Make Environmental Education Exciting
The middle grades years are a fascinating time of life. Young adolescents are developing new interests, some of which will have a long-lasting impact on their lives. Most of them do not take an interest in something that they consider boring or of little relevance to them. Thus, teachers are challenged to make seemingly mundane topics—like the environment—interesting and captivating for young minds. This is in many ways easier said than done. Here are three suggestions for making a lesson on the environment both educational and entertaining for middle grades students.
1. Use visual media. This includes news and videos available on the Internet or through other venues. The media offer a wealth of information about the environment for teachers and students. Some government websites have sections dedicated to teaching children about various environmental topics, including those related to health, energy, air, water, recycling, ecosystems, and climate change.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Students for the Environment webpage (www.epa.gov/students/) where young people can learn about the environment by playing games. The site also provides a wealth of ideas for science fair project ideas and teacher resources and lesson plans about the environment.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a Fun for Kids webpage (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/kids/) with weblinks that include teacher lesson plans and educational resources pertaining to the Earth's oceans and climate.
The U.S. Department of Interior's Teach and Learn webpage (www.doi.gov/public/teachandlearn.cfm) offers helpful teacher and student resources for learning how the department manages the land, water, and wildlife in the United States.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Energy Kids webpage (www.eia.gov/kids/) has fun games and facts for learning about energy sources, consumption, and conservation. The EIA also provides teacher lesson plans (www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=6).
2. Use hands-on demonstrations. For example, when teaching about consumer product safety, refer to the previously mentioned EPA site for ideas. In the Chemical Safety Resource for Middle School Teachers lesson (www.epa.gov/students/pdf/chemicalsafety.pdf), with parental supervision, students do an inventory of the household chemicals and cleaners found around their homes. The students explain why chemical safety is important and propose ideas for preventing chemical pollution at home.
The EPA's Wastes—Educational Materials webpage has three units on waste, including facts and activities about composting and recycling (http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/quest.htm). Other resources for hands-on demonstrations include the Washington Department of Ecology's A-Way with Waste Resources webpage, which offers lesson plans with hands-on demonstrations (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/aawwaste/awwresources.html).
3. Supplement textbooks with print books or ebooks. Most of the environmental concepts taught in classrooms are included in today's science-based textbooks. However, few textbooks introduce environmental topics in a fun and interesting way. Spark some interest by looking for supplemental reading material that is educational, thought-provoking and entertaining. Consider using a work of fiction tailored for middle school students to introduce environmental concepts.
These three tools help incorporate environmental education across the curriculum and they make learning about the environment educational, engaging, and fun.
Ashley Ivanov is the author of From
Pristine to Earth, an environmental fiction novel for middle grades students and young adults. E-mail: email@example.com
Copyright © 2012 Association for Middle Level Education