Climate Change Activities for Kindergarten

Climate Change Activities for Kindergarten
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Elaine is a New Jersey educator with 30 years of teaching experience in grades K-6. 

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Are you a kindergarten teacher looking for high-quality lessons, supporting materials, resources, and activities to bring climate education topics like global warming, increase in greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse effect, carbon footprint, renewable energy, rise in sea levels, and the effects of human activities on earth’s atmosphere to your classroom? Are you curious about integrating climate change resources into kindergarten curriculums in a developmentally appropriate way? If you answer yes to any of these questions, this list of climate change activities for kindergarten is for you!

A Professional Learning Opportunity (PLO) is a great place to start—take a look at the article Fundamental Concepts: Connecting Elementary Science Topics to Climate! This provides kindergarten educators a solid base for the Energy and Climate Literacy Principles. They are essential knowledge for every citizen, breaking down the often-complex ideas of earth science, specifically climate science, into simpler ideas while integrating the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Calling all Kindergarten Teachers - Ready, Set, Teach Climate Change!

A Peek Into Composting

A Peek Into Composting

Grades K-2

This Green Guardians lesson teaches students about composting through a fun animated story, games, and poster design project. They learn the differences between what can and cannot be composted and why composting is a key component in reducing food waste. The lesson has everything in one place—content, classroom activities, and teacher notes.

The slides feature developmentally appropriate content, which makes it easy for kindergarten teachers to share it with their climate kids. The animated story includes a read-aloud option and embedded videos to help explain composting to young learners and to attract their attention. A busy kindergarten teacher will appreciate the minimal prep time required for the student games and poster activity. Students can play the matching or sorting games together to show what they know! This lesson is a natural introduction to exploring the world of composting at school and at home. Your students may even ask to create a classroom compost bin!

Engage your kindergarten students by allocating time to share and answer the highlighted questions. There are several pause points where the teacher can stop and engage students in discussion—look for the “Time to Talk” slides! You may also want to plan enough time for all students to have a turn with the sorting or matching games. Some students may need support with reading the text on the card matching game. Another helpful hint would be to cut out the poster pictures for your class before the lesson, saving time and supporting young students who are not yet adept at cutting more complicated shapes! Your students can still choose which images go where to demonstrate their understanding of the content.



Habitat Scramble

Grades K-5

In this hands-on activity, students will imitate a species by trying to survive in a particular habitat and learn how changes to the habitat can affect the species that live there. Students will also learn terms such as carrying capacity, the features of a habitat, factors that can disturb a habitat, and how human activities contribute to habitat changes. The video walks teachers through step-by-step instructions for setting up the game and playing with students.

This is a fantastic game to use with kindergarten students to introduce the concept of habitat. By actively seeking a habitat in the game and collecting the appropriate cards to be “healthy” in the habitat, even the youngest learners can comprehend the notion of an ecosystem and what living creatures need. The game cards include pictures and text, so this makes it readily able to be used with all kindergarten learners, no matter the literacy level. Additionally, the game involves using a large space, giving students the opportunity to move, which is essential in the kindergarten classroom. While some students may be unhappy when the habitat changes or there are not enough resources for all, it will help them to understand factors such as carrying capacity and human interference. What’s great about this activity is that there are several parts of the lesson that provide opportunities to get up and move, making the lesson a good fit for the developmental needs of kindergarten students!

To activate background knowledge, I suggest showing students the PBS video, Habitat Basics, before playing the game. The video offers a great review of habitats in under five minutes. You will need to prepare the classroom for the game in advance by using yarn or hula hoops to mark out the habitats and make a set of habitat cards for each student. Consider using scrap paper or other items like beads, dry beans, or blocks for some of the cards, as they are just meant to represent air, water, food, shelter, soil, and space. As a follow-up to the game, the class can play this interactive matching game in which students match animals with their ecological habitats. This is a good independent learning activity because the drag-and-drop features are easy enough for even the youngest learners to manipulate. 

Lesson: Secrets of Soil

This lesson introduces the idea of soil as an ecosystem and as a carbon sink.

Digging Into the Secrets of Soil

Grades K-2

This lesson introduces kindergarten students to the idea of soil as an ecosystem and a carbon sink. They will enjoy a hands-on activity—investigating a scoop of soil— to answer the question “Why is soil important to living things and humans?” Students will first watch a time-lapse video that reveals the living organisms found in soil, then examine their own soil sample to look for living things. The book Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie Myra Rosinsky is shared with students as a means of strengthening their understanding of the difference between dirt and soil. To wrap up the lesson, students draw and record their findings—demonstrating an understanding of soil as an ecosystem—and create an artistic model of their soil using found materials in the classroom. The lesson builds an understanding of the importance of soil as it relates to the Earth and humans and includes a variety of activities to support the youngest learners’ exploration of this complex topic.

This climate change activity is an excellent resource for kindergarten teachers, as it provides a developmentally appropriate learning platform for this topic. Young learners benefit from hands-on experiences like exploring a scoop of soil, which helps them build an understanding of what soil is. Additionally, the lesson plan provides simple instructions and requires minimal teacher set-up or gathering of materials. With many opportunities for students to talk about what they see and touch, this lesson strengthens language development while simultaneously building an understanding of the science content.   

Before using this lesson with kindergarten students, teachers should ensure they have the following: a bucket of soil, a magnifying glass, paper to use as “placemats”, and the supplemental resources. Begin by sharing the time-lapse video with students, then allow time for “turn and talk” between classmates or a class discussion. While you present the lesson, students will build an understanding of the content by answering guiding questions and seeing the steps in front of them. Provide enough time for students to create a take-home “soil sample” with the art materials. Part of the fun is touching all the materials and talking about what they want to use and why! 

Take some time to go outside and walk around the schoolyard, looking for soil. Ask the students questions such as “Does the soil look or feel different in different places?” Your kindergarten students will love the chance to dig into the secrets of soil all around their classroom and school!

Multi-Lesson Unit

Activities to teach students about ecology, scientific observation, seasonal changes in ecosystems & the water cycle.

Water Module

Grades K-4

This resource is a dense multi-lesson unit that begins with a picture book then uses activities to teach students about ecology, scientific observation, weather and climate changes in ecosystems, the water cycle, and much more. The book that kicks off this unit is available in several languages and can be printed, downloaded, or projected, and the accompanying lessons are easily differentiated for learners at several levels. Each of the three learning activities includes worksheets, differentiation ideas, and extension activities. 

Another great example of a quality resource for kindergarten teachers, this water module provides an excellent text to read to students and follow-up activities that provide hands-on experiences to strengthen scientific concepts. For kindergarten classes, the book can be projected and read aloud by the teacher. Since the text is lengthy and may need to be read over the course of several days, use the read-aloud as an opportunity to highlight literacy elements in the book. The activities can be set up as centers, which works nicely with young people by giving them multiple opportunities to explore and move about the classroom. Or, if preferred, the activities can be spaced throughout the week as experiences that build depth over the course of time. Either way, the support is included for the kindergarten educator to make this topic enriching and build content bridges as needed for the developmental needs of a 5 or 6-year-old.

Teachers should be ready to do some extra preparation and gather quite a few materials for this lesson, which is well worth it if you have time to prepare, but it could be a stretch for some kindergarten teachers. Although you might think this unit looks a bit challenging for our youngest students at first glance, once you start reviewing the activities, you will see the inclusion of strong modifications, teacher notes, and suggestions. One example is in the magnifying glass activity—after listening to the story, students are introduced to the concept of observation using magnifying glasses. Here is a sample of the included modifications for younger students:

Prior to doing this activity with kindergarten students, it might be helpful to discuss and practice observation skills with your students. One good way to do this is by using books from the “I Spy” series. Either read “I Spy” books with the students or use an “I Spy” poster with the class. Ask your students to practice observing details when looking at the books.

Student worksheets are included for each classroom activity, offering varied response levels for teachers to select what is best for their students. If your students are eager scientists and you have presented challenging activities allowing them to make discoveries, this module may be just what you are looking for! Consider pairing this with the resource Climate vs. Weather, which can be used as a class activity to give students a basic foundation in the difference between weather and climate, weather patterns, and the effects of climate change. 

Lesson Plan

Students learn how to reduce, reuse, and recycle through an engaging video and a cut-and-match sorting activity.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat!

Grades K-4

This lesson introduces students to the idea of reducing, reusing, and recycling by giving them the chance to create a classroom waste management plan. Students learn how to reduce, reuse, and recycle through an engaging video and a cut-and-match sorting activity. The Great Reuse Reduce Recycle Relay is an interactive movement game that provides students with an opportunity to practice sorting recyclables. As a culminating activity, students make a classroom waste management plan using the information they gained throughout this educational resource.

I love this lesson and its activities! In fact, I have used this with my kindergarten classes, so I can vouch for the fact that it’s wonderfully appropriate and would be an awesome educational resource for all kindergarten teachers! What I love the most is that it’s a relevant topic that is easily understood by our young learners. By the time most children enter kindergarten, it is likely that they have recycled something. And if they haven’t, this provides a terrific starting point to teach the content which leads to developing a recycling plan for your classroom. My students loved the game and traveled around our school looking for recycling bins everywhere they went! For the busy kindergarten teacher, there is minimal preparation required, and necessary materials are easily obtained by either saving a variety of recyclable and non-recyclable everyday things or printing the images to use. And you can keep the game out in your classroom because your students will want to continue playing for days to come!

Before teaching the lesson, I would use this as an opportunity to share the short read-aloud story, Sharing a Small World: Introductory Narrative. This brief story invokes in students the idea that they can do something to help the Earth as they explore answers to questions such as: “What are some things you do each day to take care of your body?”, “What are some things you do each day to take care of the space around you (e.g., your room at home, your classroom at school)?”  Finally, students are asked to think of other ways that they can be a caretaker of the Earth. What a perfect lead into the lesson: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat!


Educational videos about climate change projects tailored for kindergartners.

Snack-Sized Science: Plant Your Paper!

Grades K-5

In this 30-minute video, students view a demonstration of how to make plantable seed paper out of shredded junk-mail paper. Students also learn about the history of Earth Day and why recycling is important for the environment. This video highlights a fun, hands-on activity that requires minimal materials and is a perfect climate change activity for kindergarten classrooms as a way to celebrate Earth Day every day! This activity is awesome for kindergarten teachers because we know our young learners LOVE to get messy and create things! If you are looking for a great activity appropriately themed for spring, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, or gardening, this is a wonderful resource to use!

The engaging activity is presented by a young girl and her mother. Since the video is lengthy for a kindergarten-age class to view from start to finish, I have a few suggestions about how to use this in a kindergarten classroom. First, I suggest watching the video yourself to understand the process behind the project and to determine which parts to share with students. The beginning of the video (until 6 minutes, 45 seconds)  introduces the history of the very first Earth Day in 1970 and can be skipped if you just want to share the activity directions in your classroom. Then the mother-daughter duo describe the required materials and start a demonstration of how to make the seed paper. This might be a good part to view, fast-forwarding through some instructions that will be set up in advance for students. At 19 minutes, 30 seconds, the duo answers questions from their “live” audience (this is a recording of a live demo) which is beneficial for the teacher to view, but not necessary to share with students. If you have never made seed paper, this resource is a great step-by-step video demonstration to get you started!

Build a Bee Hotel

Grades K-5

This video teaches students how to construct a bee hotel for mason bees. Students will learn the steps they need to take, the materials they will need, and how bee hotels can positively impact the environment. The short video, created by a high school student, is a great project for kindergarten students and can be used as a demonstration before supplying them with materials. This amazing resource is an excellent springboard to discussing the presence of pollinators and their role in our world. Use it as a discovery learning experience by having students create the bee hotel, then learn why this home is important to build. This is also a wonderful opportunity to invite parent helpers and beekeeping or gardening experts into the classroom!

When using this with kindergarten students, gather the materials, play the video demo, and build the bee hotel with students as a hook to launch a lesson on pollinators. Even the youngest of students can successfully fill a can with straws or bamboo shoots but may need some help tying the string. To help provide more context to the importance of bees in our world, I would share another amazing resource, Bee and Me! This animated video, based on a wordless picture book by Alison Jay, tells the story of a girl who befriends a bee. The girl realizes that the bee is not happy living away from the natural world, so together they plant flower seeds all over the city. Your students will learn about the importance of bees in nature and the importance of nature in humans' lives. The possibilities are endless for the many ways you can encourage students to help bees in your schoolyard and their homes!

Unit Plan

Number Sense & Biodiversity

Number Sense & Biodiversity Unit

Grades K-2

This unit includes three lessons that were expressly written for students in grades K–2. The first lesson, The Importance of Biodiversity (Number Sense & Biodiversity #1), introduces students to habitats and the need-based interactions of plants, prey, and predators. Students see how factors like warming temperatures and human interactions can alter habitats and affect wildlife. In the second lesson, Using Numbers to Think About Biodiversity (Number Sense & Biodiversity #2), students use a base number (1,000, 100, or 20) to compare the numbers of extinct, endangered, and vulnerable species and consider how their actions can help protect animals and plants. The final lesson of the unit, Conservation to Improve Biodiversity (Number Sense & Biodiversity #3), teaches students how people are protecting living things and gives them a chance to create their own plans to protect living things.

What’s great about this unit is that it was written expressly for students in grades K–2, with built-in modifications for kindergarten teachers to use to support their learners. Developed by a teacher, this unit incorporates multiple modalities and opportunities for students to learn through play, which is a vital strategy for supporting early childhood learning and strengthening their understanding of difficult content. From the Teacher Slideshow to the Student Documents, this lesson is designed for kindergarten teachers to successfully introduce the concept of biodiversity in an impactful way. 

Whether your students are new to the topic of habitats or already have some prior experience, they will enjoy and learn from this unit. There are numerous ready-made lessons and student material modifications that include specific ideas for differentiation, such as how to group learners, student activity packets with varied mathematical content, adapted worksheets for younger students, and animal cards with pictures and text.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve seen how many climate change activities for kindergarten are right at your fingertips, what are you waiting for? Since these resources have been reviewed by educators and scientists, you can use them confidently with young learners.  If you are ready to bring climate change education to your students, try introducing the topic with a special video resource like Introduction to Climate Change. While only a few minutes long, this brief video challenges the youngest of learners to become Earth Warriors to help protect Mother Earth, making it easy for young students to understand climate change! I love that the text appears at the bottom of the screen, giving the video a picture book quality.

If you are still feeling as though you need to learn more about climate education yourself before bringing these resources to your students, might I suggest digging into this teaching strategy resource: Elementary Teaching Strategies - Climate! How do I teach this complex, controversial, and challenging topic to my elementary students? This article features information about eight elementary teaching strategies to teach about climate change. Featured strategies include: encouraging action and solutions-centered learning, grounding students in place-based learning, and growing curiosity-driven science practices. I especially like the section entitled “Keep it Experiential, Embodied, and Playful” which highlights the notion that our young students learn through play and their experiences in the natural world around them.

Next, choose one of the resources highlighted above and share it with your students. Whether you choose a full lesson, a brief story, or a video, the important thing is to get started! I have successfully used many of these resources with my own kindergarten students and I can assure you that your students will soon become Earth Warriors, just as mine have! After trying some of these suggested resources—complete with modifications kindergarten teachers like you can appreciate, you will soon feel confident enough to begin developing your own lessons and modifying resources to bring more learning opportunities to your classroom. Given the critical significance of several climate education topics, such as the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the depletion of Arctic sea ice, and the detrimental consequences of burning fossil fuels, reminding your students how we can all care for and protect the Earth is a message they will hear and understand.