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
Lorax (by Seuss, Dr.)

Check your library or store for this resource.

The Lorax shares a powerful message about the environment in this classic. Brilliant and whimsical rhymes and delightful creatures tell the story that "UNLESS someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better...It's not."

  1971: Random House Books for Young Readers 0-39482-337-0 ( 72 pgs. Illustrated picture book)

Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Natural Resources/Life Cycles

See PBS Magazines Video Here (youtube video)

This 2:30 second video is a great tool for inspiring students to research and create second lives for products that would otherwise be thrown away. Created by Public Broadcasting Service.


Videos PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Living Well, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Material World: A Global Family Portrait (by Menzel, Peter)

See Material World Lesson Plan Here (PDF). Check your library or store for the accompanying book.

The activity is based on a 255-page photographic look at 30 families, their homes and their possessions. The families represent 30 United Nations countries. Beautiful photos, and brief but compelling narratives and fascinating statistics about the countries, the energy they use, population per capita, etc. Though an older book (1994), it continues to be an excellent classroom resource when current statistics from the World Population Reference Bureau are used. This web site provides updated photos of numerous countries in the Material World book plus a link to poster sets and curriculum ghuides with powerpoint presentations from the Social Studies School Services.

Here is a Worksheet/Handout to use in conjunction with the book/activity.  A shorter handout with additional questions from the 2012 World Population Data Sheet is found here (Material World Scavenger Hunt). See here for the 2012 World Population Data Sheet. See here for the 2013 World Population Data Sheet.

Availability of Material World books:  Several Iowa Area Education Agency libraries have multiple copies of Material World, and they are available through interlibrary loan.  The following, at a minimum, should be available: Grant Wood: 15 books in one set; Area 267: 6 sets of 5; Heartland AEA:  3 copies

  1994: Sierra Club, San Francisco , CA 0-87156-437-8 (255 pgs. Nonfiction)

Activity, Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Material World: How Does the US Compare?

See Material World - How Does the US Compare Lesson Plan Here.

Through the process of making double bar and circle graphs, the students develop an understanding of how the United States compares to other countries with respect to years of school, income, and other factors. The World Population Clock may be a useful tool to discuss this book.

Activity 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Mr. Rogers Shows How Macaroni is Made

You can teach about product life cycles to very young children. In this 4:06 minute video, Mr. Rogers shows how people make macaroni. To help students learn the life cycle of macaroni, you may want to stop the video at at  six seconds and show students the picture of a wheat farm. Ask them to predict why we are seeing this in a video about macaroni. At 15 seconds, stop the video and ask what is happening. (A railcar is transporting wheat to a manufacturer.) Most of the video shows the manufacturing process for making macaroni. At 4:03, stop the video again. This is where the narrarator says the macaroni is boxed and shipped to stores to be purchased and eaten. Though not shown in the video, you might explain that other stages of a macaroni's life include being eaten and the box (hopefully) recycled.

To emphasize this life cycle, draw a simple picture on the board of a harvester, a railcar, a factory, a grocery store, a person eating, and a trash can. (Extraction, Transportation, Manufacturing, Consuming, Disposal.)

Sing a song with your students about the life cycle of macaroni and use props to depict the life cycle stages. (doc) (pdf) Then discuss what happens during the life cycle of macaroni. What parts of nature are we using to make the macaroni and get the macaroni to us to eat?



Activity, Videos, Other PreK-2 Science, Social Studies Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Mr. Rogers Visits the Cows

In this 9:19 minute video, young children can watch the milking of cows, filling milk jugs, packing jugs in crates, and then loading the crates onto trucks for delivery to stores. It's an old video (funny plaid outfits!), but a good one.

Videos PreK-2 Science, Social Studies Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Musical Resources

See Muscial Resources (PDF) Activity Here.

Similar to Musical Chairs, in this activity chairs represent natural resources. As they are depleted, chairs are removed but people remain and more people are added to represent a growing population. Participants share chairs and balance on laps to demonstrate depletion of resources. This activity has been reprinted with permission from the Iowa Department of Education from their 1991 publication, Clean Sweep.

Activity 3-5 Arts, Language Arts, Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
New Dream

See here for more information about New Dream

This organization's mission is to empower individuals, communities and organizations to transform their consumption habits to improve well-being for people and the planet. They focus primarily on Kids and Commercialism, So Kind (an alternative gift registry) and Simplify Your Holidays.

Other 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
New Rule: All Purchases Subject to a 7-Day Mental Quarantine article

New Rule: All Purchases Subject to a 7-Day Mental Quarantine is a short article that's great for adult audiences, but also good for 9-12 grade students. It will help them assess their purchases, and is a great discussion tool. 

Book/Reading 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
No Impact Man - Environmental Education Curriculum

See Environmental Education Curriculum Here [from No Impact Project]

This curriculum, as well as the No Impact Man documentary and book, help students explore the effects their everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. It will also challenges students to think about how the systems in society influence lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for environment. Finally, it guides students to take action both individually and with others to bring about positive change.

Lesson Plan Summary:  

  • Consumption:  Examine how advertising affects our consumption habits and consider how we can get what we need in ways that do less harm to the environment.  Create an alternative gift registry with items that are non-material, secondhand, homemade, service-oriented, experiential, ro that come from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
  • Energy:  Take a look at our current system for supplying energy to our homes.  Find out how to reduce our daily energy consumption and speak out on the need to have long-term, sutainable energy solutions.
  • Food:  Explore how food choices affect the environment and our quality of life.  Develop a plan for one meal that includes only food that is seasonal, local, and unpackaged.
  • Transportation:  Study how improved street design could encourage more students to use active forms of transportation like walking or biking to get to school.
  • Water:  Learn way to conserve water and minimize the amount of chemicals that we put in our drains.
Activity 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Old Red Rocking Chair (by Root, Phyllis)

Check your library or store for this resource.

An old red rocking chair gets tossed on the curb because it has no value to the owner.  But, in an interesting turn of events, after about six other owners find good uses for the chair, it comes back to the original owner as a prized possession.

   1992: Arcade Publishing 978-1559700634 (32 pgs. Nonfiction)

Book/Reading PreK-2 Science, Social Studies Living Well, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Oral History

See Oral History Lesson Plan Here (PDF).

By interviewing people at least 45 years older than themselves, students discover history of Americans' lifestyles and consumption patterns.

Activity, Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Population, Other
Pack a Waste Free Lunch

See Waste-Free Lunch Ideas & Activities Here

This links you to an Environmental Protection Agency page of information about waste-free lunches, including how to order a free poster on waste-free lunches, a letter to send to parents, and tips for a waste-free lunch. Click here for information about an Iowa County Conservation Board's Smart Lunch Program [Note:  the handoudt begins with a field trip checklist and reminders.  Page 3 gives specific information about the Huntsville Smart Lunch Activity]

Activity PreK-2, 3-5 Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption
Packaging: What a Waste

See Packaging: What a Waste! Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

Students are introduced to the functions of packaging, and its environmental impacts. They then compare the cost per ounce of a cereal and make a correlation between cost per ounce and amount of packaging.

Activity PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption
Paper Sack Folder

See Activity How to Make a Paper Sack Folder Here.

This links you to instructions to create a folder using a paper grocery sack. 

Activity 3-5, 6-8 Arts Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Pick 5 Surveys

These surveys for various age groups ask participants to choose which options are the most essential for a good quality of life. Educators are encouraged to adapt any of these surveys to the grade level that they teach.

Pick 5 Survey (adults)

First Grade Student Pick 5 Survey

Fourth Grade Student Pick 5 Survey

Sixth Grade Pick 5 Survey


Activity PreK-2, 3-5, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Plan of Action for Living Gently

Live Gently with the Earth's Resources Action Plan 

Get started now making choices that are kinder on the environment. This set of actions is tailored to adults, but we'd love to have teachers challenge their students to create an age-appropriate document similar to this that we can post here, too!  When you open this Live Gently Plan, save it to your computer, then fill it out and follow the instructions for helping contribute to a healthier planet and a healthier you! 

Want to help students (or others) follow-through on their actions to live differently? These well-established strategies offer ways to encourage students to take action and change their behaviors.

Activity, Other Post-secondary 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Population Connection

See Population Connection Website Here.

For nearly forty years, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth) has been educating young people with its award-winning Population Education program and advocating for progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources.  

On this website you will see curriculum and professional development created to teach about human population trends and their effects on the environment and society.

Activity, Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Product Life Cycle

See Product Life Cycle Lesson Plan Here.  (You may be required to create an account or log in to access the resource at PBS LearningMedia).

Students examine products to learn their "life stories," acquiring critical thinking skills as they learn where materials come from.  This PBS Learning Media activity also uses two, approx. two-minute videos, Electronic Gadgets and Orange Juice. You may need to create a free account at PBS to use these resources, but they are well-worth your time. This handout, Tell a Product's Life Story, is adapted from the handout created by PBS and focuses on extraction and production.  Another lesson plan that complements this lesson/concept is the Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan.

Activity 3-5 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Project Based Learning

See Project Based Learning Explained (PPT) Here

›Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. This PPT discusses what project-based learning looks like and gives examples.
Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Other