Our Earth is home to over six and a half billion people and millions of species of plants and animals. All living things have the same basic needs for survival; food, water, shelter and space. Earth provides all of the materials to meet our needs through natural resources. Natural resources are sources of life, materials, or energy that we are able to get naturally from the earth such as fossil fuels, wind energy, rocks, trees, or a source of power like solar energy.
Some of these natural resources, like water, plants, farm animals, and wind energy can be replaced quickly after they are used. They are replenished through natural or human processes within a short amount of time. These are renewable resources.
A nonrenewable natural resource is a resource cannot be readily replaced by natural means on a level equal to its consumption. Most fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal are considered nonrenewable resources in that their use is not sustainable because their formation takes billions of years.
The population of human beings has grown enormously in the past two centuries and continues to grow. Billions of people use up resources (both renewable and nonrenewable) quickly as they eat food, build houses, produce goods, and burn fuel for transportation and electricity. The continuation of life as we know it depends on the careful use of natural resources.
There are many ways that people can conserve natural resources. By doing small things like turning the water off when brushing your teeth, reusing items, or recycling we can help preserve the environment and keep the resources we have for generations to come.
In this set of activities, children learn that using less is a way of sharing resources.
Begin by showing children a bowl of animal crackers. Tell them that you will pass the bowl around and that everyone can take some. Before passing the bowl, talk about what would happen if the first two children took lots and lots of animal crackers? How can the group make sure there are crackers for everyone? Suggest that if everyone takes a little bit, there will be enough for all. Pass the bowl around and try it. How does it feel to share this way?
Talk to the children about why sharing is important. What are ways children can share when there is just one of something, like a ball? What are ways to share things that can get used up, like popcorn or paper or glue? (Divide it up evenly or take a little bit, leaving some for others.) One way to share is to use less so there is enough for everyone.
Invite children to be detectives looking for ways to use less in the classroom. Where might children look for clues? If they don’t think of it, point out that trash gives clues about how much we use.
Collect trash for a week! Collecting the classroom trash for a day will give your group clues about ways to use less. Make two containers: label one Yucky Trash and one Clean Trash. Have children put clean trash (like paper, cardboard, and clean containers) in the clean trash can, and “yucky” trash in the other.
After a day, use tape and a colored marker to show how full the trash cans are. Using gloves, spread the clean trash onto layers of newspaper for children to see. Spread the “yucky” trash onto another area of newspaper, or if it is too messy, have the children look at it through a clear trash bag. What different kinds of trash do children see? Make a list. Using the trash as clues, what ideas do children have for using less? Help children choose one or two ideas to try for a week. For example, instead of taking two paper towels to dry hands, try taking one. Each day, mark the trash cans using a different colored marker to show the amount of trash. After a week, have children compare the marks made at the beginning and the end of the week. Did their ideas help them use less? What other ideas for using less can they try? How does using less help people? How might using less help animals and plants?
Find this set of activities and more on using less by using Growing Up WILD’s “Less is More.”
Take a field trip to a local landfill and find out where our trash goes once it leave our houses. Visit your local recycling center to see the process of recycling and what kinds of things can be made from our recyclables. Can’t take a field trip? See if they will come to you!
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