Teaching Kids About Natural Resources

Teaching Kids About Natural Resources

Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them, and they are continually willing to learn and explore. As educators, we can help students foster that mindset by giving them resources that encourage exploration of the natural world. SubjectToClimate’s resources, especially those highlighted below, teach kids about natural resources as they relate to climate change, focusing on topics such as energy consumption, renewable vs. non-renewable energy, and sustainability.

The Nature of Our Stuff

Grade: 1st, 2nd, 3rd

Subjects: Social Studies, Geography

Resource Type: Activity, Lesson Plan

This engaging natural resource activity encourages students to examine the composition of everyday items. Students are asked to choose 3 things they use at school and at home and decide which natural resources were consumed in their production - trees, clay, sand, animals, or metals. This resource offers a teacher guide with background knowledge on the topic, along with directions on how to best use the resource in the classroom. The student handout teaches students the basics of natural resources.

The teacher guide and student handout make this activity incredibly easy to implement right away in your classroom. It gives students the opportunity to investigate and inquire about the objects they use on an everyday basis. The resource also includes extension activities such as videos, articles, and links to other activities in the sources section.

Students can complete the activity in pairs or groups. Once they make a list of all the resources they find, they can compare notes with their peers and discuss the resources they were able to identify with the rest of the class. Teachers can use this activity as an introductory lesson on natural resources. When students become familiar with the basics of natural resources, they can then continue to learn about renewable resources and human impact by reading this CK-12 page on renewable energy resources.

Nonrenewable Energy Resources

Grade: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College

Subjects: Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video, Interactive Media, Assessment

In this Khan Academy video, students will learn about the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy resources, how these energy sources are formed and how we use them on a daily basis. The video offers captions for ELL and ESE students. Students can complete a four-question quiz before watching the video to assess their prior knowledge of energy sources and consumption.  Teachers need to create a free account to provide students with a code to complete activities and save their progress. This resource can be shared with students on Google Classroom or sent via email. 

This video is great for an individual or whole-class activity. The video provides visuals and transcripts and will help learners of all styles understand more about different energy sources used throughout the world. This resource is great as a student-led activity, and it can be assigned to students for in-person or distance learning. Students may watch the video, then write a persuasive newspaper article explaining fossil fuels and emphasizing the importance of finding renewable energy resources. To extend their learning, students can watch this Fossil Fuels and CO2 video. After the video students can complete the student worksheet or read more about how fossil fuels are created and how this process relates to climate change.

Clean Energy

Grade: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering

Resource Type: Interactive Media, Video, Assessment

This ClimateScience course teaches students about different types of energy sources used around the world. The course includes 12 sections on - the climate problem, fossil fuels, solar power, wind power, hydropower, nuclear power, generation IV nuclear, everything electric, hydrogen, 100% renewables, nuclear fusion, and making fusion work. Each section includes text, images, videos, and comprehension questions for students to complete while reading. At the end, students can review some open problems, complete a summative quiz and receive a certificate of completion.

This course offers two levels - simple or advanced - from which teachers and students may choose. The simple course offers 6 sections, while the advanced course offers 12. Students can toggle at the top to choose their difficulty level. Teachers can also assign individual sections, depending on which topics they want their students to focus on. The course can be completed in various languages, which benefits ELL/ESL students.

This course can be used as an introductory activity to the topic of energy. Teachers can pair or group students together and assign each group a different section of the course (e.g. fossil fuels, solar power, etc.); each group would then read and review the section, complete a quick writing activity or make a visual diagram, and explain what they learned about their energy topic to their peers.

Students can continue their learning on energy and energy conversion by accessing this Energy Conversions activity. The site page includes an interactive application (Gizmo) where students will learn about energy and how natural resources are converted into different energy sources. Available with the interactive are a student worksheet, teacher guide, and vocabulary sheet. Teachers will need to create a free account.

Seeing the Wood for the Trees: Introduction to Sustainable Forestry

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Geography, Mathematics

Resource Type: Lesson Plan, Activity, Video, Lesson Plan, Video, Interactive Media

In this activity, students will learn about forestry methods by using Google Earth to observe areas that have been logged. There are two different 45 minute lessons for students to complete - an indoor, technology-based one, and an outdoor activity where students observe the trees in their neighborhood and local parks. The comprehensive lesson guide includes national standards, vocabulary words, a materials list, a student handout, implementation directions, and additional resources. Individual devices are required for students to be able to access certain sites for reading and watching videos.

The activities in this lesson require students to collaborate, think critically, and use technology, which helps students develop 21st-century work skills. It is a great lesson for all types of learners as it incorporates different modes of learning such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing.

Students should be comfortable using technology and web-based apps as they will be required to access Google Earth for the first portion of the lesson. If students need assistance using the app they can either be paired with peers, or the first portion of the lesson can be completed as a class activity. Teachers may need to assist students during the portion of the activity that requires them to observe map data.

Students should have prior knowledge of forestry terms; they can also use the vocabulary portion of the guide throughout the lesson. After the lesson, students can learn about the disparity in tree cover and make connections about the amount of trees in their area by accessing this resource about Tree Cover Comparison Based on Income.

Google Earth Engine Timelapse

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography

Resource Type: Interactive Media

In this Google Earth Timelapse activity, students will observe changes in Earth's land, water, and ice over the past 37 years. The application offers timelapse locations around the world where students can observe changes caused by glacier melting, mining, deforestation, construction, fire, and infrastructure shifts. Images date from 1984 to 2020, and students are able to pause each image for more detailed observation. The site also offers additional links for learner engagement such as science datasets, case studies, and a 3D Google Earth timelapse.

This activity enhances student understanding of the human impact and climate change effects. Students are able to complete the assignment independently and using the Google Earth application helps them expand their technological skills. The Google Earth Engine site offers tons of resources for students to continue learning about different locations around the world.  Timelapse locations can be shared or embedded with a link.

The site can be shared via Google Classroom or LMS for students to access in class or use independently at home. Teachers can ask students to observe a location of their choice or assign them a specific location. While students are viewing the images, they can write down their observations of the changes occurring in one specific location over time. Students can then create a presentation with the information they collected and share it with their peers.

How Much Land Does It Take to Power the World?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Economics, Engineering

Resource Type: Video, Assessment, Interactive Media, Article

This TedEd informational video talks about the different energy resources (renewable and nonrenewable) and the amount of land needed to produce each type. The energy resources discussed in the video include, nuclear, fossil fuels, solar, and wind. The video also discusses the pros and cons of each energy source, cost, the potential for energy conversion, environmental impact, and human demand for electricity. In the “Dig Deeper” section, students can find links to additional resources to learn more about climate change impacts and solutions, along with instructions on how to calculate their carbon footprint.

The resource includes comprehension activities for students to complete after watching the video. An 8-question quiz composed of 5 multiple choice questions and 3 open answer questions encourages students to reflect on what they learned from the video. The quiz provides multiple opportunities to choose the correct answer for multiple-choice questions. The site recommends that students create an account in order to save their progress. This video can be shared with students via email, LMS such as Google Classroom, or saved into the TedEd site playlist. Teachers can also download an audio version. ELL students have the option of watching the video with subtitles in their mother tongue and they can also download a transcript.

After watching the video, students can expand their knowledge on energy usage and human demand with this Energy Sprawl Interactive Tool activity from The Nature Conservancy, which will educate students about perpetual increases in energy demand. The site offers graphics showing increases in energy demand over time along with case studies on different solutions countries are pursuing to mitigate the effects of energy use on biodiversity.

The Public Trust Doctrine - Government's Role in Protecting Natural Resources for the Future

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College

Subjects: Social Studies, Civics, Justice, Health

Resource Type: Activity, Lesson Plan, Video

This Project Look Sharp resource is a great introductory lesson on climate change impact and governmental policies regarding environmental protection. Students will use their media literacy skills to analyze two videos regarding climate change and youth action. The activity plan offers various resources such as media decoding examples, a student question sheet in multiple languages, and a teacher’s guide on how to implement the lesson. It also includes sample questions for each subject area and follow-up comments for teachers. A free account must be created to view and download the lesson and materials.

The comprehensive resource makes it easy for teachers to implement in the classroom with minimal prep. It can be used as a teacher or student-led activity and can be used digitally or in person. The activity plan provides relevant standards, background knowledge, and vocabulary to review with students. The lesson plan also offers a do-it-yourself guide that helps teachers develop their own media literacy assignments.

Teachers should use the basic climate change and legislation vocabulary provided in the lesson to gauge student knowledge on these topics. Students can watch the first video, “Trust 350” to gain a better understanding of how climate change is affecting youth. Teachers can then use questions from the media analysis handout to assess student comprehension of the video. Students can work with a peer or group to answer the questions, and then discuss with another group or with the entire class. The second video includes decoding questions divided by subject area, but it is also possible to use them cross-curricular.

Why Did Earth Overshoot Day Happen Almost One Month Earlier in 2021?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Justice

Resource Type: Video

This 5-minute video by NowThis Earth explains the importance of natural resource conservation by discussing overshoot day. Overshoot day is a day in the calendar year when humans have consumed more natural resources than the Earth can regenerate in one year. Students will learn about the importance of resource conservation and how to make a change in their own ecological footprints.

The video describes the meaning of overshoot day and provides students with effective sustainability tips. It can be used as an anchoring activity on climate change or calculating ecological footprint. With a few modifications, this resource can be used in elementary through high school grade levels. For elementary students, it is best to watch the video as a class and then have a discussion or complete a free write. Middle and high school students can complete the footprint calculator activity,  create a personal log of food choices, energy consumption, and transportation use for an allotted amount of time to review with the class, and/or create a graph of all of this data.

After watching the video, students can head over to the Global Footprint site and complete this footprint calculator activity. Students will be asked questions about their everyday activities such as eating habits, energy usage, transportation, etc. Students will then be given information on their own footprint data and their personal overshoot day. The site also provides students with more information on their carbon footprint and solutions to lower it. It offers an SEL component where students can describe how they feel about their footprint data by choosing an emoji.

Teaching kids about natural resources is essential to aid in the fight against climate change. These resources make it easy to educate students about the effects of natural resource use. Students will learn how to make sustainable choices and will be able to share that knowledge with their peers and the public. Looking for more lessons and activities on natural resources? Check out this curated search and look through our resource database. 

About the Author

Vanessa currently teaches 7th-grade comprehensive science and previously taught 6-8th grade Dual-Language Science for 6 years. She has a Bachelor's in Environmental Science/Anthropology. Her passions include learning how to incorporate technology into my lessons, reading science books, and spending time in nature with her children. Vanessa is passionate about teaching climate change because she wants her students to learn how to become change agents and protect their future.