,PillarPathwayPrincipleProject IdeasResource Links
Green Schools Components: Educational Programs, Organizational Culture, Physical PlaceMetric Description
Environmental Impact
Health & Wellness
Sustainability Literacy
Physical Place
Educational Programming
Organizational Culture
Importance of Place
Respect for Limits
Systems Thinking
Social Justice
Global Citizenship
This project idea list is meant to assist participants of the Green Schools Quest and Missouri Green Schools programs in the potential selection of projects that may be implemented. Projects are categorized by START (Sustainability Tracking and Roadmap Tool) metrics. Schools may choose to combine more than one project idea to fully build out a more comprehensive six-month-long project. Climate Action project ideas for 2022-23 Green Schools Quest are highlighted below.
*This idea list will be updated throughout the year.
1EventsOrganizing and hosting sustainability-related events, with students as the intended audience.xxxxxSet-up a fundraising event with proceeds going to a green fund to buy a compost bin, a solar panel, etc.
xxxxxAdd a health and wellness component to a school event (such as a STEM night) or create a new health and wellness family event. Hold a wellness week at your school with activities each day that promote different health and wellness practices.
xxxxxxxxPlan and host an environmental fair or Earth Day assembly.
xxxxxAdd a sustainability focus to a science fair.
xxxxxxxHost an Environmental Justice workshop.
(there was a Duke University guide to this in the EJ packet, but it's been deleted from their website)
xxxxxxOrganize a neighborhood, park, or river/creek clean-up day.
xxxxxConduct a BioBlitz. Use the iNaturalist app to identify local species and share your findings with the scientific community.iNaturalist
xxxxxPlan and hold a Garden-to-Table lunch, using locally grown foods or foods grown on-site.
xxxxxxxHost an event to review and celebrate your school's sustainability accomplishments.
xxxxxxxxxHost a career or service learning fair which introduces students to green careers and highlights opportunities for students to contribute to their communities.
xxxxxOrganize a speakers series through which students can learn from and connect with professionals working in sustainability-related fields.
xxxxxxxxHost a screening of a movie related to improving human and environmental health which underscores multiple sustainability principles: Importance of Place, Interconnectedness, Respect for Limits, Systems Thinking, Cycles, Social Justice, Global Citizenship.
2Outdoor ProgramsEncouraging students to connect with their natural surroundings through outdoor activities.xxxxxxxxStart an outdoor adventure education program at your school or partner with another school or organization who can work with you to provide outdoor adventure opportunities for your students.
xxxxxxStart or join a Stream Team: Adopt a stream, receive training/resources to better understand our stream systems as well as the problems and opportunities they face, and engage students in hands-on projects such as litter control, streambank stabilization, streamside tree planting, water quality monitoring, and storm drain stenciling to improve our streams.
xxxxxxObserve seasonal or cyclical changes in the natural environment (plants, animals, ecosystems, moon/planets.) Create a phenology wheel or journal to document your observations.
xxxxxIdentify the plant and animal species within a defined space, such as within a square foot of land or at various distances from the water's edge of a pond/creek.
xxxxxxInvestigate pollinators and their importance. Seek out solutions and engage students in exploring and implementing ways to support pollinator health.Documentaries: The Pollinators, Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?Go through this native bee identification sheet from the St. Louis Zoo.Check out these resources for creating your own bee sanctuary. Consider building a mason bee home.
xxxxxxxxxConduct a tree-planting and/or tree identification activity, and discuss how each tree planted can have positive effects not only on the environment, but also on human wellbeing. Look up the Tree Equity Score for your area and exlplore tree cover through a social justice lens.Teaching with i-Tree
xxxxxxHave students audit the amount of time they spend outdoors and create plans to increase that time. Is there enough green space at school? An interesting outdoor playspace?
xxxxCreate a nature scavenger hunt. Encourage students to go outside to locate and learn about local plants and wildlife while engaging in physical activity.
xxxxxxCreate a Student Outdoor Committee to help create a nature-positive culture at your school. Decorate the board in a way that excites students about being out in nature, with clear title – e.g. “Exciting Outdoor Opportunities”. Consider using the school’s social media, online newspaper or website to inform the school community of outdoor opportunities.
Identify nearby parks and trails and help students build relationships with these spaces.
xxxxxPractice geographic thinking and inquiry using National Geographic's "Getting Started with Google Earth."
xxxxxCreate a Place-Based Landscape Analysis of your town. Consider the physical, cultural, and ecological landscapes. Use journaling and discussion to explore its impact on their lives.
Place-based Landscape Analysis and Community Engagement (PLACE)
Tips and Techniques for Reading the Landscape
3Student GroupsBuilding student engagement in environmental and/or sustainability activities.xxxxxxxxCreate an Energy Monitoring Team or Waste Ambassador Team to advocate for students and staff to reduce energy usage or properly divert waste to recycling/compost.
xxxxxForm a student-led green team, club, or leadership council to focus on improving the health of both people and the planet. The group should meet regularly and set and work towards collective goals. Actvities may include healthy movement (such as a running, yoga or dance), raising environmental awareness (such as an environmental book club), lowering the school's environmental impact (such as energy/water/waste audits, recycling or no idling campaigns), etc.
xxxxxxEngage a group of students in a student-driven sustainability challenge such as the Green Schools Quest, Green Cup Challenge, NWF Eco-Schools, EcoChallenge, CEFPI SchoolsNEXT Design competition, Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge, etc.
Participate in CEFPI SchoolsNEXT Design competition. The international annual competition, open to middle school and high school students, challenges student teams to design their learning environments to enhance learning, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community. The multi-disciplinary solution requires students to follow a planning process from the concept phase to completion of the project, with thorough documentation. The students will present their project to a jury for review.
xxxxxxUtilize a tool like "Activating My Democracy!" to spread awareness to students about the court system and students' rights and connect these ideas to environmental justice.
4Student OrientationEducating students about campus sustainability during orientation, introducing them to practices in place at the school (recycling, energy conservation, sustainability-related clubs, etc.)xxxxxxxIntegrate sustainability practices into "Back to School" communications such as newsletters, supply lists, and welcome letters - and encourage participation. Example practices may include: bring a refillable waterbottle, how to pack a zero-waste lunch, safe routes to school for walking/biking, no idling zones, wellness best practices, fostering an inclusive environment, opportunites for families with low incomes to access school supplies and healthy foods, etc.
xxxxCompile a class bibliography about sustainability. Include podcasts, books or resources. Share with all students at the beginning of each year and invite them to contribute.
xxxxxxPost clear and consistant signage throughout the school which educates students about campus sustainability practices. Include mention of the signage and practices during orientation events.
5Course Development TrainingEducating and incentivizing teachers to integrate sustainability into their curriculum.xxxxLearn about "place-based education" - what it is and why it matters.What is Placed Based Education and Why Does it Matter?The Benefits of Place-Based Education: A Report From the Place-Based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC)
xxxxxxxIntegrate systems thinking into lessons.
xxxxxxxxxUse the Rainbow of Sustainability Framework as a tool to integrate sustainability principles into your existing curriculum.
xxxxxxParticipate in conferences focused on integrating sustainability into curriculum, such as the Sustainability Institute for Educators (held in St. Louis each June), Missouri Environmental Education Association (MEEA) Annual Conference, Green Schools Conference & Expo, and NAAEE Conference.
xxxxxIntroduce teachers and school staff to resources about and lessons on climate change.
xxxxView and share this short webinar on how to effectively communicate with students about climate change: Climate Change CommunicationMEEA Climate Change Communication
xxxxxxxWatch recordings from the Midwest Climate Summit (Fall 2020) and learn about the Midwest and its unique potential to help solve climate change and how to communicate with students about climate change.Midwest Climate Summit (Fall 2020) Session Recordings
xxxxxxxxxExplore and utilize quality sustainability-related lesson plans via online resources such as USGBC Center for Green Schools' Learning Lab, EcoRise Freemium Lessons, the MEEA Lesson Database, Population Education, National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy Interactive Nature-Based Lessons, Project Learning Tree, etc. Many include a detailed lesson plan as well as additional resources such as student worksheets, presentations, and assessment checklists and rubrics.EcoRise Freemium lessons are stand-alone lessons from each of their five curriculum suites, including Sustainable Intelligence, Design Studio, Business of Social Good, LEED Prep, and Biomimicry and Science.
A Teacher’s Guide to 330 Million in the USA - U.S. population takes center stage in this downloadable packet that includes 14 lesson plans, 6 readings, and 6 infographics. Today’s middle and high school students (Gen Z) will need to examine where we’ve come from in order to assume their future roles as innovators and civic leaders. To this end, Population Education has created this new set of classroom lessons, A Teacher’s Guide to 330 Million in the USA
The Nature Conservancy Interactive nature-based lesson plans for middle school age students. Lessons include biological interactions, terminology, the impact of reforestation and urban trees on human health, and more. Each lesson plan comes with a free teacher's guide and video.Teach middle and high schoolers about Climate Change. Project Learning Tree has a new Climate Change E-unit designed as an introduction to climate science and its associated social, political, and environmental challenges. Each of the hands-on activities align with NGSS and can stand alone or scaffolded, as desired.
6Course ContentIntegrating sustainability-related content into academic subjects in every grade.xxxxChart the path of the sun from morning to afternoon in different seasons. Use window mullions and tape markings on the floor or sticks and stones outside.
xxxxxSet goals or competitions within classes, grades or school-wide with prizes (e.g., least waste or most students walking to school.)
xxxxxxCreate a sculpture from found and recycled materials that demonstrates energy concepts like conservation, efficiency, or another relevant concept.
xxxxDetermine how many photovoltaic panels would be needed to power your school's exterior lamps. Figure out where they could be located and provide a layout.
xxxxHow much solar power would your school need? Calculate the amount of electricity used by your school and how much solar power would be needed to completely power your school using solar panels.
xxxxxEngage in activities and games surrounding general energy information, energy sources, electricity, and conservation.
xxxTake field trips to see how renewable energy works in action.
xxxxBuild a sundial to keep time.
xxxxxxxCreate "advocacy art" for students to add their voice to environmental justice issues
xxxxxxxxxxxReview the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to see how your school can support our global needs
xxxxxExplore nature’s strategies and learn how to apply them to problems. Biomimicry is the practice of looking to nature for inspiration to solve design problems in a regenerative way.Sharing Biomimicry with Young People: An orientation to biomimicry for K-12 teachers and others who work with youth.Weave your own path through thousands of profiles of living things and the human innovations they've inspired at
xxxxxxParticipate in the Biomimicry Institute's Youth Design Challenge. The Youth Design Challenge is a hands-on, project-based learning experience that provides classroom and informal educators with an engaging framework to introduce bio-inspired design and an interdisciplinary lens on science, engineering, and environmental literacy. It gives middle and high school students a unique STEM experience and empowers them to envision solutions to social and environmental challenges.
xxxxxxxxUse the EnviroScape Watershed model to provide a hands-on, interactive demonstration of the sources and effects of water pollution. EnviroScape Watershed models are available for loan FREE from the MSD Clean Water Education program. The model allows teachers to easily demonstrate how storm water runoff carries pollutants through the watershed to a pond, lake, river, bay, or ocean – and the best management practices to prevent this type of pollution from occurring. The overall watershed/stormwater concept is effectively communicated to all ages.
xxxxxxxxExamine local access to green spaces as an Environmental Justice concern. Use the EPA’s EJScreen to see which neighborhoods around your school have access to green spaces (i.e. public parks) and which don’t. Research how access to green space is good for mental and physical well-being.
EPA’s EJScreen (Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool)
xxxxxxxxResearch the impact of a local environmental justice issue (food scarcity, access to green space, impact of pollution, etc.) then create a fact sheet for the school and community.
xxxxxxExamine Environmental Racism in St. Louis and the need for greater equity and inclusion. Use the Environmental Racism in St. Louis report to illuminate environmental racism/injustice and why equity and inclusion in process (developing policies and infrastructure) are important to outcomes (social determinants of health). Have students examine how their own neighborhoods/ZIP codes are affected by environmental injustice/racism.Environmental Racism in St. Louis
xxxxxxxxLearn about climate equity and environmental justice. Introduce students to how certain environmental problems impact some communities more than others--using’s Climate Civics Toolkit. Suggested activities range from investigating the global impact of plastic pollution to learning how air pollution affects poor communities to hosting a fundraiser for a local food bank. The toolkit also includes suggested activities for advocating for positive change.Climate Civics Toolkit“The Cloud Factory” is a 31-minute video depicting a young woman who mobilized her community to take action to close a factory polluting her neighborhood.
xxxxxxxIs St. Louis connected to the ocean? Watch this video from the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station downtown. This video is celebrating World's Ocean Day but it gives powerful information and tips about how our consumption habits affect the habitats of sharks and ocean wildlife even though we live in a landlocked state. How does our location allow us to influence the ocean?
xxxxxxxWrite a water poem. How does water connect us all? Why is it important to humans and other species?Check out the #17 Water Words activity in this resource from Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC).
xxxxxxxBuild a school weather station.
xxxxxxxxLearn about natural phenomena that will remain endangered if limits are not placed on certain human activities, such as coral reefs, ice caps, rainforests, and permafrost.
xxxxxxLearn about extinct and endangered species and write your own story of discovering a species that was thought to be extinct. Imagine you discovered an animal that scientists have long thought to be extinct! And this animal, the flying frog, needs protection. This is your chance to draw and write a story about a make-believe endangered species.Students learn about extinct and endangered species. They explore how climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and other facts contributed to these species' population loss. From our friends at the American Museum of Natural History.Imagine you discovered an animal that scientists have long thought to be extinct! And this animal, the flying frog, needs protection. This is your chance to draw and write a story about a make-believe endangered species.
xxxxxGo on a virtual field trip to explore natural environments without leaving the classroom. Nature Conservancy Virtual field trips – 40 min. Designed for ages 9-15 but customizable for all ages. Each virtual field trip contains a video, teacher guide, and student activities.
Missouri River Relief's Exploring the Big Muddy: A Virtual Field Trip

On Demand Video 27 mins. long
Grade Level: 4th Grade and Above
Aligns to SIX Science and Social Studies Standards
xxxxxLearn about colonialism and the Indigenous people whose territory covered the area where your school is located.
xxxxxLearn about American Indian responses to environmental challenges. Visit the website American Indian Responses to Environmental Challenges to see how the Akwesasne Mohawk of northern New York, the Campo Kumeyaay Nation of southern California, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, and the Lummi Nation of Washington State deal with environmental issues in their homelands today. Learn how traditional culture, values, and indigenous knowledge, along with Western science and technology, inform the environmental work of these contemporary Native nations.Teacher resource for the lesson.
xxxxxxxConnect sustainability studies to current events. Use newspaper and journal articles to study how human development, deforestation, climate change, and biodiversity loss are interconnected.
xxxxxStudents create a population density map of the United States to visually represent how density has increased and how the country’s population has redistributed since the year 1800.
xxxxxxxWatch a documentary and engage in a discussion of the topic afterwards. Options shared in Resource Links including, 'Gather,' 'Kiss the Ground,' '(Re)Telling the American Story: Conversations with Native Youth, 'Let the Earth Teach Us'Gather is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.Kiss the Ground is a full-length documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that sheds light on climate change from a new perspective. A revolutionary group of activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians band together in a global movement of "Regenerative Agriculture" that could not only balance our climate but also replenish our vast water supplies and feed the world. (Re)Telling the American Story: Conversation with Native Youth The American story has been profoundly shaped by Native Americans, yet the stories told about Native people are often false and almost always incomplete. From Pocahontas and Jamestown to the first Thanksgiving and Plymouth Colony, Indigenous peoples have rarely been the narrators of their own stories. Join in a conversation with Native youth to learn how Native people are actively reshaping these narratives today. Let the Earth Teach Us - Short talk from the Midwest Climate Summit -- “Education for Resilience: Letting Mother Earth Teach Us”
xxxxxxxHow big of an impact does one thing in nature have on life? Study the interconnectedness of nature by researching how a single animal, plant, or natural phenomenon (such as bees, wolves, sharks, or even glaciers or the Amazon Rainforest) impacts the larger ecosystem. Explore the question of what might happen if this part of the ecosystem disappeared.National Geographic’s Introduction to Keystone Species page (grades 3 to 5)"Role of Keystone Species in an Ecosystem,” (text can be adjusted to grade level)A starting point might be episodes in BBC One’s Life documentary series, or the documentary “More Than Honey.”
7Outdoor Learning EnvironmentsProviding access to outdoor areas that are readily accessiblexxxxxxCreate an outdoor classroom / learning space. Engage teachers, students, and grounds staff when planning the space to ensure it will meet everyone's needs, be utilized regularly, and properly maintained. Get creative - use found, discarded or natural objects for seating, tables, and beautification. Invite families to contribute to it's construction and care.
xxxxxxCreate a new or improved outdoor playground which promotes physical activity. Include green space and natural features if at all possible.
xxxxxxxPlant and maintain a food garden and/or orchard. Use this space as an outdoor learning environment. Create opportunities for students to prepare and/or eat the food grown. If possible, irrigate it with captured rainwater.
xxxxxxxEstablish a natural habitat or garden that supports pollinators and birds. Remove non-native and invasive plants and install native plants that will not require irrigation. Consider adding bird feeders, a water feature such as a bird bath, artwork, and/or educational signage. Conduct studies of the species it supports over time. Certify your habitat through the National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitats, Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home, or another program. MDC Discover Nature Certify your habitat through the National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitats® program. Bring Conservation Home - The St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home Program provides on-site advice to private landowners (including schools!) in the greater St. Louis area for the restoration of native plant and animal habitat on their grounds. -
xxxxxxxxxxPlant a meditation or sensory garden and implement a program to use the garden with students to promote wellbeing and connection with nature.
xxxxxxDesign and build a native plant rain garden that will help capture rainwater on site. Use the garden to teach students about the impacts of stormwater run-off, erosion, and watersheds.
xxxxxBuild a garden shed or greenhouse from salvaged materials.
xxxxxUtilize nearby parks and trails during the school day and for school gatherings. Share lists and brief descriptions of family friendly outdoor spaces with families and encourage them to explore these areas.Great Rivers Greenway - 128 Miles (and counting) of greenways in the St. Louis metro area for you to explore & enjoy!
8Sustainability Learning OutcomesFormally or informally assessing students sustainability-related learning outcomes within at least
2 school subjects each year.
xxxxxDevelop grade-level environmental literacy guides including guiding questions aligned with Missouri Learning Standards and example classroom activities.
xxxxxxxxxAdd a sustainability lens to exisiting lessons using the Rainbow of Sustainability and assess understanding of sustainability topics using discussion questions.
xxxxxxDevelop a sustainability course offering for middle school students and offer Environmental Science and AP Environmental Science at the high school level.
xxxxxxProvide opportunities for high school students to earn a green building professional accreditation through the LEED Green Associate program.
9NutritionPromoting a nutritious diet in a sustainable manner through accessible activities and programs.xxxxHave a local foods lunch one day per month. Explore the range of healthy foods made locally, identify recipes, and make a meal using as many locally sourced ingredients (within 150 miles) as possible.
Refer to sources such as Known & Grown STL Local Food Locator, Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Foodshed Map, or St. Louis City Greens; patronize a grocery store such as Local Harvest Grocery; or seek out “locally grown” foods at Dierbergs, Schnucks, or other groceries and find recipes on their websites.
Known & Grown STL Local Food Locator
Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Foodshed Map
xxxxHold a "Try-it" day to introduce and encourage students to try healthy snack alternatives, vegetables, etc.
xxxxEstablish a policy that promotes healthy or non-food options for celebrations, rewards and family events.
xxxxxxxxxxPerform an audit of where the food for school lunches comes from, as well as what options are available.
xxxxxxxHold a series of cooking classes where students and/or other members of the school community learn to source ingredients and cook healthy meals.
xxxxxUse these Center for Ecoliteracy resources to dive deeper into the links between Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment.Big Ideas: Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment: A New Alignment with Academic StandardsRethinking School Lunch: A Visual Guide Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment
xxxxxRun a "Meatless Monday" program. Include an educational component sharing the human and environmental health benefits of plant-rich diets.
xxxxIf foods and beverages are available throughout school campus, remove any unhealthy options (no soda) and ensure healthy options are available.
xxxxEncourage students and staff to drink enough water. Allow students to visit the water fountain throughout the day and to bring refillable water bottles to class.
xxxxxReinforce nutrition messages throughout the school using a variety of communication methods (posters, artwork, displays, newsletters, school announcements.)
10Outreach CampaignsConnecting with and improving the wider community. Sustainability-related outreach campaigns pursue measurable results and have active and educational components. Unlike events, campaigns may
last a few weeks or even a few months, but conclude once they have fulfilled their aim.
xxxxCreate a community map to explore your community's needs, wants, and resources.
xxxxSend student representatives to meet with local elected officials and discuss what is important to students.
xxxxxxxxStart a public outreach campaign around a sustainability-related issue that's important to you (energy, water, waste, equity, nutrition, health, wildlife, etc.) This could include writing letters or emails to public officials to advocate for solutions.
xxxxStart an anti-bullying campaign. Create a buddy bench to offer students opportunities to support each other.
xxxxPartner with local organizations to promote health and wellness.
xxxxxDesign and implement an anti-smoking / anti-vaping educational campaign (middle and high school.)
xxxxxCreate a campaign to raise mental health/suicide awareness (older students.)
xxxxxxStart a public outreach campaign around alternative energy sources and resilient power grids (i.e. microgrids, solar storage). This could include writing letters or emails to public officials and power companies to advocate for a more resilient power grid.