The Way We Live

...and how our choices impact our environment

Educator Resources 

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Find educational resources easily. The full list of resources is available in alphabetical order by title. You may also search by grade levels, subjects and topics. To search for multiple grades, subjects or topics, press and hold the CTRL key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) on your keyboard then click to select the materials you need. Many of the educational resources can be downloaded from the website.

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Educator Resources Materials Available Grade Level Content Areas Topic
Hey, Little Ant (by Hoose, Phillip M. and Hannah Hoose)

Check your library or store for this resource.

For complementary activities and a lesson plan, See To Squish or Not:  Everyday Decisions That Make a Difference Lesson Plan Here.

Readers look at life from an insect's point of view in this story. A boy talks with an ant he wants to squish, and the ant pleads for his life, saying "You are very much like me." To learn one way to use this in the classroom, check out the activity, To Squish or Not.

   1998: Tricycle Press 1883672546 (Illustrated picture book, 28 pgs.)

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service
How to Streamline Your Life and Still Enjoy the Heck Out of It (by Fisk, Umbra: Grist magazine)

See here to view Ask Umbra column, How to Streamline Your Life and Still Enjoy the Heck Out of It.

This talented columnist, also known as "Ask Umbra," writes a short manifesto (10 tips) encouraging Americans to take back their identities, asking "Ever wonder when We the People stopped being called citizens and started being called consumers?"  Her tips range from "prioritizing" and "voting," to "enjoying what you have."

Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming (by Cherry, Lynne and Gary Braasch)

Check your library or store for this resource.

In this 66-page nonfiction book is the science behind headlines about climate change, and what actions youth can take.

   2008: Dawn Publications 1584691034 (66 pgs., Nonfiction)

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science Citizenship/Service
Hungry Planet What the World Eats (by Menzel, Peter and Faith D'Aluisio )

Check your library or store for this resource.

This 288-page nonfiction book, featuring 30 families from 24 countries around the world, presents a photographic study of the foods they eat in one week.

   2005: Material World Books and Ten Speed Press (288 pgs., Nonfiction )

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies
If America Were a Village (by Smith, David J. )

Check your library or store for this resource.

This book describes what the US would look like if its population of 306 million were represented as a village of 100. Fascinating statistics such as 5 people (1 person represents 3 million people) have more than half of US wealth, US owns more cars than any other county, is 50% larger than in 1950, and 82 of 100 Americans consider themselves Christian. Great with Food for Thought activity.

   2009: Kids Can Press, Tonawanda , NY 978-1-55453-344-2 (Illustrated picture book)

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8 Social Studies Global Studies
If the World Were a Village (by Smith, David J. )

Check your library or store for this resource.

If 6 billion people on the planet were a village of 100, what would it look like? The book explains whom lives in the village, where they live, how fast the village is growing, what languages are spoken, what religions are practiced and more. Great with Food for Thought lesson plan.

  2002: Kids Can Press, Tonawanda , NY 1-55074-779-7 (Illustrated picture book )

Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8 Social Studies Global Studies
Into Darfur: A Young American’s Journey

See Into Darfur:  A Young American's Journey video here.

A 5-minute video about an 18-year-old’s journey to Darfur and his experience. Because it’s done on with a camera video, it has an authentic quality to it, and may be a video to inspire young people to contribute to social change.

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Global Studies
Introduction to Consumption and Waste: Round the Room Activities

See here for Introduction to Consumption and Waste:  Round the Room Lesson Plan (PDF)

By doing short tasks at five stations around the room, students are introduced to consumption and waste issues.  The activities within this lesson plan may also be used as standalone activities integrated into other lesson plans.  

Station 1:  Trash used in the last 2 days

Station 2:  Determine examples of waste reduction

Station 3:  Products/materials consumed today

Station 4:  Chain of production/life cycle

Station 5:  How advertising influences consumption

Activity 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Other
Iowa Department of Natural Resources Safe, Smart Solutions

Visit the DNR Iowa Website for information on Household Hazardous Materials

This website addresses household hazardous wastes, and includes educational materials, definitions of hazardous waste, and a variety of other hazardous waste information.

Other 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Is Recycling Enough?

See Is Recycling Enough? Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

Students review definitions of recycling and reuse, then learn about waste reduction. They then collect data and create graphs to visually see the changes in waste generation and recovery rates from 1960 to 2000.

Another activity to help show students the importance of the production cycle is the Life of a Hamburger Activity.  

Activity 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Math, Science Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Island Survival

See Island Survival Activity Instructions Here (PDF)

This activity works well as an introduction to waste reduction. Through participation in the simulation, students make lifestyle choices while considering the effects of these choices on the amount of waste generated.

Island Survival Story for Students - Gives students the situation and purpose of the activity.

Island Survival Graphic Organizer For Students - Documents initial student brainstorming and planning.

Assessment Worksheet 

Activity 3-5, 6-8 Math, Science Living Well, Population, Waste/Pollution, Other
It's the Little Things

See The Secret Life of Things Video Here

Through this fun, animated video, check out the lives of common products such as flat-screen TVs and cell phones. They tell their stories of mistreatment and neglect, because they were discarded while young and they believe they still have much life left! This 5-minute video calls for smarter designs that reduce waste and save energy.

Produced by Eco-Innovators.

Videos 3-5, 6-8 Arts, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
John McCutcheon Songs - Music & Lyrics

See Lyrics to John McCutcheon Songs Here

John McCutcheon is a master in the folk music world. Here are lyrics to several of his songs about community building and the idea that "what one can't do, we'll try two" or more people working together for change.

Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Living Well
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (by Taback, Simms )

Check your library or store for this resource.

Joseph had an overcoat, it gets old and shabby, but he keeps re-making some-thing of it until he has nothing. Then he even makes something out of that.

   1999: Viking, NY , NY 0-670-87855-3 (Illustrated picture book )

Book/Reading PreK-2 Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption
Juice Boxes

by Public Broadcasting System

See Loops Scoops Juice Boxes video here

In this 2.5 minute video, a boy named Brad is quizzed about a "secret weapon" that is virtually indestructible and made of a high-tech composite impervious to heat and light. Brad is surprised to learn that the "weapon" is an ordinary juice box. Brad then learns that one billion juice boxes are thrown out every year, which prompts his decision to use a reusable water bottle instead.

Videos PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution
Just a Dream (by Van Allsburg, Chris )

Check your library or store for this resource.

Walter doesn't care much about the environment, but one night when he falls asleep, his dreams help him understand what the future will be like, depending upon the choices made in the present.

   1990: Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston 0-395-53308-2 (Illustrated picture book )  

Book/Reading 3-5 Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Just Look at Our Shoes

Just Look at Our Shoes Lesson Plan (PDF)    Just Look at Our Shoes Lesson Plan (DOC)

In this interdisciplinary lesson, students learn about the life cycle of shoes and calculate the quantity of shoes discarded. They learn that the earth is a closed system and that there is no “away.” Math exercises can be designed for almost any grade level, such as Math Exercises for Grades 1-6.  

What teachers say…

The shoes activity was a huge hit with my class, a cross curricular winner. In math we charted, averaged, multiplied decimals…to figure the [shoes]…thrown in the trash. In writer's workshop they wrote an explanatory and persuasive piece both explaining what the problem is and…researched possible solutions... In computer we searched web sites...and hunted for ways to deal with "shoes." In social studies we discussed third world countries, labor issues...
Activity 3-5, 6-8 Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Keep Swimming video (from Finding Nemo)

See Keep Swimming video here.

This 3-minute video depicts the power of working together to make things happen.

Videos PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, 21st Century Citizenship/Service
Know Your Resources

See Know Your Resources Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

Students learn about the limited supply of natural resources in the world and, by role-playing, begin to understand some of the equity issues related to the use of those resources.

The objectives of this lesson are:

  • Students will learn about the world's supply of resources
  • Students will compare lifestyles and consumption habits of rich, middle and poor people throughout the globe


Activity 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Global Studies, Population
Landfill Tour or Guest Speaker from Landfill

Don’t forget to draw on local experts. Many areas of the state have solid waste educators who can give you a tour of a nearby landfill or come to your class and give a presentation. If you can’t find a listing for your local contact, call your county’s courthouse (start with the Auditor’s office) and ask.



Activity, Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost