The Way We Live

...and how our choices impact our environment


Students Taking Action

Check out the actions of students and teachers!


Denver Community School District 9th Graders Stuff the Bus, deliver to people who can use it

Ninth grade language arts teacher Penny St. John taught a Living Well unit where Denver students learned that everything comes from natural resources. They also learned the five steps of production for their own stuff, including something from their backpacks. Students decided to teach others and made posters describing things like “What it takes to create a pencil,”  “Where does stuff come from?” and “How to recycle your Smartphone.”

Next they asked “what else can we do?” and decided to take community action to Stuff the Bus with their stuff and give it to people who could use it. In the fall of 2014, the students collected enough stuff from Denver families to stuff a school bus. They organized all of the stuff and delivered it to area organizations where others can use the stuff.  Their post-test for the unit asked “What do we need to make us happy?” Some of their answers were: friends, animals, free time, sports, family, star gazing, the choice to be silent, love, life…. and sleep. Watch a video about their community action project.


Janesville Community School District teachers lead students, faculty, staff, and administration to consider the Material World

Teachers Emily Stensland and Liz Foelske involved 6th-8th graders in cross-curricular activities for a unit that explored decisions about material possessionsClick to watch their video:

Of the many activities, we explored – really pored over – was the Material World resource," shared Stensland citing Peter Menzel's book, a collection of photographs that comment on the material possessions of families around the world. "Students could not get enough time with the books and found that they really wanted to read about the pictures."

The class made a Venn diagram sorting needs and wants and presented supporting arguments for their decisions, pictured above. Students also observed Material World photographs, comparing and contrasting the differences between countries through a writing exercise.  
The unit brought together all of the core teachers who work with the students, the principal, the lunch helpers, the bus drivers, the custodians, and even the superintendent as participants.

[Copies of Material World: A Global Family Portrait are available from several Area Education Agencies and local libraries. Check Material World in the Way We Live database for more information.]


South O'Brien Elementary students collect 650 shoes
to help others

Students at South O’Brien Elementary collect shoes each year for Soles4Souls, a micro-enterprise project. Soles4Souls creates sustainable jobs for people in impoverished countries by sending donated shoes to the owners of these small businesses who then sell them.

Children at South O'Brien Elementary show off their shoe collection [photo] Children at South O'Brien Elementary collect the shoes [photo]

Group photo of students after shoe collection Children putting shoes in collecting box [photo]

“We did another shoe drive this year and collected an estimated 650 pairs of shoes!” said Rebecca Miller who heads up the collection. In 2014, the sixth grade class won the all-elementary school competition by collecting 92 pairs of shoes. The third grade class delivered the shoes and toured the Soles4Souls processing center in Sheldon, Iowa. The center is located at Village Northwest Unlimited, employing people with disabilities who help sort the shoes.


Elementary students uncover a story about milk waste
in one Anamosa school


Children showing their milk waste discovery [photo] Measuring the milk waste [photo]

Weighing the waste [photo] Students posing with the milk cartons wasted [photo]

Kathleen Morrison, a technology teacher, worked with grades 3-6 at St. Patrick's in Anamosa, and her students researched milk and milk waste.

"After our week long collection, the 5th graders figured the cost of wasted milk at lunch. They made a display and set it up in the lunch room to show the number of cartons of milk they collected, weight of the trash, the money spent on milk that was poured down the drain (in gallons and per cartons). I have pictures I displayed in the hall at school and also sent the information to the local paper, which was published. Even our head cook was amazed at the results."