What Would Make Our School More “Green”?

By Kelly O'Brien, December 5, 2009

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

300 minutes for classroom activities


This lesson is a catalyst to make students more aware of how to care for their environment, school, and world. The lesson asks students to survey their school for what they can do to make their school more environmentally friendly.  The lesson helps support data collection and analysis standards.  By collecting realworld data, students are more engaged in finding the most appropriate way to explain their data and to analyze what the data tells them.

The students will engage in the eight steps of the design process.  They will be taken through the thinking process for each step in order to develop a design to make the school greener. To further engage them, students should present their designs to a variety of school stakeholders: Students, Administration, Custodial Staff, and Cafeteria Employees.

The design process will help the students through this investigation by setting parameters for the students to follow as they ask the students and staff the way they best see making our school “Green.”   This lesson takes what the students normally have to do in math -- data collection and analysis -- and gives it a more realworld purpose.  Not only will they collect and present data, but they will then get to present solutions for the school’s needs with sound data to back up their plans for improvement.

National Standards


Students will be able to:
  • develop a survey
  • organize data collected
  • present their findings through tables or graphs
  • understand the design process and effective problem solving


Google.com – Search for examples of green schools and how to make schools greener.


  • lined or graph paper
  • clipboards
  • markers
  • chart paper
  • construction paper
  • computer


  • bar graph: a graphic means of quantitative comparison by rectangles with lengths proportional to the measure of the data or things being compared — called also bar chart
  • circle graph: a circular chart cut by radii into segments illustrating relative magnitudes or frequencies — called also circle graph
  • data: factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation
  • line graph: a graph in which points representing values of a variable for suitable values of an independent variable are connected by a broken line
  • survey: to examine as to condition, situation, or value; to query (someone) in order to collect data for the analysis of some aspect of a group or area


1. Find an article, on google.com or another school database, about schools going green.  (Note: I found multiple articles on ebsco if your school has a subscription.)  Use this article to introduce the idea that students have the right to move a school forward, and asking them to think “Green.”

2. Chart students’ ideas about how the school is not “Green.”

3. Begin the Design Process:

a) REVIEW THE CHALLENGE – Find a way for the school to go “Green.”  Tell the students that they will be presenting a proposal to school staff regarding their ideas to make their school greener.

b) INVESTIGATE THE PROBLEM – Students spend one day observing the school through breakfast and lunch to view waste and opportunities to improve the current waste level. Then the students, working in groups of four to six, create a survey to ask other students and staff their feelings on the school’s “green” efforts.  They then gather data and represent it in graph form.  They should also find other ways to present the information they’ve collected through their observations and interviews.

c) RAME/REFRAME THE PROBLEM – Give a mini-lesson on the 3Rs: Reexamine, Rethink, and Redefine. Have the students discuss in their groups what they think the problem is and have them review the data they collected.  Circulate through the groups to make sure they are still discussing the problems, not ways to solve issues they see.  Help the students narrow down their problem.  For example, “Kids are not recycling,” needs to be narrowed to “There are no recycling cans in which students can put their recyclables on campus.”  Meet with each small group in order to focus their thoughts.  They are to then write the problem they see on a chart paper and create a graph that shows the statistics they collected and used to arrive at the problem.

d) GENERATE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS – Small groups meet to discuss solutions to the problem they identified.  This is a brainstorming session so anything is a good idea.  Ideas can be charted on a group chart.  Give this step a time limit, about twenty minutes. Then have the students share their ideas and have the rest of the class help them practice the 3Rs, as they question and discuss each others’ ideas.

e) EDIT/DEVELOP IDEAS – Have the students meet again in their small group to discuss their group’s ideas and the ideas of others in the class.  Have them review the data they collected and review the challenge again.  Students then develop a solution for a greener school.  They are to chart their solution and examples of why their solution can work.

f) SHARE/EVALUATE THE PROCESS & IDEAS – Partner groups up so that they can present to each other their thinking.  Have the students question each other’s presentations and offer advice as to ways of making their groups’ projects stronger.

g) FINALIZE THE SOLUTION – Groups are to finalize their solution by presenting their ideas on a three-sided presentation board.  On the board they will include their problem as a title, the graph they developed, any other information they collected through their investigation, their solution and the use of visual supports, such as clipart.  They are to plan an oral presentation in which each member takes a turn to speak to the audience.  In their presentation they should explain their thinking at each step of the design process and how that helped them arrive at the solution for the problem they found.

h) ARTICULATE THE SOLUTION AND PROCESS – Students should present to school site staff their ideas to make the school greener.  They are to include in their presentations  how and why their solution will help the school be greener.


To determine if the students successfully learned the objectives I will assess the development of the survey questions, and how the group chose to organize the data collected.  The accuracy of their findings will be assessed through the tables or graphs presented.

During their presentation each student will be assessed on how he or she explains his or her work through the design process at each step that led them to their solution.

A self-reflection writing sample from each student will also help to see what the student believes he or she learned, as well as what each student believes was successful about his or her work on the project and what wasn’t successful.

Enrichment Extension Activities

To further the learning the class will design a pamphlet in order to educate the school on how to be greener.  Students will use what they developed in their presentations to create their own part of the pamphlet.  Again, using the design process, students would go through each step leading to a presentation to the administration, students, custodians, and cafeteria workers.
  1. Great use of science and math. I like the data collection and observation. Also the way students take the lead.

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