Earth Day is the perfect time to show older kids how they can reuse scraps, junk mail, and other materials to make fun and useful items. It's one of my favorite holidays because incorporating Earth Day projects allows students to do what they do best, be inquisitive and creative. Below, I share with you several themes you can introduce to your upper elementary students to help inspire them to make something new out of reusable resources.
Origami is a great activity to help students learn how to follow step by step instructions. In the past, I have had in-class origami parties where we'd look up "easy origami" online and follow the directions step by step.
Using junk mail catalogs for origami is a great way to incorporate it into an Earth Day project. It teaches kids that they don't always need to use new paper to create something fun.
In order to use paper for origami, the paper must be in the shape of a square. Therefore, students will need to learn how to create a square out of a rectangular paper. (If you plan to do this in class and face time constraints, you can precut the paper yourself by measuring and cutting it with a paper cutter.)
Below are some steps that students can use to create a dog origami using a page from a catalog received in the mail.
Carnival games is my favorite Earth Day project idea. In the past, I have had students work in teams to create a carnival game. I would set up students into groups, have them brainstorm some ideas, and bring in items from home. They would then collaborate to create a carnival game which they would create rules for and set up for students to play during our Class Carnival Day.
These carnival games can also be sent home to do as an individual project and brought in to share with their peers.
It would be great to have students make a list of ideas themselves, but if you'd like to help support them, some ideas you can offer are:
1. Bowling Pins
2. Ring Toss
3. Can Bean Bag Toss
4. Wiffle Ball Toss
If you are interested in providing your students with a resource that includes directions, forms, a rubric, and a certificate for a Carnival Game Project in both a printable and digital version, you can click here to find out more.
Board games are another great way to have students create something they can have fun with over and over again. Just as with the carnival games, it can be done with a partner, in small groups, or individually. They should also know or create the rules to the game.
Some suggestions for easy to create classic board games are:
Creating math manipulatives is a nice way to combine math concepts with Earth Day. Not only is it functional, but it shows students that if they do not have access to the manipulatives that were available to them at school, they can create some of their own using materials that can be reused.
A great extension activity would be to have students not only create the math manipulatives, but to also create math questions for which the manipulatives can be used to figure out the answer to. As a culminating activity, these word problems and manipulatives that the students create can be used as scoot activities for a day of fun in the classroom.
Some math manipulative ideas are:
1. Ten Frame
2. Fraction Frames
5. Base Ten Blocks
They can be used as crayons, game pieces, counters, and more.
These pieces can be made in an oven at about 280 degrees for just a few minutes, or they can be placed out in the sun to melt. It takes over an hour this way, but is much safer if students are going to do this on their own. Below are the three easy steps to follow.
1. Grab broken crayons and add inside the tin.
2. Place them in an oven at 280 degrees for a few minutes, or place them in the sun for about an hour.
3. Once the crayons have melted, let them cool off for a few minutes. Then, pull them out of the tin.
That's it! Easy Peasy!
Bookmarks are an easy and functional Earth Day project as well. Kids can make them using colorful cereal boxes. They can make a few for themselves and make a few to donate. You can provide them with dimensions if you'd like, or you can leave it up to them to come up with different sizes and possibly shapes.
How fun would it be to have each student create a few and then gather them to donate to younger kids at the school or to the library?
I hope this post has given you some inspirational ideas that you and your students can use as Earth Day projects. Do you have another favorite Earth Day project that you do with your older students? Let us know in the comments.