Getting primary school pupils involved with making your school greener
Teaching the younger generation about the planet and how to be greener might seem like a daunting task – there’s a lot to learn and so many caveats when it comes to what really is sustainable and what isn’t. But getting primary school pupils involved with making your school greener doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. It can, in fact, be a fun classroom project, encouraging everyone to get outside or get their hands dirty – literally.
We’ve compiled a list of some age-appropriate activities and challenges to get pupils thinking about ways to help the environment and make their school a greener, cleaner place to be!
6 minutes to read
Classroom cleanup game
This one is a win-win: the pupils get to learn more about waste sorting, and the classroom gets tidied at the same time!
To get them thinking about what items are recyclable and what isn’t, post a game chart above the bins with some common classroom items on it. Each time a pupil goes to throw something away, they’ll be challenged to stop and think about whether they can recycle it. They can put their answer on the chart, and the pupil with the most correct answer after a specified time wins.
Single-use scavenger hunt
Take pupils around the school, and ask them to write or draw anything they see that is single-use. These could be plastic pens, bottles of hand soap, paper towels or items used by the catering department or in the school staff room – the last two feel like backstage access to many pupils too, and will cause a great deal of excitement!
Back in the classroom, ask them to come up with ideas for things each of those single-use items could be replaced with. Then go one step further and write to school leaders to ask them to implement some of the changes!
For inspiration, check out this story from Georgeham Primary School in Devon, UK. The school achieved plastic-free status in 2018 and have some great tips for how your school can do the same.
School green team
As a child, there’s nothing better than being a part of a special team or group – particularly if that group comes with a badge to wear with pride! Setting up a dedicated group of children to be ‘in charge’ of activities that will help make the school greener is a great way to increase motivation and drive when it comes to being involved with the activities.
Rotating the members of the team every term will also give more children an opportunity to learn about keeping their school greener and helps to keep morale high.
Wildflower seed planting
Wildflowers can be planted at any time of year, but the best time of year is autumn/winter. Find a few spots at the edge of one of the playgrounds, or get some dedicated flowerbeds outside of the classroom to plant the seeds. The pupils will learn about the importance of wildflowers and the benefit they have to bees and other wildlife, as well as helping the school to have a burst of floral beauty and make the school greener, literally!
You could also get in touch with the local council and offer to plant the seeds around the local parks and playgrounds, saving them from having to hire someone to do it!
Wildflower treasure hunt
Challenge everyone to a wildflower treasure hunt after the seeds they planted have blossomed, with an eco-friendly prize for the winner. Children are naturally curious, and when they learn by noticing and identifying what’s around them, they’ll grow up to be more in touch with the world and nature.
Reusable water bottle amnesty
To encourage everyone to use their refillable water bottles, whilst making sure everyone has one, why not hold a water bottle “amnesty”.
Many families have more than one reusable bottle lying around at home. Instead of them sitting in a drawer or cupboard, unused, ask pupils to donate excess bottles to the school. These can then be distributed to pupils who do not have access to a reusable bottle, and the rest donated to a local children’s charity.
A lot of children’s craft supplies contain plastic or other single-use, non-recyclable items. To help combat this, ask children to collect items from around their home that they (and their caregivers!) no longer need. Egg boxes, yoghurt pots, used packaging, cardboard tubes, lolly sticks and buttons can all be put to good use for craft activities.
Want to take this one step further? Why not create a school “scrap store”, where teachers can use anything they need, and parents can come and stock up on recycled craft items for home, in return for a small payment that can go towards the school’s upkeep or to a local charity.
Colour-coding the bins in the school
A great one for the public areas of the school, give out paint to each class and get them all to get creative with painting the different bins. They could each put their handprint on a bin, colour-coding them for paper recycling, plastic recycling, and general waste.
The brighter colours of the bins will help them to stand out as the pupils are walking around the school, encouraging them to think more carefully about what goes in a normal bin and whether they can recycle their rubbish. It’s all too easy to throw everything away in one bin, but the bright colours will help to make it a little easier to recycle!
Collect uninflatable inflatables
Isle of Wight-based business Wyatt and Jack take old, damaged inflatable items (like that paddling pool that popped and is now sitting in your garage gathering dust) and turn them into new items. Think colourful bags and wallets, all upcycled from items people have donated to their Inflatable Amnesty scheme. You could send out details of the scheme to parents after the summer holidays, or ask pupils to make “inflatable amnesty” posters to stick around the school.
If your school happens to be in a coastal location, you could consider becoming an inflatables collection hub. You can find more details here.
A baking fundraiser with a twist
Instead of your usual cake sale, you could put on a cake sale with a twist: the cakes have to be green-themed, and a portion of the proceeds go to a local environmental charity of their choice.
The green theme could be taken literally or figuratively – a bright green cookie, or a cookie made from ‘greener’ ingredients…
Bug or bee hotels
Whether you choose to get everyone involved in making one from scratch, or you decide to buy one pre-made, set aside some time during the next art and crafts period to decorate a few small bug or bee ‘hotels.’
While they’re having fun painting the hotels, pupils can learn about why insects are so important to the environment and how their hotels will help the bugs and bees thrive by letting the bugs have a safe space to lay their eggs and hide from predators. They could be placed near the wildflower seeds, around the edges of playing fields, or in the flowerbeds of a local park.
A real-life eco school
At Ballard School in Hampshire, UK, the team of Eco Ambassadors has been pushing the school into a more ecologically-minded direction. Along the way, this has earned them Eco Schools England Bronze and then Silver Awards. If all goes to plan, they’re hoping to claim their first Green Flag before the end of this academic year (2021/22).
In terms of recent things which have had a cross-school impact at Ballard:
- Every pupil in years 3 to 5 took part in the Great Ballard Spring Clean (the school’s contribution to the Great British Spring Clean – a nationwide litter-picking initiative)
- Pupils from the Eco Ambassadors helped to plant 8 new pollinator-friendly trees, as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy, which is part of a bigger project to rewild an area of the school grounds.
- They sent every child home with a packet of bee & butterfly-friendly seeds, before the Easter holidays, for them to do some “guerrilla planting” at home.
Don’t forget to inspire others with your green efforts
Share your latest successful idea with others in the free Ailuna Facebook group, or tag us on Instagram @ailunacommunity – sharing ideas and talking about your green journey is the best way to inspire others to follow in your footsteps and make a change for the good of the planet.