Teachers: Put Some Green in Your Lesson Plans

Standard reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons may still make up the bulk of the lessons at most schools, but there’s still plenty of room to incorporate lessons on the environment, sustainability, and green living. Whether you’re a motivated student, an involved parent, or a forward-thinking teacher, put these projects on your to-do list to help students of all ages find their passion for saving the Earth.

First period: Science
This one’s almost too easy: just about any environmental issue you can think of has a scientific background. Host a science fair that encourages kids to research and test solar power, alternative energy sources, and biodiesel fuel, or have them run energy audits on their homes and school to find ways to trim usage and costs.

Second period: English
Put pen to paper and prove that power of the written word by contacting your local movers and shakers to get them on board with your efforts. (Browse petitions about the environment here.) Whether it’s an impassioned letter to your congressman for (or against) a bill he’s trying to pass or a focused effort to get your local pizza place to start recycling paper plates. See how much can happen when you can find the right way to ask.

Third period: Math
Environmentalism is full of numbers–but do kids know what they really mean? (Do adults?) Calculate your carbon footprint, and then find ways to subtract from it; learn how to measure electricity to understand just how much power that Wii is using; see what percentage of the Earth’s species are endangered (and how that number changes over time). Doing the math can help abstract subjects hit home even harder.

Fourth period: History
Human lifestyle has changed a lot over the course of the Earth’s history–but it’s always been affected by weather, climate, and terrain. Work up lesson plans that explore how the lack of clean water affected one population, or how an unforgiving climate moved another group to new lands, or how the Industrial Revolution affected pollution levels. Then ask kids to imagine what people will learn about us in the centuries to come–and what we can do about it.

Fifth period: Home Ec.
They may feel completely removed from home economics now, but this class offers tons of lessons in green eating: which fruits and vegetables to eat organic; how to choose the freshest produce; how to cook without resorting to restaurants or packaged food every night. Then move onto sewing–how to make clothes last longer, how to restructure a garment, how to make your own clothes–and homekeeping for lessons in eco-friendly cleaners, making your own cleaning solutions, growing a garden, and making a healthy compost bin. (Someday they’ll thank you.)

Sixth period: Gym
Outdoor gym classes might give students a new perspective on the importance of green space and of, well, just plain getting outside–but if your school has students inside for most of the year, continue the alternative energy lessons with stationery bikes hooked up to generators, or teach them to use furniture and body weight (instead of plastic equipment or energy-guzzling treadmills) to get a green workout.

Did we forget your favorite class? Leave more suggestions in the comments below.

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

By Blythe Copeland, Planet Green


DC Bass
DC Bass9 years ago

The current combination of population and consumption is exceeding global ecosystems’ capacities to continue providing the services needed for human well being. Radical changes to population size and/or consumption levels are needed achieve sustainable scale.
Go to: http://www.sustainablescale.org/AreasofConcern/Population.aspx

Erin R.
Erin R9 years ago


Lynne Nofziger
Lynne N9 years ago

I like the picture, they are using wooden pencils and paper - how green!

Heather S.
Heather S9 years ago

I love the ideas here! I think, though, that teaching by example is one of the most important avenues of learning.

José María Olmos Santana

tthis should be important childs today are adults tomorrow

Maria Westin
Past Member 9 years ago

They can also use recyclable paper and encourage the children not to waste things and join the terracycle program at www.terracycle.net

Sheila Scheibl
Sheila Scheibl9 years ago

Thank you Janet! People forget that every single thing we use has an environmental impact, even without us noticing! Keep the unbleached paper circulating!

Janet C.
Janet C9 years ago

I have been working as a substitue and tend to bring some environment to the attention of the students. The other day I handed out some unbleached paper. The students (7th graders) complained it was brown. I said, no, that is the color of trees under the bark which is so brown. This is unbleached paper. They looked at me shocked. They did not know that paper was bleached. It made that group of students more aware of the world around them and the purchases that their parents make.

Nadia Davidovich
Past Member 9 years ago

This should be a priority!!! Teachers, go green!! : )

Cathy Meyer
Cathy Meyer9 years ago

Try Richard Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods" and the website for the Children and nure network, www.childrenandnature.org/ for activities and resources suitable for all ages. Visit your local park or nature center for programming and information.