STEM? The objective is to not teach separate subjects, but to teach those subjects within the context that they occur in the real world. Earth Day reminds us that there are hundreds of environmental issues that need to be resolved many of which are right in your own backyard.
Earth Day is an everyday opportunity!
Looking at environmental issues any day of the year is a great source of problems that need solving – ripe for an authentic Problem Based Learning Unit. Many times environmental issues are full of different perspectives (global warming for example) that are perfect for helping students understand perspectives, read informational texts, find evidence to support claims and collaborate on solutions fitting perfectly with the Common Core. It is easy to hit Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics principles (STEM) if you are collecting data, graphing, problem solving, engineering solutions and using technology to share results and campaign for solutions all within a local habitat.
So what is in your backyard?
Have students check out the local paper to see if there are land use issues or other environmental issues going on around town:
Does your community have sound, noise, light, or air pollution?
Does your community have water issues, too much, too little, too polluted?
Does your community need sprucing up? Is graffiti or litter a problem?
How about your school building? Can you do a simple litter survey in the halls? What types of litter did you find? Who is responsible for it? How could it be stopped?
How about the lunchroom? How much garbage do you generate? Where does your garbage go? Can it be reduced? What can be re-used (we raised a pig at our school to eat all of the leftovers!)? Recycled? How can plants help the environment inside or outside your school building?
How about doing an energy audit of your building or your home?
Act Local, Think Global
You can help your students learn about and improve the world around them with simple projects based on local problems.
Want to go global? Edutopia has some great Earth day projects with global sharing opportunities.
Want to teach your students about activism? Check out this blog on Teaching and the Environmental Crisis, which features schools that have taken action to improve their environment and communities.
Looking for more great resources? Check out Great Interactive Resources for Earth Day.
What is in your backyard? Have your students been involved in a community environmental issue? Please share!