The Superhero Within Each Of Us: ESD with Grade 1 and 2

After seeing posters for the new The Lorax movie, I was reminded  of the education for sustainable development unit I did last year in my grade 1 -2 practicum classroom. The ESD project came about as I was rounding up a science unit on the ‘characteristics of objects and materials’. Early on in my blogging journey I wrote a post about the incredible Trash-o-saurus we created together as a class. In that post I mentioned how we sat down and discussed how we could all help take care of the earth and be agents of change in our world. I must say one of the most rewarding things about this whole project was help students see themselves as being powerful enough to create change for the better in their world despite only being 6 or 7 years old.

Being in a grade 1-2 classroom the natural way for me to kick off the discussion was to read stories on the theme of environmental stewardship, Dr Seuss’s The Lorax was one of the many books I chose as one I would share with the class. At first I was a bit apprehensive reading it to a group of 30 grade 1 -2 students because at times the book can get a bit complex and tricky to understand. However, the themes in the book are ones that all young students can understand: use your resources wisely and take care of the planet. I could never do a synopsis justice so see the video below for a full dramatic reading of the book!

C.C. 

A  few of the other books I read to the class were:

  •  Michael Recycle written by Ellie Bethel,
  • The Garbage Monster by Joni Sensel,
  • The EARTH Book by Todd Parr, I Can Save the Earth : One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Alison Inches

Sadly those are the ones that  I can remember reading, just a few of the many we did read!

After reading each story I made a point of asking the students if they could do anything to help take care of the planet; each and every time they said yes. Together we brainstormed and learned about all the ways we could be our very own superhero’s and save the planet one small step at a time. Each child made a leaf with a deed they would do to be environmental stewards and together we created our own Earth Day pledge tree.

C.C. Grade 1/2 M 2011

 During the project  I challenged my students to create informational posters to help teach their schoolmates about the importance of recycling! Below are two examples of what they came up with.

C.C. Grade 1/2 M 2011

C.C. Grade 1/2 M 2011

During all this time we were also creating our very own classroom Trash-o-saurus! (If you would like to learn more about how to make your own dino, head on over to my earlier blog post: Prehistoric Enviro-Art Project)

Some links and resources:

http://www.r4r.ca/

http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/institute/lesson-clearinghouse

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Poetry: Words that Give Food for Thought

On my Monday task list was to finally complete the online  sustainability education concepts and methods course I am registered in, a mammoth task but one well worth the effort! While making my way through one of the units there was a whole section on connecting science with the arts. The unit is quite fascinating as a whole and something that has a natural appeal to myself as an early years educator. I thought I would just share one of the videos from the course as I think it speaks volumes about the potential impact and connection that can exist between the arts and sciences.

Below is a spoken word poem entitled: Hieroglypic Staircase By Drew Dellinger.

Prehistoric Enviro-Art Project

This past spring I was finishing up a science unit with a grade 1/2 class and wanted to come up with a fun culminating project where my students could apply everything they had learnt and produce something they could be proud of! The unit was on the characteristics of objects and materials, a bit tough for me to wrap my head around at first but one that has endless possibilities. As I thought about it over a few weeks a friend sent me a link to an art project idea called “Trahosaurus” (http://www.kid-at-art.com/htdoc/lesson13.html). I thought what a wonderful idea! The project hit all the things I was interested in: it was related to my unit, it introduced environmental stewardship and it incorporated art into science!

To kick off the project I started a discussion with the students about what recycling was, what we recycled and why we do it. We also explored how they could be agents of change in the world despite being only in grade 1 and 2. The look on their faces when they realized they had the power to help change the world was truly incredible. I then sent them home with a note and a task to start bringing in cleaned recyclable materials e.g. cereal boxes, milk bottles. At first the students were a bit confused but as we continued our discussion about how they could take care of the environment and exactly what we were going to do with the materials they got more and more excited! I was astounded and very proud as a classroom stared to fill up with recyclable materials. I collected odds and ends we would need for our structure from a local stop named artsjunktion (http://www.artsjunktion.mb.ca/).

Once the week was over I told the students we were going to start our project on Monday morning so they had better have their thinking caps ready. Monday morning we sat down and talked about design and why it was so important when building things. Together we can up with a design based off the dinosaur we thought would be the most sturdy. And then the building started..

It was an amazing process! The students took turns building the structure, luckily there were three adults in the room so it did not disrupt the classroom routine too much. As the design took shape you could see the excitement on the kids faces! They were really building something out of junk! After our structure was done we started to paper mache our creation. This was a messy proposition but is one that I think was totally worth it! We ensured that the floor was protected and that the students knew how to take care when working with the paste and paper.

 

 

After it dried out we added some colour. We decided that because nobody knows what dinosaurs looked like, that we could take some creative freedom and paint it however we felt like!

 

Note: we put a window into the belly which was stuffed with our leftover materials to show that it really was made of recyclable materials!

Violoa! You have a “trashosaurus”! I will definitely be doing this project again in the future!

 

Tips and pointers if you are considering building one of your own:

  • Take care to design and collect materials that will give your structure strength. Ours began to lean as you can clearly see!
  • It can get messy, but 99% of kids don’t mind! For those who don’t like getting messy you can just find another job for them to do. I had one create a brain for our dinosaur and another to create a heart!
  • Inform your janitors, ours got on board and actually came in everyday to see how our project was progressing.
  • It takes time and patience but it will come together.