In the spring, kids (and adults) are often anxious to get outside when the weather has finally cleared, and are ready for a change of pace. Earth Day (April 22nd) can be the perfect day to capitalize on that, and do a different, but interdisciplinary lesson that students will remember.
Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking:
Build a Solar Oven from a Pizza Box and make S’mores
A link is included to a video that shows you specific instructions. There are many other websites and sets of directions as well. This can easily tie into to science lessons on heat, sun’s path, properties of materials the reflect and absorb heat, measuring temperature, etc. For Social Studies, it can easily connect to lessons about historical cooking methods, or methods used in other countries that don’t have ready electricity. English can use lessons on writing and reading procedural directions, descriptive language etc. Math, depends on the level of your students, temperatures, rate of change, angles, calculations of area. Get everyone on board and make it a school-wide event.
On a similar note, cook something with a wonderbag (or maybe compare the two). It is based not on capturing energy from the Sun, but on being highly efficient and storing energy. Wonderbag is a brand name, but it is actually a very old concept, known as a wonderbox, or wonder oven.
Again, this is science applications at work, and is a great tie in to other subject areas (undeveloped countries, economics, the business model being used, etc).
If you want to make your own, I have done it, there are many tutorials on the web for wonderboxes. The simplest (which I did), is to take a cooler, and pack it full of old blankets/towels, with your pot in the middle.
It might be a fun experiment to try different insulation materials, and measure the temperature (or test the food).
Plant Bulbs in the School Yard
A few years ago my school did a school grounds beautification day. The students painted rocks to go in the school yard. We cleaned up and picked up trash, and then they planted bulbs. Many students had never done this before, and it was a learning experience. Which way do the bulbs go? How do they grow? How many do we need? How close can they go? How do we make a straight edge for a border? Again, measuring, writing, science, agriculture, soil erosion?
We often get so stuck on curriculum and pacing that we miss the opportunity to do something really memorable and useful. Take advantage of the excuse that Earth Day provides to make it a memorable and educational day for your students, and yourself.
Tara, Science in the City: .Science in the City teaches 7-12 science in upstate NY, and is enjoying sharing ideas with you.