Teaching Elementary School Health Education/Environmental Health

Environmental Health Edit

Environmental Health may consist of up to ten different sub-topics but the area of environmental health that this wiki book page will display is the focus on the hot topic of the Greenhouse Effect/Global Warming while incorporating the ten sub-topics of environmental health that Linda Meeks, Phillip Heit, and Randy Page have written about in their textbook entitled Comprehensive School Health Education: Totally Awesome Strategies for Teaching Health, Fifth Edition, 2007:

Ten Sub-Topics:

Environmental Issues Edit

The most widely talked about environmental issue of this century is the devastating events that are occurring all around the world which many scientists are believing is due to global warming. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic of global warming or may struggle with some science concepts, global warming is when the temperature of the Earth rises due to either natural or unnatural events. For example, every year the Earth breathes in and out. First, during the spring and summer months when leaves and plant life are at their highest growth rates, the Earth's plant life is taking in lots of carbon dioxide therefore releasing oxygen into the atmosphere or sky. This cycle continues until fall and winter time when plant life begins to dwindle and decay away. Lastly, during the winter months, the Earth's plant life begins to decrease its intake of carbon dioxide which leads to the Earth heating up naturally. However, the Earth can heat up unnaturally too due to deadly liquids, solids, and gases being emitted into the air by industrial buildings and humans. Therefore, these pollutants can affect the air, water, and visual environment which are topics that Meeks, Heit, and Page (2007) discuss in their school health book. This is why I thought it would be important to tie a topic to these sub-topics so it would make more sense to the reader instead of just talking about all of these topics separately. All of them blend together, and individuals can make a difference by advocating to stop pollutants from entering into the environment as well. Overall, I have stated the topic that I will be discussing on this wiki-book along with how some of the sub-topics will be tied into this environmental issue while also trying to touch on other areas of environmental health that relate to this issue. This way, the topics will make more sense in context versus isolation.

Again, there are two ways that the Earth heats up. First, the Earth heats up naturally, and second, the Earth heats up due to pollutants. Therefore, this has a detrimental effect on Earth's natural heating mechanism called the Greenhouse Effect. Teaching the greenhouse effect to children could be difficult because of its complexity. However, when put into terms that relates to them, the concept greenhouse effect will make more sense. For example, the greenhouse effect is when water vapors and gas in the sky or atmosphere take in and reflect rays and warm the Earth's surface. Therefore, an analogy that can be demonstrated to children is by having them reflect upon a time when they opened up a car door on a hot summer day when heat is pouring out of the car. There are two different kinds of light rays that enter into a car through its windows. One light ray can escape but another cannot. When the windows are not rolled down a little bit then these rays have no where to go. Therefore, the car continues to heat up. These are infrared rays that can not exit glass. To conclude, naturally, water vapors and gas can absorb and release infrared rays. On the other hand, when pollution piles up into the atmosphere or sky, this acts as a shield (or the windows in a car) where infrared rays can not escape. Above all, this is what causes global warming when infrared rays cannot escape back to outer space due to being trapped by pollutants in the atmosphere. Human beings are the only ones that can reverse this problem by opening a window (stopping pollution) to allow infrared rays to release back into outer space.

Organizations and Global Initiatives to Protect the Environment Edit

There are many agencies in the world that are taking global initiatives to protect the environment. Here are a few groups that are trying to make a difference in the world.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • is a federal regulatory agency responsible for reducing and controlling environmental pollution.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

  • is a federal regulatory agency responsible for workplace environment.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

  • is a federal regulatory agency that conducts research on health hazards in the workplace.

Environmental Defense:

  • is an agency that partner with businesses, governments, and communities to find practical environmental solutions.

An Inconvenient Truth:

  • a website produced for Al Gore and his associates in the fight to stop global warming.

Clean Air Edit

Without clean air, many children are at risk of developing severe health illnesses. For example, due to air pollution, children are at higher risk than adults for developing respiratory tract illness, asthma, and impaired lung function because they breathe heavier and are outside more than the typical adult. Sources of air pollution range from fossil fuel burning power plants to carbon monoxide from motor vehicles. In addition, sulfur and nitrogen oxides contain chemicals that if breathed into the body can cause respiratory problems. These oxides are produced from power plants as well. Below are some websites that can inform children and teachers along with parents and everyone in the community about the air quality in their areas along with what they can do to prevent air pollution.

New Air Standards

Threats to the Clean Air Act

Water Safety Edit

Did you know that the average person on a daily basis uses this amount of water in a day:

  • Toilets-35 gallons
  • Baths and showers-28 gallons
  • Clothes washing-18 gallons
  • Faucets-13 gallons
  • Dishwashing-3 gallons

Water pollution is all around us and in order to make children aware of water pollution and its dangers, we must educate them on the general knowledge of where water pollution comes from and why we have it. In addition, we need to tell them how it can travel from one place to another and then end up in our drinking water days down the road. First, water pollution is when water is contaminated from sewage, chemicals, radioactive wastes, and other materials that are dumped or spilled in or near fresh or salt water. Runoff is a term used when water runs off of land such as a lawn, park, crop field, etc. into a body of water (river, stream, lake, etc.). Some dangerous substances to watch out for are PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, Dioxins, fertilizers, trihalomethanes, red tides, and radioactive waste. A good idea would be to see if these substances are used in your community. If they are, water testing would be a good step to take to ensure that your water meets federal regulations or is clear of any harmful substances. First, PCBs are used in electrical equipment, carbonless copy paper, and pigments. Second, dioxins are a group of chemicals used in insecticides and fertilizers that are used in the process of growing crops. Third, trihalomethanes are harmful chemicals produced when chlorine attacks pollutants in water. Fourth, radioactive waste is any radioactive by-product that comes from nuclear research and development of nuclear medicines. Lastly, red tides are caused by blooms of certain microscopic algae that result in a discoloration of water.

Overall, a serious concern right now in the science field is whether our oceans can withstand the amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed in the world's oceans. When too much carbon dioxide is absorbed in the ocean, coral reefs begin to diminish and the life that dwells in these environments vanishes. Now, some carbon dioxide is good for the ocean's plant life to absorb because they need it to survive. Moreover, volcanic activity on the abyssal plain naturally emits carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the gaseous material in abundance will kill plant and animal life in the oceans due to too much air pollution. It was once said that the ocean could absorb or rid of anything in the world. Since our world it getting smaller, the ocean is not being able to withstand the hurtful things being done to it. Below are some websites that may be of assistance in educating children about water pollution.

Acid Rain


Noise Safety Edit

OSHA: Noise and Hearing Conservation

CDC: Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention

OSU Noise and Hearing Conservation

Visual Environment Edit

Visual pollution is things that people see that are unattractive. For example, litter, graffiti, and old buildings that are falling apart are unattractive sites. When dealing with the visual environment and global warming, smog may be visually unappealing. For instance, whenever a person or persons are driving into the city, they may see a thick shield of gas particles that have come together as if it were fog. However, unlike fog, this smog can be visually unappealing and hazardous to people's health. Scientist and the public recommend that young children, the elderly, and athletes stay indoors during bad smog days or ozone days. Even though visibility is ok in smog it is still unhealthy. A positive visual environment improves mood, motivation, social health, and helps relieve stress. Here are some ways to improve visual environments:

  • Pick up clutter
  • Clean up litter
  • Put up pictures
  • Add plants and other living things
  • Improve the view outside of windows
  • Change the colors
  • Organize a cleanup campaign
  • Write to community leaders about visual pollution in the community

Lastly, to tie into with global warming, litter and garbage around the community may contribute to global warming. For instance, methane from waste and landfills along with other kinds of harmful gases can add to global warming. This is why precycling and recycling are so important because when people pick up litter around their community, they simply do not have to throw it in a waste basket but in a recycling tub or crate. Therefore, a person will not only be creating a positive environment that sets a good mood in people but will be preventing more trash from entering into a landfill which could be harmful to the air.

Energy Conservation and Natural Resources Edit

Due to global warming, many advocates are proclaiming that our power system businesses need to begin focusing more on renewable sources of energy that give off no harmful pollutants in our environment while also cutting back on nonrenewable sources. A natural resource is anything obtained from the natural environment to meet people's needs. In addition, the law of conservation of energy is a scientific law that says that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be changed in form. Therefore, even though energy is neither created nor destroyed, citizens would like to see our energy used in productive ways that give off fewer pollutants. Businesses and home owners can begin by cutting back on the amount of energy they use by simply changing the lights in their home to better efficient light bulbs. However, one argument that my classmates and I had discussed in our last summer's oceanography class was that the new energy efficient light bulbs contain mercury in them. Mercury is very deadly and can harm human beings. In an article that one of my classmates had used in his argument against energy efficient light bulbs was that a woman home owner who was using energy efficient light bulbs had to spend over $3,000.00 dollars to have professionals come in and clean out the mercury that was dispersed throughout her home by the fumes of a shattered light bulb. There are pros and cons to conserving energy.

Many power plants can begin by leaning away from coal, petroleum, and natural gas by taking advantage of the energy sources such as hydroelectric power, solar energy, biomass, geothermal energy, wind energy, or hydrogen power. Moreover, some power plants being built in the United States right now are nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is effective. However, the toxic by-products are not and can be very harmful to humans. Congress is urging citizens to go green this holiday season. There are many things that citizens of our country can do to save energy. This category would be great to teach young ones in the classroom because of the real life, day-to-day contact with a majority of these materials that they come into contact with along with how it relates to their lives. By providing children with a list of ways to help keep the Earth healthy, they will begin to act at a young age with a firm foundation of how to keep the world clean and green.

  • Turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • Use fluorescent lights except for reading.
  • Use light bulbs with a low wattage except when reading or when doing activities that require adequate lighting.
  • Turn off electrical appliances such as TVs, stereos, and radios when not in use.
  • Use rechargeable instead of disposable batteries.
  • Use fans instead of air-conditioning
  • Plant fast-growing trees near your home to keep it cooler.
  • Wear an additional layer of warm clothing in cold weather instead of turning up the heat.
  • Install weather stripping around windows and seal air leaks around doors to prevent heat loss.
  • Turn down the thermostat at night and when away from home.
  • Reduce the amount of hot water used for showers or baths.
  • In warm weather, dry clothes on a clothesline.
  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Energy-efficient appliances
  • Properly operate and maintain appliances
  • Heat and cool house efficiently
  • Insulate house
  • Home energy audit
  • Conserve hot water
  • Reduce standby power waste
  • Improve efficiency of home office
  • Switch to green power
  • Reduce miles by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking mass transit
  • Drive smarter
  • Efficient purchase of vehicle
  • Hybrids
  • Alternative fuels
  • Fuel-cell vehicles
  • Telecommute from home
  • Reduce air travel
  • Consume less
  • Buy things that last
  • Pre-cycle-reduce waste before you buy
  • Recycle
  • Don’t waste paper
  • Bag your groceries and other purchases in a reusable tote
  • Compost
  • Carry own refillable bottles for water
  • Modify diet to include less meat
  • Buy local
  • Purchase offsets to neutralize remaining emissions

Country Conservation Center

Conservation Officers Organization

ICE (Indiana Conservation Effort)

Precycling, Recycling, and properly disposing of waste Edit

Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup

Recycling in the USA

Natural Environment Protection Edit

Nature Serve

  • NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to provide the scientific basis for effective conservation action. NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs are the leading source for information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems.

Audubon International

  • Audubon International is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3), environmental education organization dedicated to educating, assisting, and inspiring millions of people from all walks of life to protect and sustain the land, water, wildlife, and natural resources around them.

Earth Justice

  • Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations and communities.

The North and South Rivers Watershed Association

  • The North and South Rivers Watershed Association, Inc. (NSRWA) is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization located on the South Shore of Massachusetts.

Environmental Media Fund

  • Environmental Media Fund was created by a small group of individuals who are dedicated to being a catalyst for change and solutions to the challenges before us all.

Advocate for the Environment Edit

Clear the Air:

  • a National Campaign against Global Warming

Clean Water Action

  • is an agency that promotes clean water.

Environmental Defense:

  • is an agency that partner with businesses, governments, and communities to find practical environmental solutions.

An Inconvenient Truth:

  • a website produced for Al Gore and his associates in the fight to stop global warming.

What to Teach Edit

Indiana's Academic Standards for Science Education

National Science Teachers Association (Standards)

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (National Health Standards)

How to Teach Edit

Strategies Edit
  • Power Model for Decision-Making
    • Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health
  • Role-Playing
  • Buzz Groups
  • Case Studies
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Critical Essays
  • Debate
  • Committee Work
  • Lecture, Group, and Panel Discussion
  • Resource Speakers
  • Dramatizations
  • Flannel, Felt and Magnetic Boards
  • Demonstrations and Experiments
  • Field Trips
  • Models and Specimens
  • Self-Appraisals
  • Storytelling
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Exhibits
  • Games
  • Peer Helpers
  • Computer-Software
  • The Internet
  • Television, Videotape, and DVD
  • Slides
  • Overhead Transparencies
  • Audio Tapes
Sample Edit

Global Warming, What Do We Do?

Clever Title: Global Warming, What Do We Do?

Designated Content Area: Environmental Health

Designated Grade Level: Grade 1

Infusion Into Curriculum Areas Other Than Health: Science Studies

Health Literacy: Responsible Citizen

Health Education Standard(s):

• NHES 7: Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks.

• NHES 8: Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.

Performance Indicator(s):

• Explain ways pollution harms the environment

• Identify ways to keep Earth clean

Health Goals:

• I will help stop pollution

• I will stay informed about environmental issues


  • PowerPoint video clip
  • Internet
  • Butcher paper, easel, or chalkboard with chalk
  • PowerPoint slideshow
  • Ready made note paper for children that has indicators of what to write
  • Written reinforcement
  • Pencils


Introduction (Six minutes):

1. Teacher will show students a two minute and 30 second video clip about global warming off an internet site that deals with Al Gore’s DVD and book entitled An Inconvenient Truth. Website:[[1]]

2. Teacher will ask students his/her first question. What is the greenhouse effect? For example, the teacher could explain to the class that the greenhouse effect is when liquid and gas water in the sky holds and reflects infrared rays and warm Earth’s surface. This naturally happens. But… when too many bad liquids or gases are in the sky, too much heat is held. This leads me to my next question.

3. Teacher and students will have a discussion about what the greenhouse effect means.

4. Teacher will ask students his/her second question. What is global warming? Global warming is when the Earth’s temperature goes up. For example, when each of you has a fever, too much bacteria is in your system and your body must heat up to kill the bacteria. When the Earth heats up, there are too many bad gases that are in the sky that do not allow some of the sun’s rays to leave Earth. Trees are like your bodies when they heat up due too much bacteria in your system. When trees breathe in the bad gases, they allow the sky to clear up and have the Earth cool again (Carbon dioxide clears the sky so rays may leave).

5. Teacher and students will have a discussion about what is global warming.

Main (16 minutes):

1. Teacher will lecture to students what causes global warming. S/he will pass out a note sheet to all students.

  • Human causes: Gases, Chemicals (harmful liquids)
  • Natural causes: Water vapor, Temperature, Volume
  • Just to add (children will not be assessed on this) Signs of global warming: A chart that scientist have been keeping on carbon dioxide for over the past 30 years has increased dramatically, melting of land and mountain glaciers, weather changes (increase in hurricanes)

2. Teacher will lecture to students on solutions that are suggested may help to decrease, prevent, and even stop global warming (teacher may want to limit this selection to around five to no more than ten that will relate to their lives).

  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Energy-efficient appliances
  • Properly operate and maintain appliances
  • Heat and cool house efficiently
  • Insulate house
  • Home energy audit
  • Conserve hot water
  • Reduce standby power waste
  • Improve efficiency of home office
  • Switch to green power
  • Reduce miles by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking mass transit
  • Drive smarter
  • Efficient purchase of vehicle
  • Hybrids
  • Alternative fuels
  • Fuel-cell vehicles
  • Telecommute from home
  • Reduce air travel
  • Consume less
  • Buy things that last
  • Pre-cycle-reduce waste before you buy
  • Recycle
  • Don’t waste paper
  • Bag your groceries and other purchases in a reusable tote
  • Compost
  • Carry own refillable bottles for water
  • Modify diet to include less meat
  • Buy local
  • Purchase offsets to neutralize remaining emissions

3. Teacher will hand students a solution written reinforcement. Each student is to write down at least one cause of global warming (may discuss ideas with group members). Each student is to write down a solution that may stop either the cause that they had written down or a solution to another cause that may prevent, decrease, or even stop certain aspects of global warming.

Closing (3 minutes):

1. Students will have the opportunity to share their cause and solution with the rest of the class.

2. Teacher will follow up the sharing time with requesting students to communicate what they learned about the greenhouse effect and global warming to him/her.

3. Teacher may want to close the activity by informing children of ways they can advocate about global warming: a. Learn more about climate change b. Let others know c. Encourage schools or businesses to reduce emissions d. Vote with dollars e. Consider the impact of investments f. Take political action g. Support an environmental group


1. Teacher will evaluate each child’s cause and effect written reinforcement based on two marks (satisfactory or incomplete). The teacher will look to see if each child had come up with a cause to global warming and a solution to help prevent, decrease, or stop global warming.

2. Teacher will keep the responses (written on chalkboard transferred to note paper or write responses on butcher paper) that children make about what they think global warming and the greenhouse effect mean.

3. Teacher will use these two pieces of assessment to figure out if further instruction, practice, or application is necessary in order to help students further develop the concepts of the greenhouse effect, global warming, and causes and solutions to global warming.

Multicultural Infusion:

In addition to this activity, students could have the opportunity to:

  • Research countries that are taking big steps in advocating the stop of the causes that are enhancing global warming around the world
  • Research pollutants that other countries are emitting into the atmosphere or water systems around the world
  • Research the effects other countries are having on the environment
  • Communicate with a first grade class from another country about global warming and to find out what they are doing about it

Note: All of the research activities would be created by the teacher to make sure students at the first grade level are not clicking on harmful sites. The websites could be created on a first grade level Webquest that would be navigable for first graders. This way, the research would be more structured and time would be saved instead of turning first graders loose on researching for long periods of time.


  • Gifted and talented students could write a letter or plug in information on an already made template letter to their local, state, and national representatives to advocate a stop to global warming.
    • Learn more about climate change
    • Let others know
    • Encourage schools or businesses to reduce emissions
    • Vote with dollars
    • Consider the impact of investments
    • Take political action
    • Support an environmental group


  • Comprehensive School Health Education: Totally Awesome Strategies for Teaching Health 5th Edition by Linda Meeks, Phillip Heit, and Randy Page (2007)