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Introduction to Conservation
This age group can be relentless in their pursuit of a just cause! This project will encourage their families to become involved too.
Print the word conservation on a chart and ask students what they think it means. After discussion and defining the meaning (preservation, protection, safeguarding), ask students what they think should be preserved. Make a list on the chart of their ideas (energy, water, wildlife, endangered species, air quality). Then ask them how they think that they could help with any of these projects. Add their ideas to the chart.
Suggest to them that we need to think of practical things that we can do and encourage our families and friends to take part too.
Share a book dealing with conservation.
The Earth Book by Todd Parr. This book tells in simple terms the things we can all do to help with conservation.
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Water Conservation—a Project for the Whole Family
Suggest to your class that they are going to be Guardians of the Water and that this project will mean that they must help their family and friends to be involved with it too.
Share a book about water.
A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley. (There is a statement about water conservation from the president and CEO of the National Geographic Society and would be worth pointing out to your students.)
Why Should I Save Water? by Jen Green
Brainstorm with your students all the ways that they could help conserve water both at school and in their homes: turn tap off when brushing teeth, keep a jug of water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold, not filling the bath unnecessarily, etc. Ask your students to find out whether it takes more water to shower than to bath. Invite them to find out by running a bath and measuring with a ruler how deep the water is. Then ask them to take a shower—leaving the plug in—and then measuring the water. Compare.
Invite each student to make a large poster showing ways to conserve water. Encourage them to put them up around school and, with permission, around their homes to remind everyone that it is something that we can all do together.
Brainstorm with students the pollutants of water: garbage, farm pesticides, sewage, chemicals, run-offs from garages and car washes, oil spills, etc.
Provide students with large pieces of paper and ask them to fold them in half. On one side, illustrate and label the ways in which water can be polluted. On the other half, show ways that we can stop pollution, e.g., using a bucket and sponge to wash the car instead of a hose and running the water down the driveway.
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This project will help students understand the importance of insulation in our buildings to help conserve energy.
Share a book about energy conservation.
Suggestion: Why Should I Save Energy? by Jen Green
Discuss ways that everyone can help to conserve energy and make a list: lights off when leaving the room, turn the heating down at night, laundry washed in warm or cold water rather than hot, only run the dishwasher with a full load, etc.
How does insulation preserve heat? Explain to the students that to demonstrate this, we are going to use a thermos because its walls are insulated. Fill the thermos with hot water and screw on the lid. Fill a jug (approximately the same size) with hot water and leave them both in the same area of the classroom. At the end of the day, test both containers and compare the results. On large sheets of paper, invite students to illustrate the experiment, print the question "What is the difference when we have insulation?", then write their answer and tell why it is important to our world.
After a snowfall, go out into the surrounding area of the school and tally the houses with snow on their roofs and the houses with little or no snow on their roofs. Why is this? (good insulation versus very little or none)
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Students are sensitive to environmental issues because they understand that they will be affected by neglect of the environment. These conservation projects for 2nd graders will encourage them to follow through with their own ideas and actions.
Share a book about air quality.
Suggestion: Keeping the Air Clean by John D. Baines
Invite students to draw pictures and write labels showing how we can help with air quality (ride a bike or walk to school).
Collect air pollution samples. Provide each student with an index card, a stick, a small dab of petroleum jelly (Vaseline), masking tape and waxed paper. On each card, write the name of the student and where they are going to place their card. Tape the card to a stick and cover the card with the petroleum jelly. Tell the students to protect their card with waxed paper until they get to the "test" site. Choose a place to test the air quality—outside in the schoolyard, at home in the yard, inside the classroom, in the family car, etc. Unwrap the card and secure the stick. Leave for 48 hours. After the 48 hours, look at the card. What happened to it? Compare cards and locations. What did each student find out?
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Brainstorm with the students where there is a wildlife habitat that is close and that they could explore. They will probably be surprised to hear that under large stones or bricks, there is a wealth of wildlife in the form of beetles, spiders and bugs.
Share a book about wildlife habitats.
Herman by Tyler Roberson
Why Should I Protect Nature? by Jen Green
Is there an area of your schoolyard where you could set up a wildlife habitat?
Read and research about wildlife habitats.
Ask permission of the principal.
Survey the area and have the students tally any birds that they see or hear, such as insects, spiders and frogs, or any signs of wildlife, e.g., scat or feathers.
Add logs (to encourage insects to inhabit), water (half barrels or even dig holes and the rain will fill them), nesting boxes and bird feeders.
This would be an ongoing project and could be expanded as time goes on.
School gardens can also be very worthwhile conservation projects. Create a garden with a theme, e.g., a butterfly garden—lots of opportunity to research plants that will attract butterflies. A herb garden provides a project that grows quickly and could lead to interesting forays into cooking and food!
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An Environmental Checklist
Use these conservation projects for 2nd graders to initiate a greater understanding of our environment and to encourage them to "spread the word!" Suggest that they have a checklist on their refrigerator to remind the whole family about conservation: turn off the lights, close the refrigerator door, turn off the water, take quick showers, etc.
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Air Pollution project: Keller, Ellen. Ready-to-Use-Theme Units. Publisher Scholastic. 1992
Personal classroom experiences.