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Earth Quest: A game of Environmental Literacy

Earth Quest

Environmental Quizzes

High School Health Quiz Image

Coloring Sheets

Channel Catfish

Green Holidays Calendar


Planted in Nature Image

Elementary School Resources







Themes for Elementary Grades

Kindergarten to 2nd Grade 3rd to 5th Grade



Goal for K-2: Attachment to Nature – Kids comfortable in the out of doors, familiar with plants and animals, interested in learning about nature, and concerned about nature.  It fosters a sense of belonging, purpose and curiosity.

Kindergarten  "A Sense of Place"   Who or What, Where and When
Have children map the schoolyard, neighborhood, yards and/or local parks and draw or write the names of objects and organisms where they find them.  See if things change over time, morning to afternoon, and season to season. Identify and compare rocks, flowers, birds, leaves, trees, insects, acorns/seeds and other natural objects using the 4 senses (bird song, bark texture, flower smell, butterfly color), magnifiers, and non-standard rulers.

First Grade "Problem Solvers"  Needs and Solutions
Draw and describe plants and animals and their structures in the schoolyard, neighborhood, yards and/or parks.  Follow them over time to see how they change with seasons (blooming, setting seed, changing color, going away). Discover plant and animal needs (food, water, shelter).  Plant seeds and see how they change. Draw and describe the structures they use to meet those needs, leaves for sunlight, roots for water in plants, different ways of getting around and different eyes, ears, mouths and noses for finding food in animals. Figure out how animals use teeth and limbs as tools to open nuts, dig roots, peel fruit.  Try making tools that mimic what animal structures do. Draw and describe how plants and animals deal with weather.  Ask questions, investigate using senses and tools, measure, record, compare, predict, communicate

Second Grade "Change Over Time"  Cycles and Development
Describe and illustrate animal life cycles. Focus on local species and look for signs of their life stages in the outdoors.  If starlings and houseflies are all you have in the neighborhood, then use them and supplement with books and field trips (if possible).  Grow sow bugs and mealworms.  Collect plants at different times of year to see how stages correlate with weather.  Set up a compost bin (worm bin inside if you can) to investigate decay and add things to see what happens to them. Change the conditions (moisture, shade) to speed things up or slow things down. Investigate layers in a forest and separate last year's leaves from this year’s.  Listen for bird, frog and cricket sounds and try to reproduce them.  Ask questions, investigate using senses and tools, measure, record, compare, predict, communicate.

Useful Resources

Wild Spaces - Ideally a garden or outdoor classroom. Aim for diversity instead of neatness.  You want a place where the bugs are happy, and your students can dig and pick flowers without being scolded. Alternatives: scout the area for a park  or green space (even a cemetery) within walking distance, make a wild space on your windowsill, and have your students scout their backyards.



Goal for 3-5: Understanding Nature - enlarge and deepen the understanding of how plants and animals depend on and interact with each other and their environment with a growing awareness of human dependencies, interactions and impacts.  Explore the natural history of your city, town or county to see how the web of natural linkages expands and interacts with human linkages.

Third Grade "Connections"  Where does stuff come from, where does it go?   -  Where do plants grow so that their requirements are met? How do their organs function - are leaves and stems and roots different in different places, how does that relate to their function and the amount of light, water and nutrients in a particular place? What is the plant's life cycle - when does it flower, set seed and shed its seeds? How do the seeds make their way to a new spot?  How do water and nutrients get into the plant - where does the water come from, the nutrients? What is the role of the sun in meeting plants' needs?  What needs plants - who is eating them and what parts are they eating? What happens to them? What happens to the water and nutrients in their bodies if they are eaten (food web). What kinds of soils and rocks are in your area - which plants can grow on them, how did they get there?  What are the different kinds of bodies of water in your area? Ask questions about the local environment, conduct fair tests, use senses, tools, data, scientific principles, technology, communication and problem solving.

Fourth Grade " Communities"  -  What are the ways that species can interact? Start with relationships in your area and then compare and contrast with the species interactions in other areas - what are similarities in form and function and numbers of producers, consumers (herbivores, carnivores, decomposers)?  How are plants and animals adapted to the interactions, what are their structures and behaviors and how are behaviors cued?  What role do humans play, what effect do they have on other organisms in their communities? What are the local land forms, what processes caused them, how do organisms, including humans change the rate at which these processes occur? Ask questions about the local environment, conduct fair tests, use senses, tools, data, scientific principles, technology, communication and problem solving.

Fifth Grade "Animals"  -  What are the differences between vertebrates and invertebrates, and between the different classes of vertebratesUse keys to find out which vertebrates live in your area and how they are the same and different from vertebrates in other areas.  What are the different organ systems of vertebrates, how are organs of producers, herbivores and carnivores different, how are they the same? What is the water cycle, why is it important?  What are the forms that water takes, what form does it take locally? What are the  major bodies of water in your area, where does the water in your area come from and how is it used by  plants, animals and humans? How do human uses affect what is available for other organisms?  What is the local weather like, how does it compare to other areas? How does this affect the organisms and the water? Ask questions about the  local environment, conduct fair tests, use senses, tools, data, scientific principles, technology, communication and problem solving.

Research on EE for Schools

Most of environmental education research is devoted to the effectiveness of different strategies on changing environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. However the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Source Reduction and Recycling Board commissioned a study in 2006 to review the literature on the impact of environmentally-related education on academic achievement (Norman et al. 2006). 

The researchers reviewed 24 original research studies, including theses and dissertations.  They categorized papers based on two relevance criteria: 1) changes in academic achievement measured by widely-used standardized tests in core curriculum areas: writing, reading, math, science or social studies; and 2) programs delivered as part of a K-12 program.

Studies were also categorized based on whether they met five research quality criteria: 1) a randomized or other technique to avoid group bias; 2) peer review with a description of intervention and participants; 3) at least 300 students or 50 classrooms/schools; 4) valid outcome measures (standardized tests); and 5) statistical tests on significance of impact.

Eight of the reviewed studies met all the criteria. Of these, seven showed positive outcomes for students who received environmental education (2 in writing/language arts, 2 in reading, 3 in math). One study showed no impact (science) and one showed a slight negative impact (reading). (results do not sum because some studies covered more than one subject). 

Twelve studies met some but not all of the criteria. Of these, eleven showed positive outcomes for students who received environmental education (2 in writing/language arts, 1 in reading, 3 in math, 3 in science and 2 in social studies). One study showed a negative impact (math).

While not as definitive, the remaining studies found improvements in attendance, behavior, retention, increased enthusiasm for learning, greater pride of ownership, increased interest in reading and "greater volumes of higher quality writing".

The study summary included these findings --

and these recommendations --

Norman, N., A. Jennings, L. Wahl.  2006. The impact of environmentally related education on academic achievement. Community Resources for Science. accessed: September 20, 2011

(Note - the study included both elementary and upper grades)