It seems like everyday, more and more environmental issues face us. As an educator, it’s important to encourage your students to be thoughtful global citizens and be mindful of their individual impact on the environment. This year, celebrate Earth Day with your students in ways that are educational and interest them. Here are some ways you can help your students focus on the environment for Earth Day.
Watch a documentary
Depending what class you teach, you can find time to watch a documentary about a pressing environmental event for Earth Day. Find a few to choose from and then let your students vote on what they’d like to watch. There are plenty of masterfully done nature documentaries, whether about pressing environmental issues, events that have occurred, or just general informational nature documentaries. Kids love nature documentaries, especially when they’re engaging, like Planet Earth.
If you can find a way for your students to volunteer with a local organization that focuses on the environment, take advantage of this opportunity. Picking up trash, collecting recyclables, or planting trees is a great idea and doesn’t take much time or effort. See what’s happening in your local area and then check if it’s possible for your students to volunteer or participate in a planned event. You can even organize your own volunteer opportunity on school grounds.
Discuss current science news
There are always environmental events and issues occurring, so take the time to help your students learn about these. Provide them with outlets and resources online where they can read about something happening. You can even assign a specific project for Earth Day that allows them to choose an environmental issue that interests them and then give a short lesson to the rest of the class on the topic.
Talk about individual impact
For many students, they likely haven’t considered the impact their individual actions have on the world around them. Talk to students about the importance of recycling and properly disposing of trash. Teach them small ways they can improve the environment, such as volunteering with an organization, caring for wildlife or plants, or limiting the waste they produce. You can show them the importance of turning off lights when leaving a room, walking or biking instead of driving a car, or using less water. Most students would love to know more about ways they can make the world a better place.
Finally, an incredibly simple way for you to help your students to celebrate Earth Day is simply taking them outside. Head to a local park or go on a short walk and just appreciate nature. Earth Day is the perfect time to develop a new appreciation for the world around you and reflect on the beauty of nature.
There are plenty of articles on the web about how to strengthen teacher/student relationships. The relationship between a teacher and student is inherently vital to education; being a good educator means your students trust you and you can all work together well to learn. However, it’s also important to cultivate strong relationships between school employees, whether teachers, administration, or other professionals. Teaching is often a solitary job, especially during the day as teachers work with their individual classes and maybe have time to bond with the other professionals over lunch. We should make it a priority to begin cultivating relationships between school employees, as well as those with the students.
Provide networking opportunities
Many professionals regularly attend networking opportunities and are encouraged to by their employers. For teachers, there are not nearly as many chances to network with coworkers or even meet new people in the community. It’s time for schools to provide their own networking opportunities and also provide employees the resources to seek out networking events in the local community. Send emails and post information about upcoming networking events and consider planning an event in the evening for teachers to attend in order to get to know one another batter. For newer teachers, this opportunity can be especially helpful, since it’s likely they do not know anyone working at their new school.
Encourage professional development
Much like networking, general professional development is a good way for school officials to strengthen their connections. Encourage employees to attend classes together and host your own professional development opportunities during inservice days. Getting educators to work together and with people they may not have normally collaborated with is a great opportunity.
Create a relaxing space
Many schools fail to create a welcoming space for educators to go during their planning period or for lunch. A lot of school officials eat lunch in their classrooms or offices or in a drab break room. Make the effort to revitalize your teacher’s lounge and make it a place any school employee feels comfortable relaxing in. Create a true space for employees to take breaks and connect with one another. Decorate it in a pleasing manner, make sure appliances are up-to-date and working, and consider setting out snacks. Get comfortable furniture and make it a space where people feel encouraged to talk to each other.
A few places have already implemented this technique and it seems to work well. This strategy can be used amongst any school officials, not just teachers. A principal or guidance counselor could visit a specific classroom and talk to students about what they specifically do at the school and encourage the students to talk to them. This method helps students get to know others who work at the school and also helps school employees to connect with each other. Co-teaching allows collaboration between teaching and also better manage the classroom.
Recently, it seems as though we’ve had our fair share of national tragedies. Whether it’s an intense hurricane or a horrible shooting, it’s impossible for your students to not be aware of what’s happening in the world around them. Some students are even very directly affected by these tragedies. It would be difficult to avoid mentioning these tragedies at all in the classroom and it’s important that students understand how to talk about these serious topics. Ignoring national tragedies doesn’t make them go away and can often lead to students repressing their thoughts and feelings. While it is an incredibly sensitive topic, here are some tips for educators when speaking to their students about national tragedies.
Acknowledge the event
Sometimes, students won’t know how to bring up a national event. In your role as an educator, it’s appropriate for you to acknowledge the event and see if students want to continue the discussion. If your students are very young or seem reluctant to talk about what happened, continue on with your lesson and consider approaching it at another time. However, many times students bring up the tragedy themselves, so be ready to discuss.
Gauge their thoughts
Before beginning the discussion, see how your students are feeling and what they’re thinking. You might feel a very different way from them and they could be concerned about something you haven’t even considered. Ask how they feel and what they’re concerned about and then let them talk so you have an idea of where they’re coming from.
Avoid personal politics
While it’s okay to share a general idea of your feelings, avoid getting too personal about your views on the tragedy or any extreme emotional reactions. Your students will have a variety of thoughts and feelings, so use this time to let them talk about how they feel and what their opinions are. Aggressively discussing your opinions could discourage students from speaking and it’s important to focus on them during this time.
During and after the conversation, encourage your students to share their thoughts and concerns. Let them ask questions and offer opinions and talk to one another. Then, let them know you’re there for them to speak with if they continue to feel concerned. Refer them to the school psychologist if you think it’s appropriate and would help them sort through their feelings.
Reinforce safety precautions
No matter what the tragedy was, reinforce the safety precautions in school for a similar situation. Make sure your students know what to do if there’s a school lockdown, where to go during a weather emergency, or who to contact if one of them experiences a medical emergency. Knowing what to do can make them feel safer and more comfortable. Reassure them that they are safe and measures are being taken to keep it that way. It may also be appropriate to discuss what to do outside of school if an emergency would occur.
Keep your routine
After you’ve talked to your students about the national tragedy, attempt to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Familiar tasks and routines are important for healing from the tragedy and can make moving forward easier. Also make sure you’re taking care of yourself. While your focus is your students as an educator, it’s important to get the help you need in order to sort through your thoughts and emotions.
Dr. Robert Peters of Dallas, Texas brings an outstanding record of public school administration to his role, along with a history of innovation and transformation in all aspects of leadership. Dr. Robert Peters is committed to ensuring that each student receives the highest degree of academic opportunity, from kindergarten through senior year. Dr. Robert Peters is passionate about helping students reach their full potential and achieve their goals in education and beyond. He works consistently as an educator and has his entire life, aiming to improve the educational experience in any way possible.
In public education for nearly 20 years, Dr. Robert Peters previously served as principal of a middle and elementary school in Dallas, the latter of which rose from its 317th-place ranking to 7th place in the district. A former social studies teacher in San Antonio’s Northside ISD, Dr. Peters also ran the Gifted and Talented program at Stinson Middle School, winning a Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year Award in 1996. He holds an EdD from the University of Texas at Austin (Cooperative Superintendency Program), MEd in educational administration from Our Lady of the Lake University, and BA in history and ethnic studies from Texas Tech University. He also has two children and currently resides in Dallas with his wife, Michelle.