This activity gives students the opportunity to explore a variety of natural resources and products that people depend on every day. They learn about product life cycles, using a pencil as an example, and then research a specific product to find out the sources of its various components.
This is one of 96 activities that can be found in PLT’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. To get the activity, attend a training either in person or online and receive PLT’s PreK-8 Guide. Below are some supporting resources for this activity.
Engage students in real-world applications of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education.
Try these STEM Connections for this PLT activity:
Expand your students’ learning and imaginations. Help students meet their reading goals while building upon concepts learned in this activity with the following children’s book recommendations:
Every month we carefully select new tools and resources that enhance PLT’s lessons. These include educational apps, videos, posters, interactive websites, careers information, and teacher-generated materials. Browse a chronological listing below:
Challenge Your Eco-Footprint
BillerudKorsnäs, a renewable packaging material organization that specializes in creating sustainable packaging solutions, created this interactive resource titled Challenge your eco-footprint. It helps people understand the differences between types of waste and recyclable materials and how long they remain in the environment. Displayed in the resource is a digital representation of how long it takes for waste items to decompose. Use this resource to help raise awareness of the importance of recycling and help your students assess environmental impact.
Natural Resource Mapping
National Geographic’s Reading a Resource Map helps students in grades 2-4 investigate the origins of goods that people use. Use it to engage students on the topic of renewable and non-renewable resources and create a map identifying where they come from. Students will learn more about the types of goods and products that come from natural resources. They’ll also develop skills in reading and interpreting maps and apply that to learn more about the natural resources in their state.
Generate: The Game of Energy Choices
Generate: The Game of Energy Choices is a board game from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that teaches students about the costs and benefits of the energy choices we make; what happens if the mix of energy sources changes in the future; and what energy choices mean for our climate, air, water, and overall environmental quality. Teachers can download a printable version of the game and accompanying materials.
Our Relationship with Energy
Energy makes everything we do possible. In this TEDxMileHighWomen event, energy journalist Joran Wifs-Brock talks about Our Relationship with Energy, or as she explains, the broken relationship. Use this presentation with high school students to help them consider the ways we use energy in our own life and the communication breakdown between flipping a switch and the resources we use lighting our homes.
Into the Outdoors: Physical Science Fundamentals
Into the Outdoors empowers students and inspires critical thinking with over 150 videos! This video on Physical Science called “Ice Caves of Lake Superior” offers students the chance to understand fundamentals of the field. The video brings students inside Northern Wisconsin’s Ice Caves along the shores of the Great Lakes. Students will learn more about when they were formed and how they have evolved over time due to erosion and temperature variations.
A Guide to the Energy of the Earth
As the demand for energy increases throughout the globe it is sourced through a variety of cycles connecting the sun to our food chain to electricity and beyond. Yet, if energy is neither created nor destroyed, where does it come from? TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. In this TED-Ed lesson, A Guide to the Energy of the Earth, educator Joshua M. Sneideman examines the many ways in which the energy all around us is captured and sourced. This 5-minute video is also supported with 10 assessment questions.
Guide to Responsible Green Camping
Are you worried about children being more familiar with touch screens than with soil, plants, and bugs? It might be time to get the kiddos out camping. This online guide to responsible camping will get you prepared for a green camping trip, including how to pack, how to camp, responsible camping activities, and handy safety and eco tips.
STEM Teaching Tools
The University of Washington’s Institute of Science and Math created Practice Briefs. These free articles highlight ways of working on specific issues that come up during STEM teaching. These briefs helps K-12 educators and administrators stay informed on teaching STEM issues, including STEM issues relating to teaching NGSS and implementing meaningful STEM learning. Each brief is separated into digestible sections and includes recommended actions for educators.
Miniature Art on Pencil Tips
Artist Dalton Ghetti turns old pencils into pieces of art. Check out these pencil tip sculptures and be amazed!
Colored Pencil Stop-Motion Video
Here is an example of what is possible when you combine creativity with dedication: animator Jonathan Chong spent hundreds of hours creating this stop motion music video for the song “Against The Grain.” The video is animated completely by hand, using 5125 individual photographs of 920 pencils for the three-minute long finished product. Watch the music video first, and then check out the behind-the-scenes time-lapse showing how it was made.
Chemicals Around the Home
This EPA website lets elementary and middle school students can learn about everyday chemicals found in the home. The website includes information on what to do when a chemical accident occurs in the home, ten frequently asked questions about household products, and a Test Your Knowledge quiz.
Mineral Related Resources
Free materials on mining and minerals for educators are available from the Mineral Information Institute. They include a PowerPoint presentation “The Importance of Minerals and Mining,” classroom demonstration ideas, one-page activities, and more.
Product Life Cycle Assessment Worksheet
TeachEngineering offers a basic life cycle assessment method that assigns fictional values for different steps in a product’s life cycle. Students can complete a product analysis using this worksheet and then compare product impacts, and brainstorm ways to reduce unwanted environmental effects.
A Green Take on A Christmas Carol
Earth Day Carol is a green retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In this version, Plastic Bottle Scrooge is visited by the ghosts Plastic Past, Plastic Present, and Plastic Future. You can download the free mobile app to convey the message of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” through animation, pop-up facts, and kid-friendly narration. Most appropriate for elementary and middle school students, this story can be a starting point for taking environmental action.
International Student Carbon Footprint Challenge
Teachers and students now have the opportunity to use and explore a new, student-focused International Carbon Footprint Calculator. After testing the tool, students can then share their experience, results, and personal perspectives regarding climate change and related environmental concerns on the Einztein social learning network with other students around the world. Check out the International Student Carbon Footprint Challenge website to participate, calculate, compare, and connect today!
The Anthropocene—Human Impact on the Environment Poster
An epoch is one of the smaller divisions of geologic time. Our current epoch, the Holocene, began about 11,600 years ago. There is evidence that we are entering a new epoch that could be named the Anthropocene because it is marked by extensive human impacts on the environment. This free, downloadable poster explores evidence that future geologists might use to define the Anthropocene. Take this brief survey by November 9th and receive a free printed classroom copy.
Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt
Join National Public Radio’s Planet Money team as they follow the manufacturing of a T-Shirt around the world — from the farms where the cotton is grown to the factories where the shirts are sewn together. This story is told in a 5-chapter story of video clips.