The Way We Live

...and how our choices impact our environment

Educator Resources 

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Find educational resources easily. The full list of resources is available in alphabetical order by title. You may also search by grade levels, subjects and topics. To search for multiple grades, subjects or topics, press and hold the CTRL key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) on your keyboard then click to select the materials you need. Many of the educational resources can be downloaded from the website.
 



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Educator Resources Materials Available Grade Level Content Areas Topic
30-Day Unshopping Challenge

30-Day Unshopping Challenge was founded as a California Benefit Corporation. Its challenge is to encourage people to reduce what they consume by 25%. 

Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
72 hours

72 Hours Lesson Plan (PDF)

In the process of collecting their personal "trash" for a consecutive 72-hour period, students develop an understanding for the need for waste reduction.

Activity 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Agatha's Feather Bed (by Agra Deedy, Carmen)

Agatha's Feather Bed lesson plan (doc) (9:11 read-aloud video)

This lesson is based on the book, Agatha's Feather Bed, in which Agatha explains that "everything comes from something"--wool from sheep, linen from flax, cotton from cotton bolls. See a youtube read-aloud of the book here.

Students explore this concept, as well as learn about community recycling programs and idioms. Here is an alternative activity, done as a skit. Google "Kids Econ Posters: Agatha's Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story" for a K-2 lesson.

For another activity idea, see Everything Comes from Something. [This is a large file and may take some time to load].

Search the Internet for videos that show how things are made, and use these to enhance the lesson.

Activity, Book/Reading, Videos PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Artist Activists and the Environment

Artist Activists and the Environment (pdf)

Thie PowerPoint (in pdf format because of its size) can be used to show students that artists can teach others about environmental problems! Good resource for inspiring community engagement.

 

Other PreK-2, 3-5 Arts Citizenship/Service
Assessing Your Daily Activities: A Self-Reflection Exercise

Assessing Your Daily Activities

In this exercise, you'll look at your daily activities and how you want to spend your time. For a week, write down the activities of each day. Then rate each one based on the meaning you get from the activity, the pleasure, and whether you want to spend more time, less time, or about the same amount of time on the activity. What did you learn? What would you like to do differently? Make a plan to begin!

 

Activity 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Assessing Your Daily Finances: A Self-Reflection Exercise

Assessing Your Daily Finances: A Self-Reflection Exercise

Post-Secondary Version

Adult Version

In this exercise, you'll look at your daily finances and what you spend. Write down how you spend your money each day for a week.  Then rate those items on the meaning and pleasure you get from them. Finally you'll consider if you want to spend more, less, or about the same amount of money on each item and why.

Activity 9-12, Post-secondary 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Assessments for Living Well to Protect the Environment

These pre/post tests for several grade levels ask students to look at their needs v.s. wants, examine where natural resources come from, and decide if reusing, recycling or reducing is the best practice for the environment.

Early Elementary Assessment

Multi-Grade Level Assessment

 

Activity PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Bag It! DVD and Curriculum

This DVD allows students to explore the effects of their everyday behavior on the environment, their health and well being.

Check your Area Education Agency to access the DVD.

Activity, Videos 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Bay vs. The Bag

See Bay vs. The Bag Video Here

This is a 2-minute video that uses stop-motion graphics to communicate the need to stop polluting the San Francisco Bay with plastic bags. A teenage girl is the character, so easy for kids to relate to if they have ever been to an ocean.

Videos 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Buy, Use, Toss

Access Buy, Use, Toss Unit Plan Here

Some concepts just naturally engage students' curiosity.  consumption--how we "buy, use, and toss"--is one of those. Because consumption is current, relevant, and real, it is an ideal context for teaching core subject matter and 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration. It is available as a digital download for $4.99.

Facing the Future describes their interdiscipinary unit as follows:

Buy, Use, Toss? ... includes ten fully-planned lessons. This unit is correlated with national science and social studies standards and will lead your students through an exploration of the system of producing and consuming goods that is called the materials economy. Students will learn about the five major steps of the materials economy; Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal. They will also be asked to analyze the sustainability of these steps, determining how consumption can benefit people, economies, and environments. 

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Subjects: Science, Social Studies
Book/Reading 9-12 Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Carbon Calculator

Access the Zero Footprint Youth Calculator Here

This quiz helps students to learn how they can make changes to help the environment.

World Wildlife Fund Carbon Calculator

From the UK branch of the organization, this allows individuals to take the 'challenge' to improve their footprint (after taking an initial quiz).

Activity, Other 3-5, 6-8 Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population, Waste/Pollution
Community Engagement Project Ideas

Family and Community Engagement Project Ideas (doc) (pdf)

Here's a list of family and community engagement project ideas. 

Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption
Consumerism, Values, and What Really Matters: An Interview with Tim Kasser

See book/reading here:  Consumerism, Values, and What Really Matters:  An Interview with Tim Kasser

In this article, Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser talks about intrinsic and extrinsic values. The article also mentions Kasser's “Alternatives to Consumerism” class, where he asks his students to write a “consumerography,” or a biography of their lives as consumers. "It is really remarkable how many of them see how empty that lifestyle is and how much they really want to figure out a different pattern of life for themselves and their kids one day. I have hope that they can, given how much energy, caring, and intelligence they show."

Book/Reading 9-12, Post-secondary Science, Social Studies Living Well
Consumption and Waste: Shoes

See Consumption and Waste:  Shoes Activities/Lesson Plan Here.

Students break into five groups and, for about 25 minutes, study an issue around "shoes."  One group studies life cycles, another does math problems related to how many shoes students own, another looks at economics issues, yet another looks at cultural and global issues.  A fifth group looks at the good news that some shoes are reused and recycled. After the small group work, the students learn what the other groups studied.

Review another "shoe" lesson plan developed by two middle school teachers titled, In Your Shoes.

Note:  this lesson plan could also be developed into separate lessons, either standalone or as part of a unit.  Interdisciplinary opportunities about with these activities.

Activity 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Crafts--Watching Your Waste at the Holidays and Other Recycled Craft Ideas

See Recycled Holiday Craft Ideas Here.

The South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency website includes how-tos for making recycled crafts, including a booklet (in pdf form) with patterns for holiday gift bags, ornaments, cards and other items.

Activity, Other PreK-2, 3-5 Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Other
Defining Happiness

Find Lesson Plan Defining Happiness Here (Lesson #7)  (Note:  You may need to pay a nominal amount--such as $4.99--for the 9-12 grade curriculum.)

Students determine what positively contributes to their lives, and think about their progress toward a better quality of life. They also consider how their personal consumption enhances or detracts from their quality of life. Because consumption is current, relevant, and real, it is an ideal context for teaching core subject matter and 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration.

 

Activity, Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Don't Buy This Jacket advertisement

The Don't Buy This Jacket advertisement outlines some of the reasons that clothing has a negative impact on the environment. Patagonia, an environmental leader among retailers, has developed this and numerous other environmental initiatives. The ad and related information can help students see some of the environmental efforts of corporations. It's a great tool for discussion.

Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Science, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies
Downsiders (by Shusterman, Neal )

Check your library or store for this resource.

In this novel, a world exists beneath the sewer grates of New York City. The residents are called "Downsiders," and are prohibited from entering the "Topside." Yet, a young girl and boy, one from the Topside and one from down under, meet and learn about each others' worlds.

  1999: Simon and Schuster  NY, NY (Fiction )

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Other
Earth Day Groceries Project

See Earth Day Groceries Project here.

This site provides instructions for decorating bags for earth day.

Activity PreK-2, 3-5 Arts Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Economics of Happiness (by Gould, David)

See the article: The Economics of Happiness here.

This is a short, compelling, great-for-discussion and critical thinking op-ed piece. It summarizes research on happiness...including the fact that money, past what is required for modest comfort, does not increase happiness.  Gould also shares the author John Irving's writing technique--to start his novels by creating the last sentence. Every word of Irving's novels leads to that last sentence.

Extension: Explain Irving's writing technique and ask students, "If your life was framed in a similar manner, what would your last sentence be? How would that reshape the way you see your life and treat the world today?" (Credit: Dave Gould, Life Design, University of Iowa.)

Book/Reading 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, 21st Century Living Well

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