On April 13, we hosted a #SchoolsofCharacter chat that focused on ways educators can connect character education to their Earth Day initiatives. Question 4, “What are your favorite children’s books that promote environmental action?” prompted so many great responses that we wanted to share them with you. These suggestions are elementary level texts. If you have to resources for older students, we’d love to hear them in the comments!Read More
What's Happening in Character?
By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.
Perhaps at one time we considered school a bubble isolated from the world. Not anymore.
Across the globe, school administrators, teachers, and students aim to connect what they are studying to the array of societal issues and concerns they see or read about every day. More and more as educators, we aim to dissolve this separation and recognize school is the real world for youth. And what’s more, they love to look out the windows! And rather than just “looking”, we can create learning that allows for permeable walls. This way we create authentic connections between the academic knowledge, transferable skills and dispositions developing and strengthening in our classrooms with the genuine learning that is available by connecting with community. Once learning connections are made and students become more cognizant of community assets and needs, like all of us, children and teens want to take action.
What could this look like? You probably know. This concept of service learning emerged, as we know it today, in the mid-1980s to provide a viable framework for applying what occurs in math, science, humanities, arts, physical education, and social studies (to name a few subjects), toward alleviating the problems we see in our neighborhoods and communities. Who would have suspected this to become an international phenomenon occurring in K-12 schools and universities around the world!
Your school may already have the beginnings of service learning or a more advanced program. Or you may have a community service program operating on the fringes of the classroom and you recognize that service learning embedded within an academic study has a myriad of benefits including to:
- Improve the eagerness of students to be self-motivated to extend their learning
- Stimulate curiosity and question-asking that leads to deeper understanding
- Engage every student in a way that both differentiates and encourages students to appreciate the abilities of their peers
- Create multi-disciplinary pathways for connecting curriculum
- Heighten social and emotional development as students become more sensitized to the lives and stories of others
- Bring learning to life!
Service Learning Snapshots
Weaver Academy (Greensboro, North Carolina)
How do power tools relate to reading? At Weaver Academy’s high school construction class students are building 138 tiny houses, complete with shingles, to promote literacy.Read More
Earth day is the perfect time to get your students outside enjoying nature in springtime. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to teach your students how they can care for the environment. Here are 8 engaging earth day activities that will inspire children to be mindful of the planet’s resources.
Start Environmental Action Committees at your school. Learn how Chesterfield Elementary created student-driven environmental studies projects and integrated them into their English curriculum. Read more about it here.
Teach your students about the importance of conserving water. These books will help you introduce the topic and offer a few
Make a recycled art project. Take a look at this list of recycled art projects that include a plastic bottle bird feeder, an oatmeal box pencil holder, smashed soda can animals, and more!
Read a book that inspires environmental action. My personal favorite is The Lorax, but you can also check out this list of “Green Reads” from PBS for more options.
Make and eat some “Sun S’mores” as a special earth day snack. Your class can learn about solar power, while eating chocolatey marshmallow sandwiches. What could be better?
Pick up trash and explain the importance of keeping our environment clean and healthy. Start on your own school playground or a local park. Click here to read about Cherry Hill Alternative High School students’ clean up of a historic cemetery.
Looking for something a little more advanced? These resources from the Environmental Protection Agency can help high school students implement a school-wide waste reduction plan.
What is your school doing to celebrate Earth Day? Share your ideas in the comments.