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
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (by Louv, Richard)

Check your library or store for this resource.

Louv says today's kids are increasingly disconnected from the natural world, even though research shows that exposure of youngsters to nature can be an effective therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other problems.  This 336-page book is highly rated by environmental educators.

   2005: Algonquin Books 1-56512-391-3 (336 pgs. Nonfiction)

Book/Reading Post-secondary Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Living Well
Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore

See Leyla Acaroglu's Ted Talk video here:  Paper Beats Plastic?  How to Rethink Environmental Folklore.

Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to the environment. But things aren’t as simple as opting for the paper bag, says sustainability strategist Leyla Acaroglu. A bold call for us to let go of tightly-held green myths and think bigger in order to create systems and products that ease strain on the planet. (Video description thanks to TED Talks.)

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Life Cycle of Everyday Stuff (by Reeske, Mike and Shirley Watt Ireton)

Check your library or store for this resource.

This 95-page curriculum offers ways to explore the science of consumer products. Life cycles, design, manufacturing and redesign are several of the seven units included in this guide.

   2001: National Science Teachers Association, Arlington, VA 0-87355-187-7 (95 pgs., Nonfiction Curriculum Guide)

Book/Reading 6-8, 9-12 Science Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Life of a Hamburger

See Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

This lesson helps students understand the complex and invisible chain of production that occurs to get a common, everyday product to us. Its kinesthetic component is great for most learners, but especially for movement-oriented students.

Lesson objectives:

  • Students will demonstrate awareness of the chain of environmental impacts caused by the creation of a product
  • Students will be able to explain what portion of a product's life cycle is household wasted
  • Students will be able to name a minimum of two stages of a product's life

You'll need to download and print the following sets of cards for the activity:  

Activity 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Life of a Product Graphics & Lesson Plan

Life of a Product Lesson Plan

The CEEE's NEW graphics and lesson plan ideas will help students of all grade levels better understand where the things that we use daily come from -- what processes are needed to get them to the Use stage.  The graphics in the link below can be cut apart to allow users to come up with alternatives to various processes and find more sustainable approaches. 

Life of a Product Graphics (7 pages of images)

Activity 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Life of a Product Questions for Students

Life of a Product Questions for Students (word)  (pdf)

It feels good to get new things. Yet, consuming those goods packs an environmental wallop. We all need to work together to find solutions to this paradox.  Below are some questions you might ask your students to help them explore solutions to this dilemma.  We encourage you to adapt the questions to your grade level, but the initial ones are designed for younger audiences and the latter ones for high school and college students. 

Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Live Well

See Live Well - A Cross-Cultural Middle School Unit video here (1 minute)

Janesville Middle School teachers Liz Foelske and Emily Stenslund attended the professional development workshop titled "Helping Students Protect the Environment and Living Well." As part of the workshop they developed and taught a mini-unit to middle school students in Janesville, IA. Watch how their students leaped into the book Material World, directed a 48-Hours of Trash event at the school, and took their own community service action on the school grounds.

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Global Studies
Living Gently / Plan of Action

Access Live Gently here (pdf-color)

Get started now making choices that are kinder on the environment. This set of actions is tailored to adults, but we'd love to have teachers challenge their students to create age-appropriate handouts similar to this that we can share here for use by other students! When you open this Live Gently Plan, save it to your computer, then fill it out and follow the instructions for helping contribute to a healthier planet and a healthier you! 

Ways to Encourage Students to Take Action!  Just knowing more about “stuff,” doesn't mean any of us do something as a result of this knowledge!  These well-established strategies will help teachers help students take actions and change their behaviors.

Activity, Other Post-secondary 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Lorax (by Seuss, Dr.)

Check your library or store for this resource.

The Lorax shares a powerful message about the environment in this classic. Brilliant and whimsical rhymes and delightful creatures tell the story that "UNLESS someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better...It's not."

  1971: Random House Books for Young Readers 0-39482-337-0 ( 72 pgs. Illustrated picture book)

Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Citizenship/Service, Natural Resources/Life Cycles

See PBS Magazines Video Here. (You must create an account or log in to view the video, but it's well worth it!)

This 2:30 second video is a great tool for inspiring students to research and create second lives for products that would otherwise be thrown away. Created by Public Broadcasting Service.


Videos PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Living Well, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Marshmallow Challenge

See Marshmallow Challenge Activity Here (note:  you must create a free account first).

After creating a login/logging in, access Educators Only Section at bottom of screen.  Choose the Marshmallow Challenge under Games & Activities.  

The Marshmallow Game challenges students to design a marshmallow "tower" using the least amount of materials. Great team-builder. The activity comes from Australian-based Eco Innovators.

There are many additional fact sheets and other resources available on this excellent website.

Activity 3-5, 6-8 Science, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption
Matching Match

This lesson is from the Environmental Protection Agency's Quest for Less curriculum. The objective is to teach students that products come from natural resources.

Activity PreK-2 Arts, Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Material World: A Global Family Portrait (by Menzel, Peter)

See Material World Lesson Plan Here (PDF). Check your library or store for the accompanying book.

The activity is based on a 255-page photographic look at 30 families, their homes and their possessions. The families represent 30 United Nations countries. Beautiful photos, and brief but compelling narratives and fascinating statistics about the countries, the energy they use, population per capita, etc. Though an older book (1994), it continues to be an excellent classroom resource when current statistics from the World Population Reference Bureau are used. This web site provides updated photos of numerous countries in the Material World book plus a link to poster sets and curriculum ghuides with powerpoint presentations from the Social Studies School Services.

Here is a Worksheet/Handout to use in conjunction with the book/activity.  A shorter handout with additional questions from the 2012 World Population Data Sheet is found here (Material World Scavenger Hunt). See here for the 2012 World Population Data Sheet. See here for the 2013 World Population Data Sheet.

Availability of Material World books:  Several Iowa Area Education Agency libraries have multiple copies of Material World, and they are available through interlibrary loan.  The following, at a minimum, should be available: Grant Wood: 15 books in one set; Area 267: 6 sets of 5; Heartland AEA:  3 copies

  1994: Sierra Club, San Francisco , CA 0-87156-437-8 (255 pgs. Nonfiction)

Activity, Book/Reading 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Material World: How Does the US Compare?

See Material World - How Does the US Compare Lesson Plan Here.

Through the process of making double bar and circle graphs, the students develop an understanding of how the United States compares to other countries with respect to years of school, income, and other factors. The World Population Clock may be a useful tool to discuss this book.

Activity 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Musical Resources

See Muscial Resources (PDF) Activity Here.

Similar to Musical Chairs, in this activity chairs represent natural resources. As they are depleted, chairs are removed but people remain and more people are added to represent a growing population. Participants share chairs and balance on laps to demonstrate depletion of resources. This activity has been reprinted with permission from the Iowa Department of Education from their 1991 publication, Clean Sweep.

Activity 3-5 Arts, Language Arts, Science Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
National Public Radio’s Planet Money’s Life of a T-shirt

National Public Radio’s Planet Money’s Life of a T-shirt    Five short videos (approx. 1:30 min. to 6:22 min.) comprise this excellent series developed by NPR's Planet Money team.  The chapters address cotton, machines, people (workers in factories), boxes and us. Readings are available with each of the chapters. This series addresses complex issues, such as child labor and worker rights.


Book/Reading, Videos 9-12, Post-secondary Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Needs and Wants

See Needs and Wants Lesson Plan and Activity Ideas Here

Excellent background information on “needs and wants,” and activities (some of which is free) courtesy of BrainPOP Educators.

Other PreK-2 Language Arts, Social Studies, 21st Century Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
No Impact Man - Environmental Education Curriculum

See Environmental Education Curriculum Here [from No Impact Project]

This curriculum, as well as the No Impact Man documentary and book, help students explore the effects their everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. It will also challenges students to think about how the systems in society influence lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for environment. Finally, it guides students to take action both individually and with others to bring about positive change.

Lesson Plan Summary:  

  • Consumption:  Examine how advertising affects our consumption habits and consider how we can get what we need in ways that do less harm to the environment.  Create an alternative gift registry with items that are non-material, secondhand, homemade, service-oriented, experiential, ro that come from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
  • Energy:  Take a look at our current system for supplying energy to our homes.  Find out how to reduce our daily energy consumption and speak out on the need to have long-term, sutainable energy solutions.
  • Food:  Explore how food choices affect the environment and our quality of life.  Develop a plan for one meal that includes only food that is seasonal, local, and unpackaged.
  • Transportation:  Study how improved street design could encourage more students to use active forms of transportation like walking or biking to get to school.
  • Water:  Learn way to conserve water and minimize the amount of chemicals that we put in our drains.
Activity 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Old Red Rocking Chair (by Root, Phyllis)

Check your library or store for this resource.

An old red rocking chair gets tossed on the curb because it has no value to the owner.  But, in an interesting turn of events, after about six other owners find good uses for the chair, it comes back to the original owner as a prized possession.

   1992: Arcade Publishing 978-1559700634 (32 pgs. Nonfiction)

Book/Reading PreK-2 Science, Social Studies Living Well, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Oral History

See Oral History Lesson Plan Here (PDF).

By interviewing people at least 45 years older than themselves, students discover history of Americans' lifestyles and consumption patterns.

Activity, Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Living Well, Population, Other