7 Climate Change Hands-On Activities to Keep Kids Engaged

SubjectToClimate Team

Sep 16, 2021

When you think over your time in school, what classroom activities do you remember the best? 


I’d be willing to bet that for a lot of people, the answer involves building something, cooking something, taking something apart, planting something, pouring one substance into another…in short, getting your hands dirty. Hands-on learning invites students to discover the world by engaging with it directly, something our brains are geared towards on a profound level. Why not harness this powerful pedagogical method to teach students about one of the most pressing issues of today: climate change?


Of course, when selecting climate change activities for students, you want to make sure that they really complement the material you’re covering. A well-chosen hands-on lesson can liven up class time, engage your students, and help them to understand the subject matter more deeply— plus, it’s likely to be fun. 


It can also be a lot of work, but we’re here to help. To start, check out these seven climate change hands-on activities.



1. Climate Change Inquiry Lab


Grade Levels: 6-8

Subjects: Science, Earth Sciences


Bring climate science to life with accessible, tangible representations of our warming planet. This science lesson plan from My NASA Data uses three different experiments to illustrate three different (but linked) elements of climate change. In one experiment, students use plastic wrap to trap heat in a container, representing how atmospheric CO2 traps heat in the air. A second experiment uses ice cubes in cylinders of water to represent the impact of melting ice on sea levels. In a third experiment, students partially cover water with foil to represent how sea ice keeps our oceans cooler by reflecting the sun’s rays. These three climate activities are a great way to help middle schoolers visualize the science behind global warming.



2. Footprint Calculator


Grade Levels: 4-12

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Earth Sciences, Civics, History, Math

Help make your students’ individual impacts on the planet more concrete with this carbon footprint calculator from Biointeractive. Once you’ve all identified which parts of your lives produce the most emissions, you can brainstorm ways to reduce your footprints together. 



3. Renewing Hope: Analyzing Renewable Energy Data


Grade Levels: 6-8

Subjects: Science, Math


You don’t need high-tech equipment or an engineering degree to harness the power of the sun. In this SubjectToClimate lesson plan, after learning about renewable energy and exploring data on the subject, students get to build their own solar ovens! 



4. Snack-Sized Science: Plant Your Paper!


Grade Levels: K-5

Subjects: Science, Biology


Get kids excited about reuse, recycling, and all-around resourcefulness with this plantable paper DIY from Earth Echo Academy. In a straightforward and adorable video, a mother-daughter duo show how you can recycle paper using ordinary household materials. The end result can be used for writing or drawing-- or starting a garden! Elementary school students will be proud to take home paper they made themselves.



5. Comparing Air Quality Index and Cities: Finding Patterns in Data


Grade Levels: 6-8

Subjects: Science, Math

How does air pollution impact your city or town? How do those impacts differ from those in other parts of the world? In this SubjectToClimate lesson plan, students situate the local within the global as they explore data comparing the air quality of different municipalities. After investigating the data, your class can make posters to educate others about air pollution and its impact on human health.



6. Climate Strike and Art Activism - Create Your Story


Grade Levels: 6-12

Subjects: Social Studies, Civics, Art


What better way to engage deeply with climate issues than by joining the fight for climate solutions? This guide from ACE will help students in Grades 6 and up to create protest signs advocating for change. The guide was designed with the 2019 Climate Strike in mind, but it’s easily adaptable to other actions.



7. CryptoClimate: Exploring Cryptocurrency and Climate Change


Grade Levels: 6-8

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Economics


Your students may have heard people talking about cryptocurrency, but do they know about its climate impact? This SubjectToClimate lesson plan challenges middle school students to think through the environmental costs of crypto for themselves-- and then to make their own energy-saving plans!


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Direct engagement with climate change and climate solutions can begin in the classroom. Climate change activities invite your students to take an active role in the learning process, allowing them to understand global warming more fully and develop the tools to address it. 


After all, you can’t theorize your way to a livable planet. To fight the climate crisis, we’ll all need to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. 

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Looking for more climate change hands-on activities? Take a peek at the experiments, projects, and activities sections of our website for more experiential learning ideas!


Want to read more? Check our blog.