Students work together at a table

Green Initiative Ideas for Schools

By: Vanessa Wilson

Oct 19, 2022 | 14 minute read

When students are encouraged to take action and collaborate with their peers, they become more engaged and motivated in classroom lessons and activities. Incorporating green initiative ideas for schools into the school curriculum will help students learn about climate change as they take action in their community. These 10 green initiative ideas for schools foster personal agency, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. The resources can be incorporated into multiple grade levels and subject areas to better help students learn how they can make a change in the world.

I Dream of Green

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th

Subjects: Social Studies, Justice, Climate Action

Resource Type: Activity

In this project guide by Roots and Shoots, students will learn about the importance of green spaces and see how they can develop ideas for their own green initiative at school. The guide teaches students about environmental justice and explains why trees are vital for the health of all communities. It provides action steps that students can take to create green spaces for communities in need of more trees and gardens. Students will be inspired by the story of individuals throughout the guide that are working towards creating a greener world.

The guide is a comprehensive resource that shows students how they can take action in their communities. It incorporates activities such as activist profiles for inspiration, map creation, and green space planning tips. Students can take on various roles throughout the project and the guide provides various modalities for students who have different learning styles. Multiple links and resources (such as videos, tree donation links, letter templates, and contact information for local representatives) are included to help students successfully complete their project.

Teachers can use this guide as a final project on human impact or life science in science courses. Introducing students to the topic of green spaces and environmental justice will help students understand some of the terms in the guide. This video by Greenlife Matters on the benefits of green spaces can be used as a hook activity and paired with the project guide.

Growing a Pollinator Garden

Grade: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Climate Action

Resource Type: Activity

This activity from the National Wildlife Federation guides students to create a garden for pollinators. It helps students learn about pollinating species and the roles they play in an ecosystem. Students will begin by observing habitats in their neighborhood and identifying pollinators, documenting their findings on a data chart. As a hands-on activity, they will be asked to create a pollinating patch with a few easily accessible materials. The activity guide provides additional resources for learning about the benefits of pollinators, locations to visit to observe different species, and sites where students can participate in citizen science activities.

The resource includes a range of activities for students to act as scientists. Students will research information, use their observational skills and monitor data on plants and pollinators. Math and science classes can use this resource as a cross-curricular assignment by utilizing the data tables and calculation activities.

This resource can be used for elementary and middle school students with modifications. Prior to completing the activity, students should be introduced to terms used throughout the guide such as pollinator, ecosystem, and habitat. Introducing students to different pollinating species through images or a video will help them with the pollinator identification portion of the activity. The pollinator patch can be created individually, in groups, or as a class if resources are limited. Students can also create a school garden or volunteer to donate their patches to a community garden.

Together No Trash

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, Climate Action

Resource Type: Activity

This 7-page project guide from Roots & Shoots teaches students how important it is to protect local and global biodiversity. The guide includes information about other young activists that have taken action to protect biodiversity by participating in trash clean-ups and undertaking other green initiatives. A glossary is provided for students to learn and reference vocabulary terms used throughout the project such as biodiversity, habitat, littering, etc. Students will hone their scientific skills to complete various tasks throughout the guide and learn how to inspire others in their community to take action.

The resource offers various activities that can be modified for all grade levels K-12. Many links are provided for further research and extension activities. Students will learn about different individuals who have taken action to prevent biodiversity loss, such as Dr. Jane Goodall. As an engaging service learning project, students will be motivated to take action and collaborate with their peers.

Using this resource as a final project at the end of a unit will tie together important science and social studies topics such as ecosystems, biodiversity, and human impact. The resource will provide students with the tools to initiate a community clean-up in their area and or create a digital product such as a website or blog to share with their peers. Elementary school students can create a trash-clean-up day in their school where their peers join them in cleaning up the school grounds. Middle school students can volunteer in various clean-up events around their town or develop a plan to create a trash clean-up in an area in their community such as a city park.

Scraps Into Soil

Grade: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

Subjects: Science, Biology

Resource Type: Experiment, Lesson Plan, Worksheet, Activity

This resource by Population Education is a great way to educate students on waste, decomposition, and human impact on the environment. Students will learn about natural and man-made items and their decomposition rates. The guide provides step-by-step directions for students to create a composting bin to use in their schools and helps them practice science skills such as creating a hypothesis and identifying variables. The composting bins can be placed around the school property or cafeteria for easy access. To access the lesson, teachers will need to fill in a short form on the site.

Completing this project will help students learn how important it is to prevent food waste and find sustainable options for creating less waste. In particular, students delve into the topic of composting by completing the discussion questions and student worksheets included in the guide. The follow-up activities can be used to extend learning and incorporate the lesson into other subject areas. There is a measuring learning portion that includes ideas for teachers to assess student knowledge of the topics in the lesson.

Showing students this video on food waste prior to the project can serve as an anticipation activity for students to learn more about the topic.  After the experiment is completed, students can create an infographic for their families on how to reduce food waste in their homes. The SubjectToClimate website offers a plethora of resources on food waste for students to continue exploring this topic.

Meatless Mondays

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Economics, Justice, Health, Climate Action

Resource Type: Project

In this resource, students will learn how they can work together to develop a green initiative plan of action for creating a Meatless Monday program at their school. The site includes information on the benefits of adopting a meatless diet, including both personal and environmental benefits. Students will discover steps they can take to create a plan to present to their school administration. The project is based on the success story of students in DeLaSalle High School who were able to implement the program in their school.

This is a great project to complete as a whole class activity to promote collaboration. Students can be assigned different roles throughout the project such as researcher, resource designer, and advocate. While working on this project, students will learn about the health benefits of adopting a plant-based diet as well as the positive effects it has on the environment.

This activity can be implemented into multiple subject areas including science, social studies, or elective classes like home economics. Showing students this video by Vox before starting the project will help them understand the environmental impacts of animal farming and meat diets. The video offers students scientific data on meat consumption in the US, factory farming emissions, and the benefits of a vegetarian diet. While watching the video, students can use a graphic organizer to write down facts from the video that will help them with the pitch/presentation portion of the project.

Zero Food Waste Challenge

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Economics, Climate Action

Resource Type: Lesson Plan, Worksheet, Activity

This lesson plan by Arizona State University provides teachers with ideas and resources to educate their students about food waste, its effects on the environment, and effective solutions. The resource includes background information for teachers about food waste in the U.S. and recommended strategies for implementing the activities. The activities are divided into a 5E inquiry model and come with detailed instructions for teacher application.

The resource includes various multimodal activities for student engagement and mastery. Students will first be introduced to the concept of food waste by watching a video called “The Big Waste.” After the video, students can discuss what they learned as a class or write a short summary. Students will then go on to complete various student-led activities such as brainstorming solutions, developing a food waste collection business, creating advertising materials, and presenting to their peers.

Teachers can use this activity to get their students thinking about individual food waste and the impact it has on the environment. It is a great collaborative assignment that can be used as a cross-curricular activity between science, social studies, and math courses.  The extension activity can be assigned to students that are interested in learning more about the topic or used to extend the lesson for early finishers. SubjectToClimate offers multiple resources on food waste for more in-depth research on the topic.

Fourth Graders Create a Solar Powered Classroom

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Engineering, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video, Article

This resource includes an article and video that teaches students about how they can do their part to take action for environmental causes. Students will learn about a fourth-grade class in North Carolina that created a plan to make their classroom completely solar-powered. The 3-minute video explains how students learned about different energy sources, how they raised funds for their project, and how they were able to get the public involved.

This video is a great motivational and educational tool to help students learn about how they can get involved in service learning projects. Prior to watching the video, students should be familiar with certain terms such as renewable resources, solar power, and power plant. Having students complete this interactive activity prior to watching the video will help them better understand different energy sources.

This resource can be used as a starting point to get students thinking about how they can conserve energy in their everyday lives and create a plan to advocate for their own solar-powered classroom. After watching the video, students can brainstorm different ways to conserve energy in their homes or at school. Teachers can assign this energy audit activity so that students learn about their school’s energy usage and how they can more effectively conserve energy. The activity includes a podcast episode, a teacher guide, and student pages to complete their audit.

How Can We Encourage Our Community to Use More Renewables?

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Civics

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

This renewable energy lesson plan created by SubjectToClimate content creators highlights a team of students in Santa Monica, California who helped their city become plastic-free. The lesson includes detailed instructions for teachers on lesson implementation along with a slideshow and vocabulary cards. Students will first watch a 5-minute video about the Team Marine high school students and their campaign to ban plastic bags. The lesson asks students to think like activists and create a project to advocate for renewable energy in their school.

Students will be motivated to become change agents in their schools and communities. The lesson provides students with ample self-agency by giving them many different project options. In the Inspire section, students are offered guidance on hosting a conference at their school and presenting their projects to stakeholders. The final portion of the lesson provides student reflection questions that can be completed as a collaborative activity.

This resource can be used in conjunction with other activism resources found on our website to inspire students to take action on the climate crisis. The lesson can be modified for middle and high school students by including additional requirements such as asking students to go into the community to advocate or create an advocacy website.

Lights Out Day

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Economics, English Language Arts, Math, Climate Action

Resource Type: Project

"Lights Out Day" is a great project to teach students about the impact of electricity use on climate change. The resource provides steps students can take to organize a lights-out day in their school along with facts on the benefits of conserving electricity. Students will first do research on their school’s energy usage and the amount of carbon production required to sustain that usage. Second, students are asked to create a pitch for stakeholders at their school to implement a “lights out day” and measure the amount of carbon saved. Finally, once the project has been initiated, students will reflect with their peers on the success of their plan.

This resource is a great call-to-action project that will engage and motivate students to conserve electricity in their everyday lives. By completing real-world projects, students will learn how to identify problems in their community and implement the necessary steps to take action. Using this resource in conjunction with resources like this one about How Much Electricity It Takes to Power The World will give students a better understanding of the importance of using clean energy.

Walk and Roll Day

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Math, Climate Action

Resource Type: Activity

This is a wonderful resource to help get students involved in the community and engage in an active project. The resource site offers information on the negative effects of using private transportation and the benefits of walking, biking, or using public transportation. Students will follow the project steps to implement a “Walk and Roll Day” at their school and help their peers and staff reduce their daily vehicle emissions. 

Collaboration is an important aspect of student engagement. This project will help students collaborate with their peers to make a positive impact in their community. In addition, hands-on projects like these promote higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills. Students can learn more about the emissions created by different modes of transportation with our SubjectToClimate lesson where they can analyze various data.

When students are engaged in projects where they can develop solutions for current environmental problems, it shows them how they can take action. These green initiative resources will introduce students to the many ways in which changing their behaviors can help to mitigate the climate crisis. Participating in hands-on projects will enhance problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. These resources will ensure that learning is engaging and student-centered, providing students with the skills they need to succeed in today’s world.

About the Author

I am a current 7th-grade science teacher in Broward, FL who is passionate about wildlife and teaching my students to love the planet. I have taught Earth Science, Life Science, and Physical Science in English and Spanish for a dual language program at my previous school.