Sustainability Superheroes blog
Using Decision-making and Entrepreneurial Thinking
Welcome to our new series of elementary interactive decision-making lessons created with Nearpod. This lesson involves making decisions about adopting a road, as seen in the Adopt-a-Highway program.
This Adopt-a-Road Nearpod lesson can be used with K-5 for literacy and social studies as it focuses on economic decision-making and civic participation. In addition, the lesson hits science standards in K-1. Here is the editable link . If you start your own free Nearpod account, you can edit the lesson to serve your needs.
The lesson begins with a read-aloud of The Lorax, which is one of the best books to use to teach students about the economic consequences that can occur when we don't make responsible decisions about the environment. After they listen to the Lorax story, students are introduced to problems with litter and the Adopt-a-Road program. Then, students engage with a decision-making lesson where they have to decide which road to adopt.
Extras: For more information on the Adopt-a-Road program, visit the Florida Department of Transportation.
We have also included handouts to download if you want to use them with your students!
Today is Arbor Day! Use the image above from ArborDay.org, to initiate conversation about Arbor Day. Ask: What do you see? What do you think the people are doing? What do you wonder?
Once students have some wonder questions, they can conduct online research to learn more about Arbor Day and the importance of trees in our world.
Learn about different types of trees with the Arbor Day Tree Identification Tool.
Check out Carly's Kids Corner for some activities to help children connect with nature and learn more about trees.
Enjoy the story of Curious George, as he discovers the importance of trees. Before you read, ask students to predict what the story will be about, based on the cover. During reading, ask students to draw or record things they learned about trees. After reading, have students create a poster, song, or story about what they learned about trees.
Draw a tree. Photograph a tree. Create a social media post about trees. Encourage your students to create artwork about the beauty of nature and ways in which we can work together to become more sustainable in our everyday lives. Share with us on social media @usfstavros (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by tuning into the virtual 24 hour live event that EarthDay.org is holding.
What will you do?
Watch the Lorax and imagine you are given the seed. What would you do differently?
Then, watch How to Help the Earth by the Lorax. What will you do to help the earth?
Bring an appreciation and love of nature into the lives of your students so they can celebrate #EarthDayEveryDay. Encourage your students to create artwork about the beauty of nature and ways in which we can work together to become more sustainable in our everyday lives. Inspire students to share artwork and ideas about reducing, reusing, recycling, re-purposing, and re-designing the way we do things! Share with us on social media @usfstavros (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
With one day until the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we wanted to remind you to tune in to the virtual 24 hour live event that EarthDay.org is holding. This is just one of many things you can do to engage students at home with an appreciation of the beauty of nature!
More Activities for Home!
One of the best ways to engage students in caring for the environment is to learn about the diverse creatures on earth. One way to celebrate Earth Day indoors, is to use online resources to learn about nature. For example, check learn about some of these National Geographic cute animals who need your help.
While at home, there are also many live and recorded webcams that you can view to have students appreciate the unique creatures that we have on this planet. For example, check out the live Jelly Cam and visit the website at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What else did you learn about jellyfish?
Now, check out the Audubon Puffin Burrow webcam below. Audubon has been helping to reintroduce these birds to the islands off Maine since the 1970's. Learn more about puffins at the Explore.org Live Cams.
Then conduct some research on puffins. Why did the Audubon society need to reintroduce these birds? What happened to them in the first place? What can we do to better protect species? Put on your entrepreneurial thinking cap. Use some of the resources on EarthDay.org to learn more about conservation of our many endangered species on earth.
Now, enjoy the bears at Katmai National Park, Alaska and check out more links to webcams at SierraClub.org.
What is the problem with plastics? What made plastics turn from being the miracle container to hated garbage? You might have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Watch the Trash Talk video by NOAA National Ocean Service to find out more about the problems with plastics in the oceans.
What did you discover? How does all of the plastic get into the ocean? What are some of the environmental and economic impacts of dumping plastic into the ocean?
How do we solve this problem? This is a big problem that involves both producers and consumers. As a consumer, the best way to solve this problem is to lower your use of single use plastic. If you use single use plastic, make sure you deposit the containers in recycling bins. The worst possible decision is to throw your plastic on the ground, as you will discover in the TedEd video: The Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle.
Before you watch, tell students that they will be hearing about the journeys of three plastic bottles. Ask students to take notes, documenting what happened to each of the bottles.
What happened to the different bottles? So how does all of that plastic end up in the ocean? What can you do to educate people about the consequences of littering?
Plastic bottles aren't the only single use plastic problem. Plastic is used extensively in packaging. What are some other ways we can reduce the amount of plastic? Put on your entrepreneurial thinking caps and join us in our Rethink Tank lesson. In this lesson, students learn about entrepreneurship and rethink the way things are made, used or disposed. They will examine current packaging problems we have that create a lot of waste. Then they will use design thinking to design a more sustainable solution.
You can download a PowerPoint of the activity and the lesson below:
Yesterday, we shared five incredible sustainable art pieces from living sculptures that float to real pieces of ice from the largest glacier in Iceland. If you missed those, check them out here. Sustainable art is a way for artists to use their talent to spread awareness. This form of creativity isn't a typical way to address the planet's environmental problems, which makes it a perfect lesson for you and your students to learn about entrepreneurial and design thinking! Here are five more breathtaking sustainable art pieces.
"Vertical Green Garden" - Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons created a white terrier covered in flowers. The structure stands at 40-feet tall and is located at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Flowers may be small, but they're important for feeding insects, birds, and even us! In addition, they make the world a beautiful place!
Sustainable Environment Beach Sculpture Protest by the U.N.
Everyone knows how harmful plastic bottles are to the environment. According to seasidescavenge.org, 20,000 water bottles are purchased every second, and this pattern continues to increase each year. The United Nations created this large fish sculpture out of plastic water bottles as a protest to the massive plastic problem that is taking over our oceans.
"Slow Slugs" - Florentijn Hofman
Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, created these beautiful slug sculptures made out of 40,000 plastic bags that were knitted together. They stand at 18 x 7.5 x 5 meters tall and was placed in Angers, France for the Accroche-Cœurs festival. This piece addresses the problem of plastic bags, which actually take about 10-20 years to decompose. Learn more about the making of this piece here.
Recycled Wood Shavings - Henrique Oliveira
Shavings from old construction plywood is usually thrown away, but Henrique Oliveira saw this as a chance to create art. He used brushes to create this three-dimensional sculpture made of plywood shavings. His work resembles large, twisted roots that make a massive statement in the room. It's stunning and mesmerizing and definitely a beautiful way to reuse old construction materials.
Dog Sculpture - Nirit Levav
Nirit Levav is an artist and fashion designer from Israel. She collects junk (often made of metal) and turns them into beautiful, life-sized dog sculptures. Many of them are made of old bicycle chains, like the one pictured here, which she collects from motor garages and bike shops. She proves that you can create art out of anything!
Sustainable art incorporates environmental and sustainability principles. This art is normally made up of repurposed materials and addresses an environmental issues. As awareness and action for the planet continues to grow, more creatives are beginning to consider joining the movement through their work. Here are 5 unique sustainable art works that will open your mind and make you feel inspired.
"Your waste of time." - Olafur Eliasson
This incredible work is held in a refrigerated exhibit powered by solar panels. They are actual pieces of ice that came from the Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier. This represents eight hundred years of existence on Earth and puts into perspective the physical aspect of humanity. Its message invokes the issues and threats of global warming .
"Pandas on Tour" - Paulo Grangeon
To spread awareness on endangered species across the globe, this sculptor created 1,600 pandas made of papier-mâché. This represents the actual number of pandas that are still living on Earth. Collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund, this traveling exhibit has visited over 20 countries.
Trash Cans - Aida Sulova
Aida Sulova is a street artist from Kyrgyzstan and created this piece on a garbage bin. She is using her talents to address the trash problem in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. She creates large mouths to show that what we throw away will eventually be consumed by us.
“Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption” - Chris Jordan
This photo is part of Chris Jordan's "Intolerable Beauty" series that exhibits the high amount of waste and debris that millions and millions of people are creating across the globe everyday. He shows a huge clump of cellular devices in a hypnotic pattern. This represents the never-ending production of waste from humans.
Living Sculptures - Mathilde Roussel
This piece is an installation made of living grass in the shape of a person. Roussel used recycled materials and wheat grass seeds and soil to fill in the fabric. This sculpture represents the awareness of nature and what we eat. It drives viewers to think about our global food cycle and the fluctuations of famine and abundance.
Earth Day's 50th anniversary is coming up in just 5 days, and this year's theme is climate action, which is the biggest challenge for the future of people and the planet. However, a massive challenge also means endless opportunities to make a difference. Schools across the country are doing more each year to be as eco-friendly as possible. Here are some ways that you can make your school more sustainable and address climate change.
Provide more healthy, vegetarian and vegan options to minimize your school's carbon footprint of the meat industry. You could host meat-free Mondays or provide non-dairy food choices. Encourage your school to buy locally grown vegetables. Read about how this school improved their school lunches by buying from local farmer's markets!
Teach About Climate Change / Sustainability
This is a huge topic, but luckily, teachers have access to our resources page that has tons of lesson plans, videos, activities and much more! We have resources for you to teach about climate change, saving energy, gardening, using the arts to inspire change, waste, consumption, and many more. You can also have your students get out, explore, and learn by organizing a field trip. Visit local landscapes, participate in environmental projects, or simply start a school garden!
Calculate Carbon Footprint
What we do on the planet translates to how it's being negatively impacted. Have your students calculate the school's carbon footprint or their own. This is a great way to see what improvements need to be made in how we operate our daily lives. Here are some different websites to use to calculate your carbon footprint.
Try to avoid using single-using plastic as much as possible. Recycle paper, plastic bottles, cans, and glass objects and containers. Lean more towards eco-friendly products if possible. Make sure all cleaning materials are biodegradable. Repurpose classroom "trash" to use for storage and art projects.
Make your school grounds more green! Start a vegetable or flower garden with students. Teach them to plant trees and watch them grow over time. This teaches students the fun of helping the planet and helps them realize how important it is!
It is extremely important that we keep garbage out of landfills as much as possible because some of it ends up in natural bodies of water like the ocean, which then threatens animal health and well-being. Also, the manufacturing, transportation, and use of products creates more greenhouse gas emissions, which causes climate change. Start thinking about composting, non-litter lunches, stopping the use of bottled waters, and going paper free.
The COVID-19 outbreak has created drastic life changes for everyone around the world, and has greatly affected the education system. Teachers and students are forced to transition to distance learning, and for many, this has been a challenge. Despite this unpredicted change, there are still ways you can incorporate sustainability into your teacher lifestyle. Here are some tips to continue being an eco-friendly teacher from home.
Use Less Paper
Now that you're teaching from home, this is a great opportunity to avoid using paper as much as possible. Paper is a necessity for teaching specific lessons in a classroom, but it's time to get creative. There are many different sites you can use to get responses from your students. Flipgrid is a free social learning tool that comes in online format and in an app. You can create a link to a grid and have your students submit videos. Wakelet is another amazing free platform that organizes all types of content into one place. Your students can share links, videos, texts, images, and documents all in one place. They can be shared and viewed by you and other students in your class.
Teach Students to Repurpose
If you are planning to get your students to create a crafty art project, tell them that it can only be made with repurposed materials that they have to find in their home. They could take newspaper and magazines to create collages. They could use egg cartons, yogurt cups, boxes, and unused pens and pencils to make sculptures. They can use snack wrappers, food labels, and plastic bags to create a mini mural. This is the ultimate creative challenge!
Turn off Electronic Devices
Teaching at home means using a computer or laptop more. You may be tempted to just leave it on or plugged in charging all the time since you're using it so much, but remember that this takes up a lot of electricity and energy. Leaving it plugged in or on when it doesn't need to be creates energy waste that will increase the machine's carbon dioxide emissions, which contributes to pollution and climate change. Turn off your computer when you're not teaching!
Create a Lesson on Sustainability
With everyone being at home, this is the best time to teach your students to consume less and save more. Create a sustainability lesson with your students! The best way to start is by looking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are what we all need to aim for in order to achieve global sustainable development by 2030. You can do a lesson on just one, or all of them, then have your students choose which one means the most to them and create a project from that. We have tons of lesson ideas on sustainability topics that you and your students will love! Visit our resources page here.
Encourage Students to Participate in the 2020 Earth Challenge
Your students can become citizen scientists from home! Earth Day Network is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, which is also going digital for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They created the Earth Challenge 2020 app that allows anyone to take photos of air pollution and garbage pollution and submit them through a global database. This teaches students to be more aware of the environment and learn about taking global action. It is very simple to use, but please ensure safety and caution for the little ones when going outdoors doing their part as a citizen scientist! Learn more about the Earth Challenge here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed everyone's lives, especially for teachers and students. Schools across the country have closed to ensure social distancing and safety. This can be a difficult transition and may cause some anxiety for you and your students. If you need some fun ideas, here are a couple eco-friendly activities that your students will enjoy! These can work for any grade level K-12.
The Earth Challenge
Earthday.org is getting ready for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which is also going digital for the first time. To get everyone to celebrate, they created the Earth Challenge 2020 app. This app allows anyone to become a citizen scientist by collecting air pollution and garbage pollution near their home. This teaches students to be more aware of the environment and learn about taking global action. It is very simple to use, but please ensure safety and caution for the little ones when going outdoors doing their part as a citizen scientist! Learn more about the app here.
Plastic Pollution Plan
Do an activity with your students telling them to audit their plastic use at home. Let them organize and count how many plastic bottles, plastic bags, straws, and wrappers they have. Then, they can research products that have more sustainable packaging or find ways on how they can use less packaging. Ask what they can do in their daily life to use less plastic.
Arts and crafts are always fun for kids and a perfect activity for being indoors. Teach your students to solve environmental problems using the arts. They can search for materials around their house and repurpose them to create jewelry, sculptures, bags, storage cases, or accessories.
You can also have them do a project based on the DooDad competition. This contest required students to use plastic bags and wrappers to create a sculpture that addresses an environmental problem. Read more about this here. For more inspiration, visit our sustainable arts resource page for project and lesson ideas.
Reflect on Films/Documentaries
You can have your students watch movies and videos on sustainable topics, and let them share what they think about them. They can pick out a scene from the film and then discuss why it's meaningful to them in terms of taking global action. We have lesson ideas based on movies like Frozen and Toy Story, so make sure to check those out! If you are an elementary teacher, we have a list of some of the best sustainable education videos here.