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An Inquiry Lesson in Resource Conservation

Originally appears in the Fall 2010 issue

Our early elementary students are quite familiar with the terms ‘reduce,’ ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’— commercials on Nickelodeon encourage environmental awareness, pencil boxes are made of recycled plastics, and students are placing their cans and juice boxes in recycling bins — but rarely do we use the word “conservation.” This adaptable inquiry-based activity was developed to help young students learn the ideas of conservation that lie behind our desire to reduce, reuse and recycle in order to preserve our environment. It was developed as part of the UNH-Greater New Haven Science & Nutrition Collaborative,1 which brought together scientists from the University of New Haven (Connecticut) and classroom teachers from local public schools. The activity requires few classroom resources and very little time or preparation in comparison to most science activities. It has been integrated successfully into many classrooms and can be adapted to different grade levels and a wide range of class sizes.

Environmental conservation is complex, involving several interrelated ideas; it cannot be easily defined or presented as a simple fact. The goal of this activity is to enable students to explore a model of the real world, complete with many problems that they will face in their futures.

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Tiffany Hesser is an instructor and coordinator in the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department at the University of New Haven, Connecticut. Matthew Griffith is a Physics Professor at the University of New Haven and has worked with the Department of Education to create inquiry based science lesson in elementary classrooms. Victoria Raucci is a teacher at John S. Martinez Elementary School in West Haven, Connecticut, who has developed and tested inquiry-based science lessons in her classroom