STEM and Sustainability in the Classroom

STEM and Sustainability in the Classroom

Students today have much more awareness of the environment and their impact on it than previous generations. Many of them learned what recycling was by kindergarten, if not before, and developed a curiosity around sustainability starting at a young age. That curiosity blossoms as they learn more about the world around them, both inside and outside the classroom. As a STEAM educator, you can take advantage of this. By tying sustainability to STEAM education, you can make an important impact on the lives of your students, as well as the entire planet.

In this article, we are sharing 4 unique ways to integrate sustainability into your STEAM classroom in honor of Earth Day.

STEM & Sustainability: Let’s break it down

There is significant evidence that the 21st century workforce has fallen short when it comes to sustainability and environmental efforts. In an effort to keep up with rapidly evolving technological advancements, our society has not prioritized sustainable processes, choices, or tactics. In more recent years, industries have shifted to value and promote sustainable practices in their work. Research indicates that this theme will be of even greater importance to the younger generations, meaning that the students of today will need to be prepared to carry out the sustainable efforts of tomorrow in their work.


4 ways to promote STEM & Sustainability this Earth Day

Lucky for you, it’s easy to make simple connections between STEAM education and sustainability goals. For science education to fully embrace the challenges of the 21st century, STEAM must be integrated with sustainable efforts and practices.

Here are some unique ways to integrate sustainability into your STEAM classroom and emphasize the importance of both together.


#1 Use a recyclable STEAM Makerspace lesson

Download an environmentally-friendly STEM/STEAM Project-based Learning lesson from TinkRpedia. Our free educator-curated Makerspace lesson library features several hands-on projects that repurpose and reuse easily-accessible materials. Find projects for a variety of skill levels, too. Click here to learn more and access the lesson library.

Free Makerspace Library


#2 Measure your class’ carbon footprint

Students can use a free carbon footprint calculator (like this one or this one) to determine approximately how much carbon their lifestyle emits in a year. Once they have done that, have them record and compare their results with each other. Then, calculate the average carbon footprint of the entire class. Is it on the lower or higher side? Discuss it together!

Finally, brainstorm ways that you can all reduce your footprint as a class. Set achievable goals, and even offer rewards for those who work toward them. This offers a great opportunity for discourse and collaboration in the classroom!


#3 Encourage recycling

Learning about recycling can be so fun for students because it offers a real way for them to make an impact on their environment, no matter where they live or how old they are! First, talk about different materials that can be recycled. This varies county to county, so some prior research is important. You can even have students conduct this research themselves.

Next, create a class recycling station with spaces for different materials that need to be recycled separately. Be sure to follow the necessary procedures for recycling in your city, as there can be unique rules. For example, materials like cardboard can occasionally be recycled along with plastic and glass. Typically, it’s a requirement that plastic or glass that previously contained non-dry food items be rinsed and dried before being recycled. It is important that these items are completely dry before being mixed with cardboard, because cardboard quickly molds when it becomes wet. Moldy cardboard can ruin an entire bag of items and prevent them from being recycled. Be sure to outline the rules of recycling to your class, and have designated rinsing, drying, and disposal stations if possible.

To maximize your class’ impact, make recycling mandatory in the classroom. You could even add it to your class contract. Be sure to set an example by recycling yourself! Let students see you use the recycling station properly.


#4 Try reusable STEAM projects

One simple way you can jump on the sustainability train is to make sure that the projects your students are using for STEAM Project-based Learning are reusable. Is there a project you could use from semester to semester or year to year?

At TinkRworks, we offer a selection of projects that can be reused throughout the day or school year. Pampered Plant and LaunchPad are among the projects that are currently available for reuse, and more are in development. What an easy way to make STEAM education sustainable in your classroom!

See for yourself — try out LaunchPad with the introductory classroom package.

TinkRworks Project Pampered Plant

TinkRworks Project LaunchPad

In Conclusion

Earth Day is the perfect time to introduce sustainability in your STEAM classroom. Not only will this be a timely lesson, it is also a vital lesson for the future success of your students in the workforce. Sustainability is not going away, and it will be essential to your students’ personal and professional lives as they grow older. Set them up for success in the 21st century workforce with a strong foundation in STEAM education and an understanding of the importance of sustainable practices and processes.

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