Youth Environmental Program Lesson Plans


In an effort to assist teachers, as well as informal educators, in the STEM fields, the Youth Environmental Program has developed a series of environmental education lesson plans. These plans are designed for elementary-age students and are easy to follow for teachers, Scout and 4-H leaders and home school instructors. They focus on real-world issues such as pollution, waste reduction and natural resource preservation.

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Lesson Plans and Worksheets

How Waste Affects Our Resources

Graphic depicting waste lifecycle
Image Attribution: Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

This exercise allows students to investigate sources of different objects in and around the classroom and learn about natural resources.

  • Grade Level: Upper Elementary
  • Duration: 30 to 55 Minutes​
  • Group Size: Any
  • Setting: Indoor or Outdoor
  • Vocabulary: Natural Resources, Renewable, Nonrenewable, Sustainable, Fossil Fuels

The 4 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rebuy

The circular triangle recycling logo

This exercise allows students to become stewards of the environment and learn to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills.

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Duration: 30 to 45 Minutes
  • Group Size: Any
  • Setting: Indoor or Outdoor
  • Vocabulary: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Trash, Landfill, Environment

How Long Does It Last?

Tens of plastic totes full of of old and rusting metal aerosol cans near a landfill.
Image Attribution: US Army Corps of Engineers

This exercise teaches students about the process of decomposition, to recognize the length of time that different compounds take to decompose, and to understand why it is important to reduce landfill waste and make their communities cleaner.

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Duration: 45 to 60 Minutes
  • Group Size: Any
  • Setting: Indoor or Outdoor
  • Vocabulary: Environment, Decompose, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Landfill, Leachate, Methane, Greenhouse Gases, Toxins

Electronic Waste and Recycling

Stacks of old computer hardware classified as e-waste

This exercise teaches students what electronic waste is, how it can impact the environment, and practices to reduce the amount of electronics entering the waste stream.

  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Duration: 35 to 45 Minutes
  • Group Size: Any
  • Setting: Indoor or Outdoor
  • Vocabulary: E-waste, Recycling, Pollution, Landfill, Natural Resources