What are your kids learning about our environment in elementary school?

The goal is to make awareness and action on environmental issues central to the lives of children as they grow up, says Garfield Gini-Newman, a professor with the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The topic is covered most in depth within the science and technology stream of the curriculum, but can also be touched upon in language studies, health and physical education, music, drama and even math.

“When integrated in the curriculum this can be a very popular topic for children,” says Gini-Newman. “It is current, relevant, important, and there are opportunities for children to make a difference in their actions.”

For instance, in a Grade 5 class Gini-Newman saw at Kleinberg P.S., in Kleinberg, Ontario, global issues including climate change and child labour were used as the foundation for data management in math, he says. “Seeing the children’s displays and hearing about their reactions after the study was completed, it appeared the learning had had a truly transformative impact on many of the students and that many underachieving students produced outstanding work.”

Below are a few examples of what your child is learning about the environment in each grade of elementary school. Click on the links below to read more about each grade.

Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3
  • what can you do?
  • is there waste in your classroom?
  • how does your family use energy?
  • what impact do you have on animals? And vice versa.
  • how do you dispose of liquids and solids at home?
  • what impact do humans have on air and water?
  • learn different parts of plants
  • what composting means
  • what's in our soil?

Grade 4

Grade 5

Grade 6

  • why species go extinct
  • how environmental changes affect species
  • the impact of extracting rocks and minerals for our use
  • analyze the impact of technological innovation on human health
  • what goes into making everyday products
  • long-term impacts
  • understanding the importance of biodiversity
  • how we use electricity - the good and the bad
  • the impact of space exploration on us and our environment