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Topic plan: Environment (KS2)

A KS2 topic-based activity plan on the Environment written by Andrew Brooke

The Environment

A topic-based plan by Andy Brooke, offering six weeks of activities across the KS2 curriculum to integrate Song Bank songs with everyday classroom delivery.

Children always seem to find environmental issues fascinating and motivating. This topic plan features three aspects of the environment – water conservation, global warming and recycling/re-using – though there would be plenty of scope for extending it to include other areas, such as endangered animals or habitats.

Water conservation

Geography, Science, Maths, Citizenship/PSHE

  • Sing I turn on the tap. Discuss the theme of the song, considering how water, a vital resource, is so freely available for some of us that we “never ever give it a second thought” while for others it is much less accessible and must be carried long distances. Why is this the case? Are there ever water shortages in our own country? What causes these? What would it take for this to become a part of everyday life? How can we prevent this from happening?

  • Carry out an audit of water usage in school. This could be done online at the Water School website, which also has a bank of information resource sheets for teachers, interactive tasks for children, and a Games Room, which promote good water conservation practice.

  • Carry out an experiment to compare hourly water loss between a tap which is off, dripping and running. Ask children for ideas about how to do this. Establish that to leave a tap running for a whole hour would be highly impractical as well as extremely wasteful! Determine that five minutes would be more appropriate. Using a timer and a measuring cylinder ask children to measure the amount of water ‘lost’ in five minutes for the three taps. (Ensure that the running tap is not fully open!) Discuss volume in terms of the capacity of the container, including reference to the units. Ascertain that to find the amount of water in an hour, the measurement must be multiplied by 12. Can children use their data to work out how much water would be lost in a day?

Global warming

Geography, Science, Citizenship/PSHE, ICT, English

  • Be cool by Bob Chilcott, is a great way to introduce the theme of global warming. Listen to the performance track and brainstorm the ‘environment’ words in the lyrics. Discuss the meaning behind the phrase, “Pollution’s mean, not always seen.”

  • Produce a whole-class ‘mindmap’ on the class working wall. Allocate different aspects of global warming to groups of children and ask them to do research using books, the internet, CD-ROMs and any other available resources. These different aspects can be tailored to the particular focuses of the topic, but may include:

    o causes of global warming

    o acid rain

    o pollution

    o the ozone layer

    o the greenhouse effect

    o the effects of global warming: people

    o the effects of global warming: plants and animals

    o reducing global warming 

  • The Atmosphere, Climate & Environment Information Programme website from Manchester Metropolitan University has some good resources on the topic of global warming, including explanations of acid rain, the greenhouse effect and the ozone layer, as well lots of interactive games and a set of posters. There is also a substantial KS2-3 Global Warming activity pack and fact sheet pack. 

Recycle, re-use

Science, Citizenship/PSHE, SEAL, Music, DT

  • Sing Recycle it! What sorts of materials can be recycled? Bring in junk and unwanted objects, and ask children to sort them into different types of material: plastic, metals, fabric, glass, paper, organic, etc. Discuss the reasons for recycling (recycling-guide.org.uk and recycle-more.co.uk are good websites to use for reference). For example, plastics are made from oil, a fossil fuel which will run out at some point in the future, and are not easy to break down.

  • Ask children to do their own research and produce information texts. They might like to write about what recycling is, the main reasons for recycling, the particular benefits of recycling certain items or materials, the issue of the environment in the major religions, and so on. They could use this to produce a speech which could be delivered as part of an assembly or presentation to younger children. Children with more acute Speech, Language & Communication (SLC) difficulties could use presentation software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or, alternatively, Impress from the freely downloadable office suite, OpenOffice.

  • Produce a timeline of man-made materials – for example, glass was used from 3000 BC, steel from 1400 BC, nylon and polythene were being used commercially from the 1930s.

  • Ask children to design and make packaging for a waste-free lunch. You could provide a range of net templates, or allow them to experiment with their own design methods. They could produce, for example:

    o sandwich boxes made from card;

    o paper cones for eating raisins or popcorn out of;

    o large paper bags in which to carry their lunch.

  • Sing Do anything but throw it away. Recap the items listed in the song, and what they were made into. Can children write their own verses that follow this idea? Challenge children to design and create percussion instruments made from a range of junk items. Perhaps allocate an object to each pair and ask them to consider the possibilities, allowing one minute before swapping with others. Alternatively, ask them to decide on a type of percussion instrument (shaker, drum, scraper, etc.) and then select an object that they could use to create it. Once instruments have been made, ask children to develop rhythm ideas for use in the song.

  • Children will enjoy producing collages from items of trash, either individually, in groups or as a whole class. If doing this individually, why not use recycled paper? There are numerous websites with instructions on how to make this – just explore using your favourite search engine.

  • Could your school become an Eco-School? Visit the Eco-Schools website for more information.

Other ‘Environment’ songs in the Song Bank include:

Downloadable Resources

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