Earth Day STEM Challenge

When I first started teaching it was a requirement at my school that each grade level pick an Earth Day project and complete the project during the month of April. My team decided we would learn about the effect of littering and then take a 30 minute block to go pick up trash around the playground and soccer fields. 

A few of you might be saying "WHAT? You let your kids pick up trash? How did the parents feel about that?" We sent home a letter in advance to let parents know about our Earth Day project and the meaning behind the project. The day of the project our team went outside before school just to do a quick sweep of the area to make sure there weren't any dangerous items out along the perimeter that we didn't want the kids touching and then we gave them plastic gloves before actually venturing outside for our 'litter hunt'.  

I wasn't too sure how a group of seven and eight year olds were going to like picking up littered items around the school but to my surprise they really enjoyed it. It gave them a feeling of responsibility as they were helping our environment, community, and school.  

The next school year I decided that this Earth Day project lesson needed more student engagement and I wanted students to have more ownership of the project by leading them to ask more questions, make a plan, and create I turned it into a S.T.E.M. Project. As a teacher, there is nothing more satisfying then taking a good lesson and making it even more meaningful and captivating the next time around! 

So this second year we started with the book Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg and examined the effects that littering had in a little boy's dream. 

I then explained to the class that their challenge was going to be to create and build a mechanical grabber to help pick up the trash up around our school yard. I put them in groups of two and gave them a list of supplies they could choose to use. I then allowed them time to ask questions, imagine, plan, create, and improve their plan. 

They made some very clever designs and we put them to good use while cleaning up the playground. I found that this second year doing this project that not only did they feel responsible for helping our environment, community, and school but they also felt a since of pride for creating and building something that helped them complete the task. They became true engineers and they felt valued because not only were they students that day but they were engineers, community helpers, good citizens, and creative kids!

If you are interested in trying out this project this month you can check it out in my store: STEM Earth Day Challenge

Thanks for stopping by to learn about the STEM Earth Day Challenge. Happy Earth Day to you and your students on April 22nd!

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