Earth Day Science Unit | Preserving Nature’s Resources

In this unit, kids will be able to investigate the dangers that threaten our environment and discover ways to preserve Earth’s natural resources. The unit is organized in team projects, but can be easily adapted as four distinct inquiries. It’s completely up to you.

Science Standards

  • Inquiry Process
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Process Skills

  • Observing, Experimenting, Using Numbers and Measuring, Predicting and Formulating Hypotheses, Interpreting Data, Inferring, Communicating


Do you recycle? Do you know what causes acid rain? Do you know why some animals and plants are endangered? In this unit you will complete some great scientific investigations that will show how much you care about earth. You can help others learn what they can do to protect the earth’s precious resources. What you help preserve today will be around for others to enjoy tomorrow!

Learning Cycle Procedures

1. Exploration: Earth Day Webquest

Children can begin by completing this webquest in order to learn important facts about the dangers that threaten the environment.


2. Inquiry and Acquisition: Taking Notice – More Power in your Kid Corner

Children should keep track of how your community is doing when it comes to pollution: garbage, exhaust, etc. Take detailed notes in enviro-journals and mail the results to a favorite newspaper.

Tip: Invite outreach speakers from local colleges and universities to come speak about easy ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Don’t forget to review lab safety and inquiry process skills before beginning stage 3 of the scientific learning cycle.

3. Discovery and Application

Children split into 4 teams and complete the following inquiries separately.

Team 1: Paper Making

Materials: newspaper, scissors, bowl and cup with water, fork and teaspoon, laundry starch, plastic screen and plastic wrap, rolling pin

Focus Question: How can paper be recycled? 

  1. Form a hypothesis to the focus question.
  2. Cut a page of newspaper into tiny pieces.
  3. Put the pieces in the bowl. Add the water in the cup. Let the bowl sit for 1 hour.
  4. Use the fork to mix the water and paper into mush. Add 2 teaspoons of starch. Stir.
  5. Lay the plastic screen on a stack of newspapers. Spread the mush evenly on the screen. Cover it with plastic wrap. Roll the rolling pin on the wrap.
  6. Remove the plastic wrap and let the mush dry for 1 or 2 days. Then peel the recycled paper off the screen.
  7. Collect Data: Compare your recycled paper to newspaper. Record their properties.
  8. Explain your results and interpret your data in order to form a conclusion. Be sure to explain what natural resource was conserved by recycling paper.
  9. Example question for reflection: How could you modify the process of making recycled paper to create colored paper?

Team 2: Testing the Air

Materials: stiff cardboard, scissors, ruler, hole punch, string, petroleum jelly, magnifying glass, rubber bands

Focus Question: How clean is the air around our classroom?

With 2 simple tests, you can check the air for common pollutants:

Test 1: Measure the dust, dirt, soot, and other floating materials in the air.

  1. Cut 2 pieces of stiff cardboard into a 4-inch square. Punch a hole on one corner of one piece and put a string through it for hanging.
  2. Coat both sides with petroleum jelly and hang the cardboard under the roof of the classroom building.
  3. Coat one side of the second piece of cardboard and lay it flat in the shade. Leave both pieces in place for a day.
  4. Examine both cardboard squares with a magnifying glass and see if you can count the number of small particles sticking to them. Which has more particles: the cardboard that was lying flat or the one hanging?

Test 2: Test the invisible gaseous pollutants in the air.

  1. Stretch 3 or 4 rubber bands over a piece of cardboard. Lay them in a shady place. Check the rubber bands each day. The faster they become brittle, the more pollutants there are in the air.
  2. Organize your data, interpret, and form a conclusion to the focus question.

Team 3: Rot Not?

Materials: apple wedges, and various other food substances such as gum and banana peels, aluminum foil, glass bowl, clear plastic wrap

Focus Question: Which things break down and which remain?

  1. Place the food items and foil into a glass bowl. Cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap, and place it in a sunny window.
  2. Check the bowl once a day for 2 weeks. Does the apple change? The foil? The other variables?
  3. Interpret your data to form a conclusion about the focus question.

Team 4: Costly Leaks: It may be a drop in the bucket, but it certainly adds up.

Materials: faucet, dishpan, clock or watch, measuring cup, pencil and paper

Focus Question: How much water is wasted in one day by a leaky faucet? How much money would the leaking faucet cost your family after a year?

  1. Simulate a leaky faucet so it produces a very slow drip. Place a dishpan and collect the water fro the dripping faucet for 30-minutes.
  2. Then, pour the water into a measuring cup to see how much water was collected. Write this number down; this is the amount of water wasted in 30 minutes.
  3. Multiply the amount of water wasted in 30 minutes by 2 to find the amount of water wasted in an hour.
  4. Multiply this number by 24 to find the amount wasted in a day. Multiply this number by 7 to find the amount of water wasted in a week.
  5. Multiply this number by 52 to find the amount of water wasted in a year.
  6. Assuming that a gallon of water costs your family 5 cents, how much would the leaking faucet cost your family after a year?
  7. Interpret your data and form a conclusion in sentence form to answer the focus question.


Tip: After the inquiries children create a tri-fold and presentation to illustrate their focus question, hypothesis, materials and models, data, conclusions, and reflections.

Assessment, Homework and Enrichment

Assessment: Speak Your Mind

Are you concerned about stray animals? Air pollution the destruction of the rain forest? Write a letter to your government officials, a local newspaper, or the president of the United States to voice your opinion about something in nature that you really care about. You must propose a solution, resource, or product to a specific environmental need. Two peer evaluations of the letter and proposal must also be submitted.

Weekend Assignment: Operation Neighborhood: When you help, others catch the fever.

Organize a neighborhood or campus cleanup. Ask your friends, neighbors, and local clubs to help. Write a one-page reflection in your enviro-journal. Include pictures if possible.


Enrichment: Nature Newsletter

Document class activities, local outdoor observations, key facts about protecting Earth’s natural resources, and environment challenges.

Tip: To celebrate the end of the unit, set up a booth at the local earth day fair documenting your children’s projects.


Investigations adapted from 1001 Ways to Explore Science and Nature by Peter Rillero, Phd.

Photo from Don Mensendick Elementary School of Team 2’s Project taken by Amanda Kenuam

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