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30 Go Green Tips for Teachers to Introduce to the Classroom

Global warming and environmental concerns have stood as hot, controversial issues for decades. Regardless of one’s political views, most people at their core at least agree that the Earth deserves fair, healthy, and kind treatment. Teachers hoping to instill a love of the planet and provide students with the skills and mindsets necessary for its proper care and maintenance have numerous opportunities to introduce green philosophies into the classroom. None of them adhere to any particular political party – they simply relate back to universal concepts that involve guiding a new generation towards preserving the delicate balance of life on the only home humanity has.

  1. Set up a recycling bin.

    Earth
    One of the most basic things a teacher can do to nurture green initiatives in the classroom involves setting up simple recycling bins. Let students drop in their paper, aluminum, plastic and glass products to learn about means of disposal beyond the garbage can. If the school does not host a formal recycling program, just take the bins home when they fill up. Better yet, rally the students and campaign to install one.

  2. Get permission for an outdoor compost heap.

    If the school and maintenance workers do not mind, set up a compost heap on the school grounds. This teaches students how to turn their organic waste into something conducive to nursing plant – even animal – growth. Composting reduces the amount of garbage going into landfills, appropriates resources for other valuable purposes to prevent waste, and provides interesting lessons on the natural cycle of decomposition and how life subsequently grows and benefits from it.

  3. Incorporate upcycling art projects.

    Encourage students to bring in (sanitary!) leftover bits of packaging, paper, Styrofoam, or other disposables and create art projects from them. Either instruct them in certain designs and patters or encourage them to use their creativity and think of numerous possibilities for their products. The internet swarms with ideas on everything from purses constructed out of old candy wrappers to yarn made from non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags and knitted into scarves or totes. Resultant projects may be taken home or donated to charity.

  4. Grow plants.

    Plant flowers or vegetables in small containers in the classroom or in approved compost heaps on the school grounds. Students learn not only sustainability and self-reliance, but the growth process and interdependence between plant and animal species in an ecosystem as well. Beans and other quick-growing vegetables are some of the most popular plants for students due to the relative ease of care. Cook them up as a special treat for hard work or donate them to a local soup kitchen to teach students how to share resources with the less fortunate.

  5. Set an example.

    Teachers must never ask students to do anything that they themselves would not. That means fully participating in the projects. For example, never declare that it is fine for teachers to throw away recyclables or drink from disposable water bottles while telling students to convert to reusable products. This sends an unnecessarily mixed message to students and dilutes the potency of the lessons, and some children may learn to distrust the teachers and their studies altogether. Teach by example as well as by lecture to gift students with an effective education.

  6. Organize special clean-up days.

    Pollutions Effects
    Work with the school and maintenance workers to organize weekly clean-up time where students peruse the grounds and pick up litter any litter they encounter. Make sure to provide them with the best safety protection and send them out for a set period of time to pick up any garbage or clutter dirtying up the campus. This makes the maintenance crew’s job just a little bit easier, teaches kids the importance of taking care of their surroundings, and reinforces lessons in environmental awareness.

  7. Require room checks at the end of the day.

    Before sending kids home for the day, have them peruse the classroom for anything they suspect may be wasting resources or cause harm to the environment. Provide them with a checklist or nurture critical thinking skills by having them observe any potential issues for themselves. Some things to consider would be recyclables in the garbage can, trash on the floor, computers running when not in use, and leaks.

  8. Adopt an endangered animal.

    Zoos and other wildlife rescue establishments all over the world host adoption programs where interested individuals, families, or classes can donate money to an animal and track its progress. Most of these do offer special programs specifically for a classroom setting, tailoring its educational information to students of a certain age rather than adults. Students will receive regular updates on how the animal benefits from their donations, usually involving pictures and letters from their handlers. This is yet another way to teach them the value of life and how integral it is to protect the threatened species whose extinction may permanently throw off the surrounding ecosystems.

  9. Organize a used clothing, toy, or technology drive.

    The green movement encompasses more than just environmental concerns – sustainability and the responsible use and sharing of resources factor into it as well. One of the best ways to illustrate this aspect of the philosophy is to have students organize a used clothing, toy, or technology drive for the benefit of the less fortunate families in the community. Doing so helps highlight how items that are no longer needed in one household may be wholly welcome in another, and that old or unused goods do not always need to be thrown away.

  10. Walk to local parks as potential fieldtrips.

    Field trips curb cabin fever and help students see their lessons applied in real-world settings. A simple walk to a nearby park wields many advantages beyond these. Not only will students be able to observe their studies in ecosystems at work, but the school’s budget, the environment, and society at large all benefit from the negation of fuel and exhaust from a bus. This also provides another opportunity for children to pick up litter and beautify their community.

  11. Buy environmentally-friendly supplies.

    Whenever possible, provide students with water-based paints, recycled notebooks and pencils, biodegradable inks, and other supplies constructed specifically with environmental and sustainability needs in mind. This may not always fit within a school’s budget; as a result, kids may question why their supplies are not necessarily always reflecting their lessons in buying green goods. In order to deter their mistrust, explain to them honestly and forthrightly that the expense is not enough to cover the expense of making a full conversion to environmentally-friendly goods.

  12. Bring handmade cleaning supplies from home.

    Simple cleansers made from water and other organic substances may be brought from home to act as desk and chalkboard or wipe board cleaners as well as sanitizers. An added activity regarding personal responsibility may be incorporated into coursework by having students clean their own desks at the end of the day or week. This also helps cut back on some of the work for the always busy custodial staff as well.

  13. Don’t waste any water.

    Water
    Sometimes, classroom demonstrations require a little bit of the old dihydrogen monoxide. At the conclusion of any lecture or project, find ways to dispose of the spent water without pouring it down the sink. Water plants with it. Use it to clean stubborn chalkboard or wipe board stains. There are numerous practical applications that do not waste resources and reinforce lessons on resourcefulness and recycling.

  14. Use real plants for classroom pets.

    Turtles, fish, and other popular class pets usually end up in tanks or terrariums with gaudy plastic plants as decoration. Instead, switch these out for the real thing – available through most pet stores and big box chains with a pet department. These make for far healthier aesthetic elements than the synthetic impostors, as chemicals do not leech into their water supply and they pose less of a physical threat if accidentally consumed. In addition, their inclusion helps to underscore lessons on interdependence between plants and animals – a miniature ecosystem right there in the classroom.

  15. Check windows and faucets for leaks.

    Regular leak checks can be performed at the end of the day as part of the class’s room checks or by the teachers themselves. Ensuring windows and plumbing are properly sealed not only help the environment by conserving resources, but helps the school save money as well. Always be sure to notify the proper staff members to prevent any more waste.

  16. Use natural light whenever possible.

    For classrooms advantaged with large windows, forego switching on the lights during bright, sunny days. Save the school a little bit of electricity by utilizing the sun instead, teaching students how to act resourcefully and responsibly with energy. Obviously, though, this plan does not work when the weather is overcast, cloudy, or storming. Try and also use natural light instead of a desk lamp as well.

  17. Require students to use both sides of the paper.

    One of the simplest ways to promote responsibility with resources is to require students to use both sides of their paper before beginning a new one. If – for whatever reason – they need new sheets, make sure they know to recycle the one they can no longer use before allowing them to move on to a new one. Along with teaching kids to recycle, this is one of the most basic lessons suitable as an introduction to green values for very young children.

  18. Send out grades online.

    Although some students may not have internet at home, teachers in areas where most families have access to e-mail would to well to e-mail progress reports and grades directly to parents. This saves paper, ink, electricity and other resources necessary to print out reports – and e-mailing important information to parents ensures that it reaches them, as some kids may not necessarily hand over news of sub-par grades. It may seem like a small move, but after a while the benefits add up.

  19. Raise butterflies.

    Butterflies are an absolute necessity to nature. Their flitting about from flower to flower helps ensure pollination and the perpetuation of plants. Some teachers have begun raising butterflies from caterpillars and eggs available through biological supply sources. This helps illustrate the interesting life cycle of insects, and once the butterflies reach maturity they can be set free into the wild in order to help spawn another generation of the necessary flowering plants.

  20. Adopt a rainforest.

    Like endangered species, classrooms can also adopt acreage in a rainforest. Many of the organizations who pay to keep these lush and fragile lands preserved for wildlife and research reasons offer special deals for teachers and students interested in lending a hand. As with animal adoption programs, participants will receive frequent updates on how their donations are being used to better the lives of the peoples, plants, and animals in the sponsored section of the rainforest.

  21. Plant a tree.

    Most teachers opt for this activity during Arbor Day, but planting a tree is still a great project for any time of the school year. For when gardens prove too unwieldy or logistically difficult, trees can provide the same lessons. Students can watch how their sapling or seeds develop over time and how they come to impact the environment around them. Try picking a hardy tree native to the area to ensure a positive interaction with the other plants and animals already adapted to its presence.

  22. Take advantage of the Go Green Database.

    Connect with teachers across the country to get ideas as to how they are blending green standards into their coursework on the Go Green Database. They provide excellent suggestions on everything from lectures and other in-class activities to field trips that help nurture environmentally-friendly ideals in students. Teachers can pick projects based on what aspect of ecology is most relevant to their curricula, how they want to convey information to their students, appropriate grade level, cost, and time span. Best of all, this indispensible website costs nothing to use.

  23. Have students turn off computers at the end of the day.

    Computer Recycling
    Do not leave computers running or on sleep mode overnight. Once students have finished their digital activities for the day, require them to shut down their computers completely. This helps them develop positive habits that will carry on into adulthood, as switching electronics off after their use helps save on electricity costs and preserve resources for the school and community alike. It is also an excellent money saving routine as well.

  24. Collectively calculate the classroom’s carbon footprint.

    There are a number of calculators and formulas available online for students and teachers to figure out the carbon footprint left by their daily activities. From there, they can discuss the various creative ways to reduce waste and improve their impact upon the environment. It helps grant them perspective on how humanity can both positively and negatively influence the planet.

  25. Minimize supply use.

    Obviously, never cut back to the point where an education becomes compromised. But students can learn basic conservation principles from reducing their uses of school supplies. Start them off with the minimum amount necessary to succeed, and then have them buy and bring in what they need as they need it. Parents will especially appreciate this, as many times they must purchase all the items off a standardized list at the beginning of the school year – only to discover that their children may spend an entire grade not even using it after all.

  26. Participate in the Project Wild curriculum.

    One of the most widely used environmental and ecological curriculums available, Project Wild involves work tailored to the needs of all grade levels. Be sure to check with the school prior to incorporating it into the coursework, as it does involve workshops. Project Wild is a part of the No Child Left Inside Coalition and involves activities revolving around terrestrial and aquatic habitats alike. Their website provides all the information necessary for teachers to make a well-researched decision on whether or not they would like to make the commitment to the coursework.

  27. Set up a class website.

    In parts of the United States where internet is prevalent, teachers may want to reduce the amount of paper, pencils, ink, and other supplies needed and set up a class website to save time and money. Here, students can look at class notes, explore other relevant web pages, check their grades, play educational games, and anything else the instructor can imagine. This also ties in with lessons on keeping supplies to a minimum and conserving resources as well.

  28. Use rechargeable batteries.

    Rechargeable batteries may cost a little extra early on, but the investment pays off financially and ecologically in the end. As batteries contain corrosive acids, throwing them away does cause quite a bit of damage to the environment. The rechargeable variety reduces the need to constantly buy, then dispose of, their shorter lived kin. In turn, this significantly cuts back on the number of pollutants seeping into water, soil, and other necessary natural resources. Try and use rechargeable batteries whenever possible within a classroom setting.

  29. Teach outside on nice days.

    No matter the age, students grow antsy on beautiful days when they find themselves instead ensconced within the confines of the schools metaphorically shrinking four walls. Whenever possible, shut off all the lights, computers, and other electronic devices treat the kids to a lecture outdoors. They almost always appreciate a chance to enjoy agreeable weather, which boosts their moods and their receptivity to the topics at hand. This also conserves energy in the classroom as well, reinforcing lessons on taking advantage of natural light whenever possible as well.

  30. Encourage students and other teachers to make the school Idle-Free.

    Every year, more and more schools make the commitment to creating an Idle-Free space to help keep the environment safe. These initiatives require parents to shut off their engines while waiting in line to pick up their kids, only switching them on to drive in, drive up, and drive off. Any time spent waiting in a line must be done so with the engine switched off. This not only helps combat pollutants in the air, but saves the parents money on fuel as well. Teachers and students who do not work or study in an Idle-Free school may want to campaign the proper authorities to install such programs. Numerous resources on how to properly do so are available online.

  31. No matter one’s political stance, almost everyone can find common ground in keeping Earth healthy and safe for millennia to come. These tips will hopefully inspire more students to appreciate the exceptionally valuable resources they have been given and use them with respect and responsibility. Everyone reaps the benefits from a properly preserved planet.

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