thinking about where the electricity is coming from, until the day the light goes out. Understanding how we produce and use energy can help us see how we can reduce energy consumption in our daily lives, and this learning can start in the classroom.
In this lesson, your students will explore and discuss the relationships between energy use and pollution and learn the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Next, your students will create a pie chart estimating the class’s energy use, which will help them see how their actions relate to larger social and environmental issues like pollution and climate change.