Seven Ways Teachers Can Encourage Students to Think Green at School
There are a lot of ways schools can go green, but many of these initiatives are more about what the school can do and less about what each student can do.
That doesn't mean schools shouldn't do things like plant trees, maintain gardens, and install motion sensor lighting! It does mean that teachers have to look for ways to get their students in on the action.
By engaging your students directly in green activities, you can instill a love of nature that will transcend the classroom and follow them into adulthood.
Here are seven ways you can encourage the students in your classroom to think green at school and beyond.
Add Indoor Plants to Your Classroom
One of the easiest ways to go green in your classroom is to decorate with some potted plants.
Indoor plants can affect you and your students in many ways. They can reduce stress, sharpen attention, and boost productivity. They also have the potential to clean the air, which means fewer students fall ill to colds and the flu during winter.
Just having them around is a good start, but why not get your students in on the action? Bring in some plants and have students create planters out of plastic bottles. They can cut off the tops, poke holes in the bottom, and fill them with dirt. They can be painted for a little extra pizazz!
Then, hang them in the room for everyone to enjoy during the school year. Students can take their bottles home before the summer break.
Conduct a Waste Audit
How many recyclable items end up in the trash in your classroom? How many end up in the trash in the cafeteria? You and your students may be surprised to find the answer is "a lot!"
Invite your classroom to conduct a waste audit by going through the trash cans in your school. Have students wear gloves as they sort through the trash, documenting how many of each kind of recyclable item they find. This data can be used in a chart that students could present to other classrooms to encourage better recycling habits.
Include categories in your audit like:
Click here to learn more about how to conduct a waste audit with your students.
Redecorate Recycling and Trash Bins
Did your class conduct a waste audit and discover that many recyclable items are ending up in the trash? Maybe you've just noticed that students have to go out of their way to recycle items in the cafeteria?
It's time to do some redecorating!
Make sure the recycling bin in your classroom is easily accessible to students. Then, ask for permission to tackle common areas. That might mean putting the recycling bin by the cafeteria door or adding more recycling bins to the hallways.
Young students can decorate recycling and trash bins! Have them cover the bins with paper or paint directly on the bin. Talk about design options that will grab the attention of other students and teachers, and discuss how to decorate so it's clear what each bin is for.
If you want to turn your redecorating efforts into a learning opportunity, let students compare how often a recycling bin is dumped each week before and after the remodel. They can also measure how often the garbage is taken out. Hopefully, they'll find that the recycling gets dumped more often and the trash gets dumped less often.
Find a Greener Way to Get to School
A lot of fossil fuels are burned each and every day as students and staff make their way to and from school. Start by using this calculator to determine your transportation carbon footprint. Share your findings with your class. Ask your students to determine their own transportation carbon footprint and add your findings together.
Then, talk to your students about ways they can reduce their carbon footprint. Some ideas might include:
#1 - Riding a bike to school
#2 - Walking to school
#3 - Carpooling with friends
#4 - Taking the bus
Have each student come up with an action plan to reduce their carbon footprint. Then, measure your carbon footprint after a month has passed. It will motivate your students to find more environmentally friendly methods of transportation.
Make Your Own Glue
Glue is a staple in most classrooms. Encourage your students to talk about all the ways the environment can be impacted by this one simple item. For example, the manufacturing facility that makes the glue uses energy, bottles are packaged in boxes and sometimes wrapped with plastic, and it is all loaded onto trucks that use gasoline to deliver the glue to the store.
You can save money and help the environment by making your own glue! You could have different groups try different recipes to see which one the class likes the most.
Afterward, talk to your students about other things they could make at home to lessen their impact on the environment. Invite students to make items at home and bring them to the classroom to share.
Open the Windows
If you're looking for a quick and easy way to have a positive environmental impact in your classroom, look no further than opening the windows.
First, you can keep the lights off when you open the blinds and let the sunlight in. Second, turn off the HVAC unit when you actually open the window on a nice day.
You can involve your students, too. Rotate who is responsible for opening the blinds every morning and ask students to vote on whether they think it's nice enough outside to open the window. When you involve them in the process, they are more likely to turn off the lights and open the windows when they are at home, too.
Teach Outside When You Can
One of the best ways to instill a love of nature in your students is to maximize the time they spend outside.
Studies have shown that the more children spend time outdoors, the more likely they are to protect nature when they grow up.
Take your class outside whenever you can. If you're looking for an easy way to get started, take your students outside for silent reading. Study hall and stretches can also be done outside.
Science is a great subject to take outside, especially if your class is conducting messy experiments.
If you want to take a subject like math outdoors, make sure you're prepared. Make completing worksheets easier by providing each student with a lap desk and establishing rules for using and returning manipulatives so materials don't go missing.
Setting an example school-wide is a good start when it comes to getting students to think green, but it won't stick unless they get to participate directly. With the ideas on this list, you can encourage your students to think green at school. They will take what they learned and become more eco-conscious adults so we all enjoy a better world.