Schools should be a place where students learn about their impact on the world and become positive contributing community members. Creating applied learning opportunities when teaching sustainability is critical to empowering kids to improve the world around them. The United States Environmental Protection Agency outlines engaging in problem-solving and taking action to restore the environment as key components of environmental education. How can school educators and administrators not only teach sustainability but model it to students as well? Through hands-on environmental education. Here six easy ways schools can engage students in environmental education.
1 – Recycling
Start a recycling program in your school. Teach students what to recycle and put out recycling containers. Consider having prizes for students who faithfully participate. This is a great way for students to learn about and understand the positive impact of recycling.
2 – Reduce food waste
Running a food waste audit of your school cafeteria is a good way to understand which kinds of foods go uneaten by students. The data you gain can help schools develop specific strategies to reduce wasted food. Companies like Blue Earth Compost will collect unused food and compost it. Consider starting a composting program in your school and teaching students to use compost for school gardens, community lots, and more.
3 – Emphasizing re-use
Encourage re-use by holding events where students can donate items they no longer use to other students. This could be clothing, books, school supplies, and more. This keeps the items out of the landfill and in the hands of students who need them. Or you could host a school rummage sale to raise funds for a school project.
4 – School projects
Depending on the layout of your school, have your students participate in projects that enhance outdoor spaces on school grounds, including planting a garden, maintaining green spaces for outdoor time, and using natural materials such as rocks for outdoor performance areas. If your school is short on green space, consider container gardening.
5 – Reducing single-use plastic
Plastic water bottles are one of the most common uses of single-use plastic in schools. Encourage students to bring their own water bottles to fill throughout the day at water fountains or bottle filling stations.
6 – Education
Provide books students will enjoy that promote green practices. Here is a list of 25 books for children that teach kids to care about the environment.