Here you'll find great activities to teach your students about recycling, sustainability and the environment. Click on one of the topic links below to get started.

Get your students engaged in learning about Global Warming!

Global Warming in Your Own Backyard

Global Warming Debate

Make Your Voice Heard!

Light Bulb Audit

Get your students engaged in learning about global warming! Scholastic

Begin with a slip of note paper, or a small card, for each student in your class. Take the total number of students, divide by 3, and make that number of each of the following three questions. Have your students select questions randomly, such as out of a hat or shoebox. This is the question they will research. Once their research is done, ask students to share their findings with the class-either individually, or in groups.

  1. What is global warming?
  2. What causes global warming?
  3. Where do greenhouse gases come from?

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Global Warming in Your Own Backyard Scholastic

As we now know, Earth's climate is changing as a result of human activities. Challenge your students to consider the issue of our impact on the plants and animals that share our planet by hosting a mock debate. Begin the discussion with these questions posed by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon, the coauthors of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming: "We now know that the way we are living is causing many species to become extinct. Is it okay for humans to interfere with nature so much? What is our responsibility to the polar bear, coral, frog, butterfly, and all the others?" Have two teams of three students each take one side in the debate—one suggesting that extinction doesn't matter and the other suggesting that it does—and argue their stance as best they can. Stage the debates for the rest of the class, and invite discussion about what was shared and what students' conclusions are.

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Global Warming Debate Scholastic

Global warming is more than just an increase in temperature; it's a change in the climate of our planet, which affects weather patterns, sea levels, and the normal range of plants and animals. Ask students to imagine the impact global warming will have in their own backyard and home. Have them create posters depicting what this scenario might be like, along with a short essay, story, or poem about this new and different world. Here are some possible impacts of global warming to suggest:

  • Poison ivy grows larger and becomes itchier as CO2 levels in the air increase.
  • Fall leaves turn a dull color and don't last as long since frosts are delayed.
  • Disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes expand their territory as northern regions become warmer.
  • Ski seasons shorten as less snow falls.
  • Allergies are triggered and asthma worsens as more pollen is produced due to high CO2 levels in the air.
  • Pancakes get drier as maple syrup production declines.
  • There are fewer outdoor ice rinks as winters get warmer.
  • Bark beetle populations explode due to lack of winter frosts, killing trees and making them more vulnerable to forest fires.

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Make Your Voice Heard! Scholastic

Get your students involved in local government by having them write to their elected officials about the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A good first step is to see if your city's mayor has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Visit www.scholastic.com/downtoearth to look up your mayor and to download a sample letter your students can use to ask their mayor to join the more than 400 mayors who have already signed. Next, register to join the virtual march at www.stopglobalwarming.org.

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Light Bulb Audit Scholastic

How many light bulbs are there in your school? How much energy and how many pounds of CO2 would your school save if all the light bulbs were changed to energy-efficient compact fluorescents? First, ask the class to discuss and record their estimate for the total number of light bulbs in your school. Next, divide the students into teams and ask each team to perform a field count of light bulbs in the area of the school they are assigned.

Once all numbers are tabulated, use these formulas to calculate your energy savings (formulas derived from www.usctcgateway.net/tool):

  • Energy used by regular light bulbs per school year in kilowatt hours = (number of light bulbs) x (average wattage of light bulbs) x (hours in a school day) x (number of days in a school year) x .001
  • Energy used by compact fluorescent light bulbs per school year in kilowatt hours = (energy used by regular light bulbs per school year in kilowatt hours) x .25
  • CO2 emissions from regular light bulbs per school year in pounds = (energy used by regular light bulbs per school year in kilowatt hours) x 1.535 lbs CO2/kilowatt hour
  • CO2 emissions from compact fluorescent light bulbs per school year in pounds = (energy used by compact fluorescent light bulbs per school year in kilowatt hours) x 1.535 lbs CO2/kilowatt hour

Next, calculate the cost savings of using compact fluorescents throughout the school. Here is data for just one of these environmentally friendly bulbs, used over a “life cycle” of about 10,000 hours. (A regular bulb lasts only about 1,000 hours.)

  • Initial cost difference:.$3
  • Life cycle savings:.$77
  • Net life cycle savings (life cycle savings — initial cost):.$74
  • Life cycle energy saved:.543 kWh
  • Life cycle air pollution reduction:.833 lbs of CO2
  • Air pollution reduction equivalence (number of cars removed from the road for a year):.0.07
  • Air pollution reduction equivalence (acres of forest):.0.10
  • Savings as a percent of retail price:.2116%

For an Excel spreadsheet, visit www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls.

Have students share their findings with the school administration, publish them in the school paper, and send e-mails to other classroom teachers. Invite students to think of other ways to spread the word that cleaner technologies not only save the planet, but also save money over the long run.

Take this activity a step further by asking students to do an audit at their own house, friend's or relative's house. You can even suggest other places, including grocery stores, libraries, move theaters and local businesses.

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Scholastic Reprinted with permission from Scholastic Instructor magazine (Nov./Dec. 2007). Some material in this article was adapted from The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon (Orchard Books, Scholastic, 2007). Illustrations by Stephen Schudlich.

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