By: Mallory Swafford

Mar 24, 2023 | 9 minute read

Students Taking Action

Students Taking Action

Imagine a world where students taking action is commonplace. You’re in luck! This world already exists. All over the globe you can find students taking action to combat climate change. In this blog, we will discuss how to help your students in taking action on their own terms. 

Our Climate Our Future

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

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

Resource Type: Video

The Our Climate Our Future unit consists of 20 resource lessons—ranging from an introduction to climate change and the evaluation of personal perspectives—that inspire students to take action in a meaningful way.

These resource lessons are a fantastic starting point for climate change education in middle and secondary classes! They each encourage student-based action in different ways—from planting trees to managing food waste. It is a great opportunity to customize a unit for your classroom regardless of the subject. These resources cater to a wide range of subjects and grade levels, making them perfect for individualization.

Clara Kitongo: Going to the Roots to Find Your Climate Superpower

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Civics, Social-Emotional Learning, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video

I Dream of Green

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

Subjects: Social Studies, Justice, Climate Action

Resource Type: Activity

The video, Clara Kitongo: Going to the Roots to Find Your Climate Super Power, features a short interview with Clara Kitongo—born and raised in Uganda—who is following her passion through the coordination of the tree-planting program One Tree Per Child. Through the video and discussion questions, students will explore how planting trees plays a key role in carbon sequestration and the protection and restoration of land while connecting people to nature. 

This resource gives students an excellent glimpse into the important work of planting trees. The video provides  students with a strong baseline to encourage action by planting trees. This year, I will use this resource as an example of why planting trees is so important before taking my students on our yearly trip to plant oak trees at our local park. Let the video play all the way through to address climate change anxiety, carbon sequestration, and connecting people with nature.

The I Dream of Green project guide will get students involved in their communities by locating places to plant new trees, advocating for trees in those places, and actually planting trees. Students will learn about the importance of green spaces—notably in urban communities—and how activists can change the world around them. 

This project guide provides students with a thorough outline of options for community involvement in the fight against climate change. Students can read the guide together or in small groups before brainstorming a plan for community engagement. This step-by-step guide gives students an excellent framework to make a difference by planting trees in their community.

Zero Food Waste Challenge

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

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

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Climate Change, Food Production, and Food Security Unit

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Science, Geography

Resource Type: Unit

In the lesson, Zero Food Waste Challenge, students will watch a video about the sources of food waste, work in groups to complete a brainstorming activity, and come up with realistic solutions to address food waste. This lesson is a fantastic introduction to the circumstances surrounding food waste. Broach the topics of sustainability and food waste while encouraging students to take action with realistic strategies. The engaging video will be sure to get students’ attention! After watching the video, they will learn more about the problem as they read and discuss the food waste cards which present different food waste scenarios. Lastly, students create a hypothetical business to reduce the waste on their given card. This is a great way to provide students with the foundation they need to start working toward a society that generates less food waste. 

The Climate Change, Food Production, and Food Security Unit consists of six lessons that teach students to think about where their food comes from and the impact of food production on the climate. Students will learn about the different steps in food production and the numerous ways farms and agriculture are being impacted by climate change. Later in the unit, students will think about their ideal farm and look at case studies from around the world to investigate farmers' responses to the impact of climate change on food production. Finally, students will learn about food insecurity, analyze potential solutions for their own community, and unpack the complexities of the global food system and climate change. 

This extensive unit is a fantastic comprehensive guide to food production, including the interdisciplinary aspects of industrialized farming, food insecurity, and food waste. Students will engage in activities that promote SEL, justice, and taking action in the community.  Because the six lessons cover a variety of subjects, the unit could be a great way to get multiple teachers involved in their respective areas of expertise. 

Tom Mulholland: Reviving the Land Through Community Power

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Civics

Resource Type: Video

Green Spaces Unit

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th

Subjects: Geography, English Language Arts

Resource Type: Unit

Reviving the Land Through Community Power is a short documentary featuring an interview with Tom Mulholland, an advocate from Pittsburgh who works to add more green spaces in urban areas and helps communities take action. The video explains that green spaces can act as carbon sinks and provide benefits to the community. Included in this resource: discussion questions, resources for further research, and recommendations on ways to take action to strengthen communities and combat climate change.

This is another great introduction video to get middle-grade students engaged and excited about making a difference. This inspiring video explains the importance of green spaces while giving excellent ideas about how to create green spaces in your community. After the video, discuss with students the qualities that are highlighted in the video (curiosity, humility, ability to defer to experts) as essential to making real change.

In the Green Spaces Unit, elementary students are introduced to the benefits of green spaces. The unit reveals the disappearance of green spaces and its subsequent relationship to environmental justice, including the impacts on Indigenous communities. Students will learn how they can effectively combat environmental injustice and use their new knowledge to take action. Use this unit as a comprehensive guide to learning about green spaces and advocating for additional green spaces in your community. This unit focuses on multiple aspects of social studies such as civics and physical geography. Elementary students will be engaged in important topics related to disappearing green spaces, environmental justice, and Indigenous communities within the natural environment. Each lesson has a meaningful call to action built in, encouraging students to take action within their communities throughout the course of the unit. 

Energy Conservation Audit and Action Plan

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

Subjects: Science, Climate Action

Resource Type: Worksheet

Renewable Energy Algebra Unit

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Math

Resource Type: Unit

The Energy Conservation Audit and Action Planprompts students to examine their current energy use at home and create a plan to conserve more energy. Students complete a set of questions, create a map of their home, fill in a data table to track "energy vampires," and write an action plan. Use this resource after introducing the idea of a carbon footprint to your elementary or middle grades class. This worksheet engages students to apply the idea of energy conservation to their own homes, which is a great way to get students interested in and aware of their energy usage. Encourage your students to make a more meaningful impact and share their action plans with their families.

In this five-lesson unit, students are introduced to solar, wind, and biomass energy and tasked with using algebraic equations to determine how they can bring green energy to their communities. In the first lesson, students calculate the amount of daily sunlight needed to make a solar panel effective. In the second lesson, they complete real-world calculations related to residential solar energy use. In the third lesson, students use algebra to calculate the number of wind turbines needed to power a local community. In the fourth lesson, they are introduced to biomass energy and use algebra to calculate the amount of land needed to produce biofuel using different plants. In the final lesson, students use what they have learned about renewable energy to create their own plan to implement green energy in their community.

This unit is a great cross-curricular unit for a middle-grade math class: students are taught the fundamentals of solar, wind, and biomass, then tasked with math challenges related to these forms of renewable energy. This is another fantastic unit to use with colleagues. Collaborate with your teaching team to have this lesson coincide with a science unit on renewable energy. By the end of this unit, your students will be taking action to bring renewable energy to their community and they will understand how algebra can be used in real-world applications. It’s always a great moment when you get to answer the question “when am I ever going to use this?” with a real-world example! 

If your goal is to engage your students and empower them to take action against global climate change in the community, the above resources provide multiple pathways to accomplish that task. Choose a focus for your classroom like tree planting, sustainable food production, creating green spaces, or green energy solutions, and watch your students take action in their community! 

About the Author

I graduated in 2014 from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale with a zoology degree. I worked in the field of zoology until 2018 when I decided to make the switch to education. I now am certified to teach first through sixth grades in general education. I am endorsed in middle grades science and I expect to finish my master's in high school biology this year. I love teaching science and am excited to work with the SubjectToClimate team!