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MEEA helps educators inspire Missourians to care about, understand and act for their environment.

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New! Missouri Green Schools Program

Earth Quest: A game of Environmental Literacy

earth quest gameboard

Environmental Quizzes

K-2 biodiversity quiz

Coloring Sheets

channel catfish coloring sheet

Green Holidays Calendar

EE Themes by Grade

Early Elementary | Upper Elementary | Middle School | High School

Early Elementary: 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.

Upper Elementary: 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.


Middle School: Humans and Environment - Deepen the understanding of nature and of how humans depend on and impact natural systems.  Make connections to places locally to globally.  Connect with the social studies teachers if possible to explore ways citizens can make and change policy. 

Sixth Grade " Food"  - Understand how photosynthesis transforms sunlight to food, what it requires and what the end products are. Distinguish between biotic and abiotic factors in the environment, understand how they affect living organisms. Understand how competition between species can affect their populations.  Describe aquatic and terrestrial food webs.  Explore human food webs, local and global, and their dependence on natural food webs.  Understand how abiotic factors like soil quality can impact plant growth and agriculture, and thereby human welfare.  Understand the difference between fresh and salt water and how much there is of each and where each is located on the planet.  Explore human impacts on soils and water and make predictions about how these impacts could affect agriculture in the future at a local, state, national and global level.

Seventh Grade " Energy"  - Understand how atmosphere, weather and climate interact to provide particular weather in a particular place.  Understand how the water cycle transfers heat around the globe and is affected by the amount of heat on the planet, and how the atmospheric composition affects heat.  Classify renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, find out where they are located and what the rate of use or disappearance is. Predict what will happen to the resources at current rates of use, and how society might be affected. Understand how each energy source has different end products or impacts. Understand how the water cycle works and affects the distribution, abundance and quality of water available in different parts of the state and the planet.

Eighth Grade "Health"  - Develop understand of the human body as a system that transforms and distributes nutrients from plants and animals, and which responds to environmental changes.  Understand the causes of diseases, differentiating between infectious and noninfectious and investigating proximate and ultimate causes. Explore patterns of disease incidence in relation to biotic, abiotic and human factors. Understand differences between rocks and minerals, how they are distributed and how they are used. Describe and use Oxygen and Carbon cycles to address questions about the environment.

Field Trips - You must have one or more specific objectives - data that can be collected and analyzed as a result of the trip e.g. water quality measurements that will answer a question of interest.  Prepare by teaching procedures in class before hand, preparing data tables, explaining about natural hazards (and how to avoid or deal with them).  Practice in teams before going out to ensure good working relationships.  Go on the trip, collect data or information, come back to school and analyze and write up the data, prepare posters or presentations, and help students evaluate quality of evidence.  Consider waste water treatment plants, drinking water plants and wells, landfills, power plants, alternative energy projects, different kinds of farms, even grocery stores - but always have a question of interest that can only be answered by going to the place.


High School: Issue Investigation - Focus on development of the Inquiry  and Science, Technology and Human Activity Strands using environmental issues and problems to develop mastery of basic concepts, fluency with inquiry and leadership in social contexts.   There is an excellent opportunity for team teaching - pulling in math, social studies, communication to address discovery and characterization of a problem, analysis of its proximate and ultimate causes; development of a workable solution and promotion of the solution within society.

Inquiry Skills

  • Recognize it is not always possible for practical or ethical reasons to control some experimental conditions
  • Acknowledge some explanations cannot be tested using standard experimental methods
  • Recognize observation is biased by experience and culture
  • Identify the effects of errors
  • Understand the importance of public presentation of scientific work

Science, Technology and Human Activity Skills

  • Drawbacks of technology (how science can cause a new problem while solving an old one)
  • Roles of science and society in determining research questions, answers, acceptable solutions
  • Validity of models as alternatives where direct experiments are unethical (or impossible - no replicate earths)
  • Evaluate sources for scientific credibility

Environmental Issues to Explore (Local issues - if they don't open a can of worms - are best). Pesticides (DDT to Atrazine); Ozone Hole; Global Warming; Environmental Justice (siting of waste transfer stations, hazardous waste sites, nuclear power plants, etc); Ground and Surface Water Pollution; Air Pollution (ozone, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter); Bioaccumulation/ Biomagnification (chlorinated hydrocarbons, heavy metals); Overfishing; Invasive Species; Endangered Species; Embedded Energy (energy and resources required to make objects); Urban Sprawl (traffic congestion, fuel use, air pollution, water pollution); Selection for Antibiotic and Herbicide Resistance; Peak Oil and Alternative Fuels (like ethanol), Water Scarcity

Social Aspects to Keep in Mind