Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - University of Illinois

Environmental Education Resources for Teachers



Environmental education covers a broad range of topics from recycling and pollution to natural resources and wildlife. Environmental education programs target all ages from preschool children to graduate students. This guide focuses on resources for teaching K-12 students about the environmental effects of pollution and waste and strategies for improving the environment. It also includes some industrial chemistry resources.

This reference guide includes links to classroom activities, background and policy information, standards, and reference sources that teachers can use to develop their own environmental education lesson plans. Because the scope of the topic is so broad, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Rather, it is designed to give you some places to start looking for resources. Information to help you continue your research at your local library is included at the end of the guide.

[General Information & Standards] [Classroom Activities] [Webquests] [Science Fair Projects] [Reference Sources] [Metasites, Publication Lists & Bibliographies] [Associations, Organizations & Professional Development] [Periodicals] [E-mail lists & Discussion Groups] [Locating More Information]

General Information & Educational Standards

General Information

Adapting Environmental Education Materials (Washington, DC : Peace Corps, 1999. Online at
Provides environmental educators with the tools to adapt existing environmental education resources to local environmental issues, cultures, and audiences.

Education for a Sustainable Future: A Resource for Curriculum Developers, Teachers, and Administrators (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada : Manitoba Education and Youth, 2000. Online at
Discusses methods for integrating sustainable development concepts into the curriculum in Manitoba, Canada. Many of the principles should be applicable to other geographic areas.

Education for Environmental Sustainability by David L. Haury (Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education, 1998. ERIC Digest 433194. Online at

Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit version 2.0
Developed by Rosalyn McKeown, this toolkit will help schools and communities develop a process for creating locally relevant and culturally appropriate education. It is based on the idea that communities and educational systems need to dovetail their sustainability efforts. Ideally, local educational systems can reorient existing curriculums to reinforce local sustainability goals.

Environmental Education: A Resource Handbook by Joe E. Heimlich (Bloomington, IN : Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 2002. ISBN: 0873678346)
Intended as a ready reference for educators - both for understanding and incorporating environmental education into classrooms, curricula, and programs and as a handbook for finding valuable resources for environmental education "across the curriculum."

Environmental Education Teacher Resource Handbook: A Practical Guide for K-12 Environmental Education by Richard J. Wilke (Thousand Oaks, CA : Corwin Press, 1997. ISBN: 080396370X)
Provides information on the historical background of environmental education curriculum and presents current, comprehensive information on useful publications, standards, and special materials for implementing a K-12 environmental education program.

Environmental Education in the Schools: Creating a Program that Works! by Judy A. Braus and David Wood (Washington, DC : Peace Corps, 1993. Online at
Outlines the process for developing and implementing an environmental education program.

Environment-Based Education: Creating High Performance Schools and Students (Washington, DC : The North American Association for Environmental Education; The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, 2000. Online at

Essential Readings in Environmental Education edited by Harold R. Hungerford, William J. Bluhm, Trudi L. Volk, and John M. Ramsey (Champaign, IL : Stipes Publishing, 2001. ISBN: 1588740706)
This book, which is in its second edition, attempts to take the reader from strong criticisms of environmental education to equally strong statements of philosophy as well as some of the research which underlies these elements. The editors and authors of invited papers hope that this book will serve as a basis for discussion and debate in both undergraduate and graduate classes.

From Classroom to Community and Beyond : Educating for a Sustainable Future : Report by the President's Council on Sustainable Development. Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force ( Washington, DC: President's Council on Sustainable Development, 1997.) [352. 357 F931.]
This report reflects the observations, findings, and recommendations made by the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force (PLTF) of the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), appointed by President Clinton.

A Guide to Curriculum Planning in Environmental Education (Madison, WI : Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1994. Available for a charge at
Provides a direction in planning a comprehensive environmental education program based on perceptual awareness, knowledge, environmental ethics, citizen action skills, and citizen action experience.

The Handbook of Environmental Education by Joy Palmer and Philip Neal (Routledge, 1994. ISBN: 0415093147)
Explains what environmental education is and how it can best be implemented at the school and classroom level. Useful for school administrators and curriculum coordinators to find advice on establishing a whole-school policy and for classroom teachers to find practical ideas for planning and assessing environmental education in the whole curriculum context.

Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions: Skill Development Program by Harold Hungerford, Ralph Litherland, R. Ben Peyton, John Ramsey, and Trudi Volk (Champaign, IL : Stipes Publishing, 1996).

Teaching about Societal Issues in Science Classrooms by Wendy Sherman McCann (Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education, 1997. ERIC Digest 432443. Online at
Discusses methods for examining the role of science in society through the study of community issues, including the effects of people on their environments.

Teaching Critical Thinking through Environmental Education by Robert W. Howe and Charles R. Warren (Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education, 1989. ERIC Digest 324193. Online at
Describes how a sound environmental education curriculum can be used to teach critical thinking skills to students.

U.S. EPA Environmental Education
Portal to U.S. EPA's environmental education information. Includes links to funding opportunities, training, publications, and other resources.

Using Environment-Based Education to Advance Learning Skills and Character Development: A Report, Annotated Bibliography, and Resource Guide (Washington, DC : The North American Association for Environmental Education; The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, 2001. Online at

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Educational Standards

Environmental Education Materials : Guidelines for Excellence (Troy, OH: North American Association for Environmental Education, c1996. Online at [372. 357 E61g.]
Provides recommendations for selecting, evaluating, and producing quality environmental education lesson plans, curricula, and other instructional materials. Workbook is available online in HTML and PDF.

Essential Learnings in Environmental Education : A Database for Building Activities and Programs (Troy, OH: North American Association for Environmental Education, 1990. List of topics online at [375.0 083 E78.]

Excellence in EE – Guidelines for Learning (K-12)
Executive summary & self-assessment tool:
Provides students, parents, educators, home schoolers, policy makers, and the public a set of common, voluntary guidelines for environmental education.

Guidelines for the Initial Preparation of Environmental Educators
Developed by the North American Association for Environmental Education, this is a set of recommended guidelines for the pre-service preparation of environmental educators.

Classroom Activities

This section includes lesson plans, activities, and curricula.

[Preschool] [K-6] [Middle School] [High School] [All Grades]


Earth Child 2000 with Teacher's Guide: Early Science for Young Children by Kathryn Sheehan & Mary Waidner (San Francisco, CA: Council Oak Books, 1997. ISBN: 1571780548)
For ages 4-8.

Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash and Donald Cook (Gryphon House, 1992. ISBN: 087659156X)
Organized by seasons, this resource book devotes large sections to various nature crafts and natural toys with which young children can celebrate the gifts of the seasons and experience the rhythms and changes of their world.

Picture Books and the Environment: Bibliography and Study Guide
Compiled by Dr. Tina L. Hanlon of Ferrum College. Annotated bibliography of fiction and nonfiction picture books with environmental themes. Very helpful for teachers of young children who want to integrate environmental materials into their classrooms.

Starting Early: Environmental Education during the Early Childhood Years by Ruth A. Wilson (Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education, 1996. ERIC Digest 402147. Online at
Emphasizes the importance of introducing environmental concepts at an early age and provides guidelines for developing an environmental education program for preschool children.

What Can I Teach My Young Child About the Environment?
Explains why environmental education should start in early childhood and describes some strategies for introducing environmental concepts to young children.

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Air, Land & Water : Activity Book and Teachers' Manual (Springfield, IL: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Public Information, 1997.) [372. 357 A298.]
Activities for 5th and 6th grades.

All "Trashed" Out : An Activity Guide to Solid Waste Management for Grades K-6 (Springfield, IL: Illinois Dept. of Energy and Natural Resources, Office of Recycling and Waste Reduction, [1992]) [ILENR RR 92/02.]
Classroom activities for students in grades K-6.

Awesome Aquifer Education Kit (Groundwater Foundation, no year given. Available for a charge from the Groundwater Foundation)
Use as a launching point to empower students with an understanding about how groundwater benefits their lives through classroom style lessons and hands-on experiments. For grades 4-5.

Case of the Broken Loop (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1998. Online at [EPA 530 K-98 002.]
Part of EPA's Planet Protectors Club, aimed at grades K-6. Materials are aimed at kids but can be integrated into classroom activities.

Closing the Loop Sampler : Five Lessons from the Curriculum on Exploring Integrated Waste Management and Resource Conservation (Sacramento, CA: California Integrated Waste Management Board Office of Integrated Environmental Education, 2000. Online at [372.357 C645.]
Compilation of 50 activities to help students discover and nurture an environmental ethic and stewardship for natural resources. The activities focus on solid waste and environmental awareness topics including landfills, recycling, packaging, resource conservation, waste prevention, worm composting, and more. The sampler contains five lessons.

Consider the Earth: Environmental Activities for Grades 4-8 by Julie M. Gates (Teacher Ideas Press, 1999. ISBN: 1563087251)
Activities cover a wide range of environmental topics including water, soil, wildlife, plants, ecosystems, weather, environmental problems, and oceans. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the topic, followed by lesson plans for activities, supplementary and alternative activities, vocabulary definitions, and discussion questions that enhance student understanding of key concepts.

Counting on People: Elementary Population and Environmental Activities by Pamela Wasserman and Anne Scullard (Washington, DC : Zero Population Growth Inc., 1994. ISBN: 0945219040)
Serves as a primer on population dynamics and environmental impacts and fosters respect for the needs of others and stresses the importance of using cooperative strategies to promote a high quality of life for all that share our planet.

Designing an Ecologically Sound City by Dianne S. Vance (Lansing, MI: Great Lakes Collaborative, [199?]. Online at [577. 071 V222d.]
Lesson plan for grades 4-6. The class is set up in cooperative learning groups of four or five students to make students aware of the need to respect their environment, and its natural resources and to apply that knowledge.

Dig In!: Hands-on Soil Investigations by NSTA Press and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NSTA Press, 2001. ISBN: 0873551893)
Twelve activities and two original stories help students learn about soil formation, habitats and land use, animals that depend on soil, plants that grow in soil, soil science, and soil conservation. For grades K-4.

Drop Swap and Roll : The Game of Reuse and Recycling (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, [1998])
[EPA 530 E-98 003.]
Board game for grades 4-6. Students must get rid of their "trash" cards by dropping off items at appropriate bins (e.g., recycling, composting, or reuse bins) stationed on the playing board. Students learn facts about waste management as they move around the board.

Earth Child 2000 with Teacher's Guide: Early Science for Young Children by Kathryn Sheehan & Mary Waidner (San Francisco, CA: Council Oak Books, 1997. ISBN: 1571780548)
For ages 4-8.

Eco-Fun: Great Projects, Experiments, and Games for a Greener Earth by David Suzuki and Kathy Vanderlinden (Douglas & McIntyre, 2001. ISBN: 1550548239)
Projects cover a range of difficulty and include a mix of scientific experiments to do at home or school. Activities include building a solar panel, making recycled paper, building a worm composter and creating a forest ecosystem in a jar. For ages 8-11.

Eco-Inquiry : A Guide to Ecological Learning Experiences for the Upper Elementary/Middle Grades by Kathleen Hogan (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1994. ISBN: 0840395841) [577. 071 H714e.]
Offers 3 modules, each with a different ecological challenge for students. The modules can stand alone or can be used in sequence at one or several grade levels. Each module contains from 7 to 10 lessons and requires from 4 to 7 weeks for completion.

Environmental Awareness Activities for Librarians and Teachers: 20 Interdisciplinary Units for Use in Grades 2-8 by Martha Seif Simpson (McFarland & Co., 1995. ISBN: 0786400641)
20 divided into three broad categories (Our Planet’s Resources, Our Planet’s Natural Habitats, and Preserving Our Planet). Each unit gives specific activities in library skills, arts and crafts, spelling and vocabulary, geography, math, music and theater arts, English composition, science, history and sociology, and other topics for discussion. Suggested resources, additional reading lists and a list of addresses to write to for further information conclude each environmental unit.

Environmental Detectives by Kevin Beals with Carolyn Willard (Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science, 2001. ISBN: 0924886234)
Provides students the opportunity to grapple with a complex, interdisciplinary scientific problem. They hear statements of various "suspects" in the crime. They study and discuss reference materials, including records, newspaper articles, charts, graphs, and even "secret documents," and integrate all of this information with their own test results. For grades 5-8.

Exploring the Environment through Children's Literature: An Integrated Approach by Carol M. Butzow (Teacher's Idea Press, 1999. ISBN: 1563086506)
Help students learn about nature and the environment through quality contemporary and classic literature. Hands-on activities span the curriculum and support environmental themes and principles. Puzzles, word searches, suggestions for computer usage, and library connections are also given in each of the 15 chapters.

Follow That Trail! (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid
Waste and Emergency Response, 1998. Online at [EPA 530 K-98 001.]
For grades K-3. Part of EPA's Planet Protectors Club.

The Great Lakes in my World : An Activities Workbook for Grades K-8 (Chicago, IL: Lake Michigan Federation, 1989. Available from the Lake Michigan Federation for $25.00.)
[372. 8977 G786.]
This 160-page manual provides information and activities that are designed to fit into regular curriculum units in the subject areas of science, social studies, math, and language arts. While some of the activities are linked, most are designed for independent use, or to be sequenced at the discretion of the teacher. Activities include role plays, board games, demonstrations, data analysis, and experiments, some of which require innovative problem solving.

Ideas for Environmental Education: In the Elementary Classroom by Kath Murdoch (Heinemann, 1994. ISBN: 0435083473)
Guide to designing and implementing environmental education at the classroom and whole-school levels. It offers teachers practical ideas to help children investigate, understand, and celebrate their local and global environments. Detailed activity plans for across all curriculum areas include unit outlines, ideas for assessment and evaluation, and a list of resources.

Junior Environmental Activities on File (New York, NY: Facts on File, 1997. ISBN: 081603208)
Reference book of activities that illustrates ecological knowledge and environmental studies. It offers step-by-step instructions to more than 90 exercises ranging from hands-on projects, worksheets, and paper-and-pencil work to outdoor activities and games. For grades 4-6.

Language Arts and Environmental Awareness: 100+ Integrated Books and Activities for Children by Patricia L. Roberts (Shoe String Press, 1998. ISBN: 0208024271)
Annotated bibliography complete with integrated home and school activities. The chapters are organized according to language-arts areas, focusing on involving children in language, listening, folk literature, reading, and speaking. Divided by age level (5-8 and 9-14), each section lists several books that foster environmental awareness along with plot summaries and related activities. The names and addresses of environmental organizations and a list of periodicals that publish children's work are included.

Let's Talk Trash : Introduction to Solid Waste Management by Therese Lloyd (Lansing, MI: Great Lakes Collaborative, [199?]. Online at
[577. 071 L793l.]
Grades 4-6. The purpose of this lesson is to increase the awareness of the elementary age student as to the need for solid waste management of the environment and to give a sense of individual and community responsibility and control over the world.

Looking at the Earth's Environment through the "Eyes" of a Satellite (Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, 2002?. Online at
Designed to stimulate student interest in research by teaching how satellite images are used to monitor the Earth's environment. Includes teacher's guide and student pages. For ages 10-14.

Municipal Solid Waste and the 3Rs Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : An Illinois Elementary School Teacher's Guide (Springfield, IL : Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, Bureau of Energy and Recycling, 2002.) [363. 7282 M9665e]
Developed using the investigation skills methodology, which helps students develop the skills to investigate, evaluate, and resolve issues. It also correlates to Illinois Learning Standards.

Our Environment by Michelle Fawson (Lansing, MI: Great Lakes Collaborative, [199?]. Online at
[577. 071 F278o.]
For grades 2-4. Students receive an overview of the world's environmental dilemmas, learn about ten endangered species and understand the conditions which led to the endangerment, identify five concrete steps which they can take to improve their environment select a project which will improve their environment and complete it.

Paint, Paint Everywhere (Champaign, IL: [Illinois Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center], 1994. Available from the ISTC Clearinghouse at no charge (publication SCH-011).)
[667.6 P1481.]
An interdisciplinary study of paint for grades 4-6 which incorporates language arts, history, mathematics, art, science, and environmental lesson plans.

Planet Protectors Club : Mission Papers from Resource Control (Washington, DC: United States Environmental Protection Agency, [2000]. Online at [EPA 530 E-00 002.]
Activities developed for grades K-6. Also links to Adventures of the Garbage Gremlin, an online comic book. Includes a link to PDF files for the comic book too.

Planet Protectors Create Less Waste in the First Place: A Story about Reuse on Earth (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1999. Available online at [EPA 530 K-99 006.]
Part of U.S. EPA's Planet Protectors Club. Activity aimed at grades K-3.

The Quest for Less--Activities and Resources for Teaching K-6
Provides hands-on lessons and activities, enrichment ideas, journal writing assignments and other educational tools and skills relating to reusing, reducing and recycling waste.

Toxics in my Home? You Bet! : Learning Activities on Household Toxics for Grades K-3 and 4-6 ( Sacramento, CA: Golden Empire Health Planning Center, 1984.) [371.3 078 T755.]
One-week school curriculum on chemical hazards in the home for grades 7-8. Offers step-by-step teaching instructions and masters for student worksheets/handouts. Innovative and activity oriented. Discusses safe use, disposal, and safer substitutes for common household products containing toxic substances. Also has modules for grades 7-8 and 9-12.

Trash and Climate Change : Planet Protectors Discover the Hidden Reasons to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 2000. Online at [EPA 530 K-00 001.]
Designed to educate children about the effects of product reuse and recycling on global climate change. Through a series of word games, the publication describes how children can prevent climate change by reducing solid waste.

Understanding Garbage and our Environment by Andrea J. Nolan (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, c1999. ISBN: 0070647607) [628.44 N787u.]
Includes activities and research on such subjects as recycling, waste-related illness, source reduction, and more. Includes eight lessons and 20 hands-on investigations in this book incorporating cross-curricular extensions, safety tips, and resources for further st

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