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McREL Standards Activity

What in the World are You Doing?

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will assess how "green" their school is and understand how they can make a difference in the environment.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 6.Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment
   Level II [Grade 3-5]
   Benchmark 5. Knows that all organisms (including humans) cause changes in their environments, and these changes can be beneficial or detrimental
Student Product:journal
Material & Resources:one small notebook per student; plastic gloves
Teacher's Note:This might be a fun activity to do around "Earth Day".
"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught." - Baba Dioum
Explain to students that for one week (or as time allows), they will be assessing their environmental consciousness. As a class, brainstorm ways they waste and pollute every day, specifically at school. Once the students are on a roll, they will surely think of endless ways we are harming the Earth and wasting resources, but here’s a list to get started with: leaving lights on, dripping faucets, excess water use, excess garbage, throwing away food, throwing away recyclable materials.

Once an adequate list is created, divide the students up into small groups. Either assign or allow them to pick a few environmental issues they can monitor or investigate. An adequate length of time would be one week, but this can be adjusted as needed. Some ideas to get the discussion going: They may decide to investigate how many bags of garbage are thrown away from the lunch room over the course of a week. They could measure how much water drips out of a leaky faucet in the bathroom. Does the school practice recycling? How many pop cans are thrown away in the garbage in one week? (This would be a good time to pull out the plastic gloves.) How could the students implement a recycling system if one does not exist? How much food is thrown away in the kitchen after lunch? Does the school have a composting system? Would it be feasible to start one? How many rolls or cartons of paper towels are used in the school in one week (may require enlisting the help of the school custodian). Alternatively, they could calculate approximate paper towel usage by monitoring their own usage throughout a day or week and averaging the amount used among students in the classroom. This numbers can then be multiplied by the total school population.

The possibilities are endless, and the students have a lot of leeway for creative and ingenious thinking. After one week of tracking in their journals, reconvene as a class to discuss the findings.