Environmental Science is a vast pool of facts, experiments and concepts that describe the world around us. For the K-2 teacher, Environmental Science may seem too complex a subject to communicate to the students. On the contrary, Environmental Science is one of the easiest subjects to convey to the primary level student. The study of Environmental Science begins with the immediate surroundings of the K-2 child. Familiar topics such as weather, your home and garbage provide the classroom teacher with a foundation of knowledge great enough to introduce each lesson’s concept B . seasons community helpers, and the food chain are basic concepts taught in the primary grades. These concepts, which are integral parts of the study of Environmental Science, are expanded to allow for a firm understanding of the environment and how we can control it.
The main approach of this unit is to convey knowledge through hands-on activities and applications. Classroom experiments, active field trips and home/school participation are encouraged with each topic introduction. The hindering science-phobia is camouflaged by the on-level tasks and age appropriate activities found in this unit. All sciences lend themselves to active participation. All K-2 level children lend themselves to tireless curiosity. By combining science and children in a hands-on curriculum unit, Environmental Science will find itself entering the minds of many young ecologists.
In this unit, various Environmental Science topics will be discussed. Each topic contains a number of subtopics which provide the major concepts for each lesson plan. All subtopics under each heading are described in three Environmental Science lessons: Level-K, Level-One and Level-Two. The Level-K lessons are designed to be used in a Kindergarten classroom as early as September or October. The lessons require little to no independent reading and are basically used to inform students through songs, active learning and exposure to environmental concepts. The Level-One lessons contain the same information as the Level-K lessons with more emphasis on independent activities, projects and reading. The Level-Two lessons are the most independent in orientation. Topics are introduced by the teacher and questions are answered through independent and/or cooperative activities in and out of the classroom. Students are expected to understand Specific concepts regarding each topic heading and must prepare an experiment or project that will aid the world population in cleaning up the environment. In general, the lessons include a mixture of oral/silent reading (Level-K: teacher read activities) and hands-on activities regarding the subtopic concepts. In addition each subtopic contains a field trip guide of available museums, centers and businesses in the area. Integrated lesson plans in Mathematics and Language Arts are also provided with each subtopic heading.
Give something back . . . The earth keeps us alive. But we can’t just take from it all the time. We also need to give something back.(1)
The major concepts covered in this unit span from the general to the more specific. “The Earth,” with its weather and seasons is used as the introductory topic of the curriculum unit. Simple comprehension of day and night and altering weather and temperature are the subheadings for how the Earth functions at Level-K, while tracking weather patterns and planning for the environment with each season are found in the Level-One and -Two lessons .
Ecology, the study of the relationships between living things and their environment, is not simply another specialized science or a momentary fad. According to a prominent biologist, ‘The first law of ecology is that every thing is related to everything else.’ We must remember that none of our natural resources is unlimited. Damage to any of them has far-reaching effects on all life.(2)
“Ecology” follows “The Earth in the order of topics. Homes and shelters are discussed which lead into the discussion of living and non-living things. Producers and consumers are explained and a home/classroom food chain is developed through experimentation and active study. The value of the ecosystem is stressed and used as the final subheading for Ecology.’ Teacher-guided discussions are the basis for this topic at Level-K. Team and individual webbing activities are used in some of the Level Two projects within this unit topic.
The Refuse Disposal Process
Aboard one of the U.S. Navy’s deep submersible craft, fifty miles off the coast of San Diego, and 2,450 feet down, Admiral R. J. Galanson, chief of naval wonders, peered through the portholes to view an undersea world no man had ever seen. The first thing he spotted, only two feet away on the ocean floor, was an empty beer can.(3)
“The Refuse Disposal Process” provides each K-2 child with a further understanding of the Earth and ecology by exposing the students to the poorly maintained dumps and the closing landfills in their city. Pollution problems are addressed and alternative forms of disposal are provided as delightful hands-on opportunities in the classroom and in the home. This section of the unit opens the students minds to the options for garbage placement and organization. Recycling is emphasized and becomes the catalyst for all future unit endeavors. At Level-Two this topic provides a crucial base for planning and implementing the unity culminating project/activity.
Plant a tree, or plant a window box. If you don’t have plants of your own, adopt some. Protect and take care of growing things in the parks and along the streets or roads.(4)
“Organic Living,” which follows “The Refuse Disposal Process,” introduces each student to comporting and personal gardening. The ecosystem concepts covered under Ecology” are expanded as the students create their own backyard (or school yard) ecosystem. The Level-K, and possibly the Level-One, teacher holds a more active role in planning and maintaining the compost heap and school garden, while the Level-Two teacher has the opportunity to set-up student maintained gardens and comporting systems.
The planet and mankind are in grave danger of irreversible catastrophe . . . Man may be skeptical about following the dodo into extinction, but the evidence points increasingly to just such a pursuit. There are four interconnected threats to the planet—wars of mass destruction, overpopulation, pollution, and the depletion of our natural resources.(5)
“Environmental Protection” through citizen participation presents the topics of wildlife and natural resource conservation in the classroom, the home and the world. Environmental Protection” carries recycling back to the source and uncovers the misuse and mismanagement of the Earth’s inherent assets. Through this section of the unit, the Level-Two, and possibly Level-One, culminating projects could be submitted to various environmental protection agencies for reactions and comments.
In the long run, man might be more successful biologically and find greater meaning to life if he tried to collaborate with natural forces instead of conquering them.(6)
“Environmental Vocations” provide the students with defined career prospects and volunteer access in many environmentally conscious organizations in their city, state and world. The students are given the opportunity to actively participate in the curriculum unites philosophy toward the earth in their future career choices. Level-K and Level-One students are encouraged in the direction of environmental vocations through whole-class field trips, while Level-Two students are given the chance to spend a day on the job with and environmental worker.
The Earth Day Culmination
The Lord God planted Man in a garden of delight, to dress it and to tend to it.(7)
“Earth Day,” the ultimate undertaking furnished by the Environmental Science Unit, is employed as the culminating activity for the students. Earth day-everyday, or as an annual celebration is planned and implemented by the students with guidance from the classroom teacher . The “Earth Day” project is sponsored by the Environmental Science students and used as an eye-opener to other children who may not have had the opportunity to actively participate in the salvation of our Earth. Level-One and -Two projects are presented and displayed in a school-wide Earth/ Environmental Science Fair.
Environmental Science: A Hands-on Approach
is a fully active curriculum unit. The many facts, concepts and experiments permit academic and personal growth for the K-2 student. The simplified complexities and the integrated subject matter make
Environmental Science: A Hands-on Approach
a positive encounter with high level science in the primary grades.