One of the best things about a new school year is the ability to begin with a fresh start and now is the perfect time to explore some green initiatives for your classroom and school.
1. Take your class outside! My kids love to have Phys Ed outside, but how about taking them outside for other subjects? Oil pastel drawings of the fall foliage, reading in the warm September breeze, or nature-based science activities are all great options! Here are some great websites that have outdoor activities for students of all grade levels:
2. Make an Eco Pledge! On the first day of school, my students and I come up with our code of conduct for the year, so why not add in a promise about respecting the environment and becoming green? If students see this commitment as part of their pledge for the year, then they may begin to make more environmentally conscious choices.
3. Lights off! Appoint a different student each week to turn off all lights and computer screens before recess, after lunch and at the end of the day.
4. Recycle! Make sure that your classroom has an appropriate recycling bin and that students actively use it. Have a discussion with your students regarding the types of materials that are recyclable in your area.
5. Waste-Free Wednesdays! Students are to bring their lunch and snacks to school in a reusable container. Any organic waste can be composted at school (if a program is available) or brought back home for composting or green bin.
Got a bit more time?
6. Start an Environmental Club! Students love to be part of clubs and many kids already have tons of eco-friendly ideas for their class and school.
7. Ban the bottle! Explain to students that plastic water bottles are no longer acceptable in your classroom; instead, encourage them to purchase a reusable water bottle that they can refill throughout the day. A great video to watch with your class is “The Story of Bottled Water.” It makes an awesome media literacy lesson (I love cross-curricular lessons!) and really helps students understand how marketing by companies has drastically altered our perception of drinking water sources.
8. Celebrate Earth Day every day! Although Earth Day festivities usually take place during the week of April 22, why not incorporate small activities on a daily or weekly basis? Assemblies with an environmental focus, eco-conscious tips on the morning announcements, and picking up litter in the school yard are some possible suggestions.
9. Calculate (and then reduce) your EcoFootprint! There are many websites available that guide you through a series of questions to calculate your ecological footprint, while also providing suggestions to reduce your impact on the environment. It is best to visit these sites to ensure choosing a quiz that is appropriate to the grade level you teach.
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/online/bigfoot/ (includes teacher resources!)
http://calc.zerofootprint.net/youth/ (includes a teacher’s guide!)
10. Waste-Free Wednesdays school challenge! We created a month long challenge among our grade 1-8 classes. Each Wednesday after lunch, members of the EcoClub went around weighing the amount of waste produced by each class. The results were recorded and tallied over the course of a month. The class with the lowest total amount of post-lunch waste won a prize!
11. Green schools are Healthy schools! Join up with your school’s health action team to take on greater initiatives to promote diet, exercise, recreation, and green choices related to healthy living. Check into resources in your city/town/province/state to see what programs are available. For example, the Toronto and Region Conservation Schools Programs has a variety of programs, including Sustainable Schools, Watershed on Wheels, field centres, the 20/20 Clean Air partnership, and stewardship programs available. Research programs that are available in your area and sign up early as some programs may have limited spacing!
12. Green your school yard! Some students are lucky to attend schools set on beautifully green landscapes and surrounded by towering trees, but not all students are so lucky! Although school yard greening may seem like an expensive task, there are many organizations that provide grants for school yard greening projects once an application has been submitted. Over the last few years, we have planted several trees and shrubs around our school yard. We received six trees to plant from Environmental Earth Angels (www.earthangels.ca) after we submitted an online application, while a local nursery provided some more trees and shrubs at a discounted price. Our students had a great time digging, planting, and caring for the trees!