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
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
Matter of Timing from Population Connection

See A Matter of Timing Lesson Plan Here.

Each individual's choices about the timing of childbearing have an impact on population trends. This lesson illustrates the difference in a family's population when childbearing occurs at age 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Lesson objectives:

  • Students will be able to calculate population size trends and analyze the influence of family timing on these.
  • Students will be able to identify at least two social factors that may influence a teenager's decison to start a family.
Activity 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies Population

The Mini-Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) program is a portable recycling sort line model that engages children and adults alike by “working” the Materials Recovery Facility. You can borrow a Mini-MRF model, free of charge, by contacting Kristin Simon, East Central Iowa Council of Governments, at or 319-365-9941, ext. 126, or Teresa Kurtz, executive director, Iowa Recycling Association, at You can also inquire with your local solid waste agency or landfill to see if they have a model and could bring it to your classroom

Other 3-5, 6-8 Science, Social Studies Recycle/Reuse/Compost
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
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
Pack a Waste Free Lunch

See Waste-Free Lunch Ideas & Activities Here

This links you to an Environmental Protection Agency page of information about waste-free lunches, including how to order a free poster on waste-free lunches, a letter to send to parents, and tips for a waste-free lunch. Click here for information about an Iowa County Conservation Board's Smart Lunch Program [Note:  the handoudt begins with a field trip checklist and reminders.  Page 3 gives specific information about the Huntsville Smart Lunch Activity]

Activity PreK-2, 3-5 Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption
Packaging: What a Waste

See Packaging: What a Waste! Lesson Plan Here (PDF)

Students are introduced to the functions of packaging, and its environmental impacts. They then compare the cost per ounce of a cereal and make a correlation between cost per ounce and amount of packaging.

Activity PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption
Paper Sack Folder

See Activity How to Make a Paper Sack Folder Here.

This links you to instructions to create a folder using a paper grocery sack. 

Activity 3-5, 6-8 Arts Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Plan of Action for Living Gently

Live Gently with the Earth's Resources Action Plan 

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 an age-appropriate document similar to this that we can post here, too!  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! 

Want to help students (or others) follow-through on their actions to live differently? These well-established strategies offer ways to encourage students to take action and change their behaviors.

Activity, Other Post-secondary 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Population Connection

See Population Connection Website Here.

For nearly forty years, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth) has been educating young people with its award-winning Population Education program and advocating for progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources.  

On this website you will see curriculum and professional development created to teach about human population trends and their effects on the environment and society.

Activity, Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles, Population
Population Riddle

See Population Riddle Here (PDF)

This is a short math riddle that helps students understand the difference between one million and one billion.

Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies Population
Product Life Cycle

See Product Life Cycle Lesson Plan Here.  (You may be required to create an account or log in to access the resource at PBS LearningMedia).

Students examine products to learn their "life stories," acquiring critical thinking skills as they learn where materials come from.  This PBS Learning Media activity also uses two, approx. two-minute videos, Electronic Gadgets and Orange Juice. You may need to create a free account at PBS to use these resources, but they are well-worth your time. Other videos that support this learning include Secret Life of a Mobile Phone "Life-Psycycle-ology" Sustainability Animation and The Secret Life of Things website. This handout, Tell a Product's Life Story, is adapted from the handout created by PBS and focuses on extraction and production.  Another lesson plan that complements this lesson/concept is the Life of a Hamburger Lesson Plan.

Activity 3-5 Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Global Studies, Natural Resources/Life Cycles
Project Based Learning

See Project Based Learning Explained (PPT) Here

›Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. This PPT discusses what project-based learning looks like and gives examples.
Other PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, 21st Century Citizenship/Service, Other
Quiltmaker's Gift (by Brumbeau, Jeff, and Gail de Marcken)

See Quiltmaker's Gift Lesson Plan Here (PDF)  Check your library or store for the accompanying book

The lesson revolves around the book, which is about a quiltmaker and a rich king. The quiltmaker inspires the king to give up all of his possessions and, during the process, the king discovers joy in giving. Students are encouraged to explore these ideas for themselves. Great resource for use near holiday seasons and before celebrations.

  2000: Scholastic Press NY, NY 0-439-30910-7  (Illustrated picture book )

Activity, Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8 Language Arts, Math, Science Citizenship/Service, Reduction/Consumption, Living Well
Recycled Life (by Mader)

Check your library or store for this resource.

This documentary depicts the people who live in the largest landfill in Central America —it's a story of the human spirit, and of the toxic wastes in this place some call home. For more information, go to

   2006: ALLGlad, Inc. (38 min., DVD)

Videos 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Social Studies Global Studies
Recycling, Reusing & Reducing: What's the Difference? Powerpoint

See Recycling, Reusing & Reducing: What's the Difference?  (PPT) Here.

This 15-slide PowerPoint gives definitions of three waste management strategies.

Other 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Post-secondary Language Arts, Science, Social Studies Reduction/Consumption, Recycle/Reuse/Compost
Recycling: A True Book (by Donald, Rhonda Lucas)
Check your library or store for this resource.
This 47-page nonfiction addresses waste, composting, recycling, and household hazardous waste.
 2001: Children's Press, NY, NY 0-516-22193-0 (47 pgs., Nonfiction)
Book/Reading PreK-2, 3-5 Language Arts, Science Recycle/Reuse/Compost, Waste/Pollution