Today’s guest post introduces us to some creative ways to get students to learn about being green – a very important topic!  Enjoy.  ~EMP

Companies around the globe are investing in cleaner, greener technology – so isn’t it time we invested some of our own energy in boosting students’ eco-awareness?

These days, environmental education means much more than an afternoon field trip to the local pond. In classrooms and out in the field, teachers and scientists are engaging and challenging students with a cornucopia of creative and innovative techniques.  As their experiences show, the fight to understand and preserve our planet can become an exciting project for students of any age – whether that journey takes them online, around campus, or out into the community.

Digital resources

The dead of winter might not seem like the ideal time to start a module on environmental awareness – but thanks to the Internet, the need to stay indoors doesn’t have to put a freeze on nature exploration.

From breathtaking HD videos to games about energy efficiency, online fun is just a mouse-click away. Younger kids will get a kick out of collecting and swapping printable wildlife trading cards, or checking out infrared photos of zoo creatures. For older activists in the mood for hands-on action, other sites offer projects like a checklist for “green-ifying” your school, and a list of recipes for safe, all-natural cleaning products that students can whip up right in the classroom.

One of the most innovative new sites, Bring Back the Wild, challenges students to raise awareness for endangered species, earning little rewards along the way. Young “Earth Rangers” can sign up for free, choose an animal to save, and get to work earning prizes like sweatshirts and badges. For kids with a canvassing streak, it certainly beats selling candy door-to-door.

Real-world activism

Web-based info is indispensable for research; there’s no doubt about that. But when it comes to ensuring that the “green” message really sinks in for your students, there’s just no substitute for getting hands-on and practicing what you preach.

In many ways, it’s consistency in the little touches that leaves the biggest impression. When you switch off the classroom lights, mention that it’s important to conserve electricity – same goes for saving water at the fountain and sink. Encourage students to think up eco-aware alternatives to everyday activities – playing outside instead of watching TV; drying clothes on a line instead of in the dryer – and reward the kids who put their ideas into practice.

If you’re looking for more ambitious projects, you could try taking a cue from the class who created a wall mural entirely from recycled materials, the kids who arranged a tree-planting event for Arbor Day, or the school that stages an annual concert to raise funds and awareness for local environmental problems.

And new ideas are springing to life all the time, across the country and around the globe. Classes are launching school-wide recycling programs, organizing letter-writing campaigns in support of eco-friendly legislation, and running community cleanup and composting clubs. Plenty of these programs are being dreamed up and run by elementary schoolers.

It doesn’t take a diploma or a bank account to get involved in conservation – all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of energy. My guess is that your class has plenty of both. So what’s stopping them from making an impact? Pick a project and see where it takes you!

Ben Thomas writes about careers in teaching, among other career fields, for The Riley Guide.

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