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Monroe County, Indiana
Solid Waste Management District

Education Program


Welcome to Environmental Education!

Call 812.349.2866 or 812.349.2020 to arrange free Environmental Education presentations
for your classroom, club or community group.

The District’s FREE environmental education educates, motivates, and inspires Indiana residents to conserve natural resources and meet the needs of our society while maintaining a healthy environment now and in the future. Activites integrate key environmental concepts that meet state standards. Sessions not only promote science but literacy, health and wellness, economics, social studies, family & consumer science, and more. Sessions stimulate students and community to think critically about their own actions and assess actions of others, fosters understanding about the connections in the use of natural resources and waste disposal, and teaches pollution prevention and behaviors that lead to healthy communities. Book early for the academic year.



Free PDF For Teachers

Modeling a Green Community

Please call 812.349.2866 or click here to schedule presentations or to request information.
Click here or call 812.349.2866 to participate in Teacher Workshops.
Click here or call 812.349.2866 for Community Groups assistance in environmental education.
Explore interesting and educational environmental education links.


Classroom Presentations


Contact Elisa Pokral, Community Outreach Coordinator, by calling 812.349.2866 or 812.349.2020, or click here to send an email.

An overview of five of the District sessions meeting state standards is published by IGI Global in a textbook entitled: Handbook of Research on Pedagogical Innovations for Sustainable Development.
The chapter addresses using project-based learning to teach sustainability.

Thank you, Teachers, for participating in our FREE environmental education programs. Book your classroom presentations for the year now. Click here to send us an email.


Below you'll find a list of available classroom presentations. They are broken down into several sections. Click the individual names below to go directly to that section, or scroll through the entire list.

The Basics...


Are you “Earth-Friendly?” Participants discover their place in the SUSTAINABILITY cycle and learn how to make wiser decisions so that the “power of one” becomes the “power of many.” Motivations for smart shopping and saving natural resources are examined. Younger ones learn what natural resources are, and what they create while playing a Matching Resources game, and older participants play a Climate Change game. All ages play the S.M.A.R.T. Shopper game which helps them learn what materials are recycled in Monroe County, health enhancing practices in daily purchasing habits and other conservation practices that create a sustainable world. Participants also learn, if you’re not buying recycled items, you’re really not recycling. If requested, older participants, including adults, may review what natural resources create or examine how advertising affects purchasing behavior.

NOTE: See Kg/1st grade. Show & Tell Power of One version for Kg/1st grade.


Yes, there is treasure in our trash. Trash is made from Earth's resources, and those resources are Earth's treasures. Find out how materials change shape and where they go on their recycling journey. Learn the alphabet of recyclable items in Monroe County. Play a recycle glass game and/or discover the process of paper recycling. Both address the mystery and excitement of turning something old into something new and having the power to be part of the process. We are never too young to lead in creating a sustainable present.

NOTE: For Kg and 1st grade.


Life is made of the colors of the Earth, and even prehistoric man has attempted to record the colors. Examine the colors of the Earth, a color wheel, and prehistoric paintings, and find out how humans color the earth every day. Does pollution have a color? How can humans take better care of all of Earth's colors? Participants may create an Earth rainbow/collage/nature bracelet/branch weaving and/or go on a scavenger hunt if weather permits. Younger participants may do a "movement painting"! This presentation is a moving way to explore diversity and citizen rights and responsibility through subject, literature, music, movement, and craft.

NOTE: For K-6th grade.


The circle is an important concept in Citizen Science. Life is a circle filled with envirocircles. Where do you see yourself in relation to those envirocircles and are you part of what you see? The power of the world works in circles. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a circle as well. This session uses cross-cultural references and current habitat challenges in our population, community, and ecosystem. Participants experience a puzzling puzzle and older participants examine the food web and climate change. All learn how to be part of the envirocircles around us. Become a circle maker and begin saving earth's parts!

NOTE: This session works well in a variety of contexts with 3rd grade on up to adults.


By the time youth reach high school, many have heard of the ills of the environment but perhaps not the solutions. Studies indicate that "nature deficit disorder," not an actual physical diagnosis but a term coined by internationally known author Richard Louv is a condition of many youth and adults today. This disconnection from nature when connection is most needed, has worldwide impacts and raises the question: Who will be future stewards of the earth? Louv's most recent book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder has stimulated an international conversation about the future relationship between healthy people and nature and has spawned a movement, in some states called "No Child Left Inside." This talk by the Media & Education Director/Environmental Educator Elisa Pokral inspires a hopeful, healthy ecology powered by the individual's skills, knowledge, attitude, and actions.

NOTE: This session was designed for High School and Adults. Large groups work well. Serves as an introduction and overview of current environmental challenges and solutions.


Modern Olympics, an international athletic competition held in selected cities, are games that actually go on every day in both the human and animal world. Both animals and humans use their intelligence to do many things. Take a look at how species communicate, care for themselves and their families, the various ways animals and humans survive and thrive, and signals and senses they use. Groups brainstorm types of pollution humans create, how it affects animals and humans, and solutions for how humans can help all life forms. What are your paws and tails doing today that affect the earth and other creatures on it? This session develops the concept of earth care stewardship. With not as much detail, the session can include an “Earth Tag Olympics” game or a game focusing on a particular animal (30 minutes) or a tangram craft (25 minutes) if requested. NOTE: A large area is required for the environmental concepts games.

NOTE: 4th grade on up.


Many versions exist of Earth Tales even for the same grade level. Earth tales include stories and activities appropriate to each grade level, including adults. For students, standards may be covered in literacy, science, social studies, economics and health and wellness depending on the program.

NOTE: For Kg to Adult.


Kids can make a difference. Kids of all ages are concerned about the health of the planet and are taking action. Science and common sense tell us that our present and future depends upon the Earth’s health. We rely upon a world that is rich with diversity of life forms and a world free of pollution. This session is an overview of how children and youth around the world are making a difference by the organizations they create and projects they instigate. Earth stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. Students learn to think globally and act locally in creating a sustainable world.

OPTIONS: Dilemma Eco/Enviro Ethics situations for groups to discuss and share with class/stories and energy for class or assembly/rewilding activity for class.

NOTE: This can be used as a classroom/with using energy and stories as an assembly program as a kickoff or a finale to a year filled with a series of environmental education presentations. If a Part II is chosen, a culminating project could be done either individually or as a group. In Part II, participants design a plan to take action on an environmental challenge. Participants experience the problem solving process of the 4 “D’s:” STEP 1 Define the Problem (may have already chosen mission) STEP 2 Develop a Plan and write a mission statement, STEP 3 Do the Plan, STEP 4 Defend the Solution, Assess the impact. Students decide on assets (what they have) and deficits (needs) and discuss how adults can help them.


Does a strong economy depend upon a healthy environment? Get a grasp on economics, health, and earth's natural systems and compare your environmental knowledge on the leading causes of pollution with a national report card. Also, find out how Indiana ranks in overall environmental quality. In an unusual physical education class participants discover how their choices show what they value. The environment is one concern that touches all issues, from jobs to health. Participants explore the big picture of the recycling industry from local to international, the "Green" infrastructure that supports the economy, and the concept of eco services. How can products be designed with recycling in mind, and sustainability in our world? How is everyone part of the puzzle—the economics of recycling?

NOTE: Middle School, High School, and Adult.


(Also see Talk For Teen On A Hopeful, Healthy Ecology)
The power of the world works in circles and energy is at its core. Energy is everywhere and is in every living and nonliving thing. Energy is what makes things move and grow. It is what makes things work and it is constantly flowing in our world. The light and heat of the sun, the activity of people and animals, the growth of plants, and the working of things are all expressions of energy. Explore energy forms and discover how human use of energy has social, economic, environmental, and health impacts. For older participants, this session involves predicting, classifying, collecting, and recording data. All ages get some energizing exercise!



Air quality affects all things including our health. Oxygen keeps humans and all living things alive. Participants examine the big picture of the Earth in the exercise "Air Charades" or "My Body Is The World." Participants recognize similarities and differences among living things, discover properties of air such as weight, space, particulate matter, and the hazards of air pollution. Activity options that can be chosen include either moving with gravity, a craft, writing an air story, or an outdoor air search. There's magic in the air when we learn the actions to keep it clean!

NOTE: For K-6th grade.


Migrant birds herald the changing of the seasons. In recent years though, the skies are noticeably quieter. Find out where some birds have gone in this session that addresses the importance of birds, their habitat, and the importance of keeping our environment-- air, water, and soil, free of pollution. A migration game can be played with or without a reuse craft. The migration game can be condensed for younger participants. If a craft is requested, participants do a reuse craft that can help the birds. Participants may supply a milk/water jug/pine cones to create bird feeders, which is one way of taking care of birds and our environment.



Home is where the habitat is. What makes a home or habitat special? Explore how people create a healthy, sustainable community with built and natural environments. A variety of habitats and endangered animals are introduced which helps participants find themselves on the map of planet Earth. Participants discover that a healthy community needs a variety of habitats. In creating a community, the group learns environmental stewardship and a musical habitat game teaches challenges wildife and communities face.

NOTE: For K and 1st grade.


I have a life box and you do too. Home is where the habitat is, and home is an intact life box and a world community that actively protects it. Explore how an ecosystem, a community, and populations interact. Participants are introduced to the natural and built environment, rewilding, the food chain, and the food web and/or take a 100” hike. Participants create a community, ‘put on their green shoes’ and discover what existing life depends upon, that a healthy, sustainable community needs a variety of habitats. Protecting place and preservation of green space not only protects quality of life and wildlife but supports the economy. It attracts jobs, enhances health and property values, and saves billions in government costs.

NOTE: For 2nd grade on up. (Also see On Growing Wild and Kids Making A Difference)


What is sustainable development? Are there any "empty lots?" This session addresses forms of pollution, introduces the concept of environmental stewardship, and the importance of planning cities, towns, and neighborhoods with preserving and renewing habitats in mind. After winning one million dollars, student teams design what they wish on a portion of land. They then see what the consequences are of their design and how their plans affect what the others have created.

NOTE: For 4th grade on up.


(Also see Kids Making A Difference)

What is health, what is a healthy place, and what does sustainability mean? Sustainable development is a way of life that offers lasting solutions to societal problems and environmental stewardship is the key. Sustainable development creates healthy places and healthy communities designed and built to improve the quality of life for all people. Participants develop a green plan from guidelines that includes sharing green/open spaces. Balanced growth uses land wisely and protects the environment. What is the value of green spaces? Healthier people and a sustainable world!

NOTE: A two-part series for Middle School, High School, and Adult.


Every day you make tracks, but you may not realize it. What environmental tracks are you making, and how do the tracks you make differ from that of animals? First examine some real animal tracks and their scat, and then examine the waste trail originating from people and types of pollution. Younger students walk like the animals and take a peek inside the trash can. Older students work cooperatively to guess the major components of waste in the U.S. in the order of the amount that is created. No, the scat samples are not fresh originals but participants don't know that! Take a fun and eye-opening journey from animal scat to the human waste stream around us that we all can control.


How does population growth affect the environment and the creation of "stuff"? Participants play "More or Less," "This Land Is Your Land," and/or "Name That Litterbug". "Stuff" has a life cycle of its own just as humans do. However, sometimes "stuff" becomes litter. Find out what is recyclable, what is biodegradable and what is not, as well as decomposition rates, and some "litter-known" facts. Do you know that plastic cups improperly disposed of have an average lifespan the same as yours? Do men or women litter more? Participants examine where litter is most often found and how everyone can control litter and stop it from coming to their front door.

Hazardous Materials


What touches the earth delicately, and leaves beautiful reminders of its presence around the world? Yes, insects called "butterflies." Insects are not often thought of as beautiful or helpful yet whether beautiful, ugly, or unusual looking, they are all part of the ecosystem and they help keep our world healthy. Younger participants explore the lifecycle of the butterfly and characteristics of insects. Older participants examine this indicator species, the concept of bioaccumulation, and the overall effect of insects on earth. Both examine how helping insects restores imperiled ecosystems and how pollution (human caused change in the environment that harms living and nonliving things) can harm the smallest of things. A reuse craft or movement game for younger or older participants, or the rewilding concept can be included if requested.

SEE “Insects Rule” version for 5th grade on up. Great for Middle School, High School, and Adults.

NOTE: For K-4th grade.


Insects are the glue that holds life on Earth together-- natural systems and all life so, insects rule! This session promises to make you itch but also to make you think about your role in relationship to these tiny creatures. Because butterflies, an “indicator species,” are more attractive than most insects, we will take an up close look at challenges they face and ways we can help them and ourselves. The session also compares the life of a beetle and a human. Are we so different? You will learn how “rewilding’ can help the world by helping little things rule and keeping earth’s energy systems flowing. Also addressed is the concept of bioaccumulation. Participants become conscious of the affects of pesticide use on soil, food sources, and all living creatures and are introduced to some safety measures for both humans and insects.

NOTE: For 5th grade and up.


Both spiders and humans play a vital role in maintaining Earth’s ecological balance. You can find spiders or their presence in every house, whether people are living there or not. You can also find evidence of human impact everywhere, whether humans are living there or not. By using some fun comparisons, a weaving game, and a story, participants learn what weaves our world. Participants become conscious of the affects of pesticide use on soil, food sources, and all living creatures. The session can conclude with a spider web reuse craft for K-3rd or for 4th on up a cooperation game that reflects community action and a discussion of what would happen if arachnids and insects were to vanish.


What is a healthy home? Problems created by the use of and disposal of hazardous waste are a leading cause of pollution in cities and suburban households in the U.S. The average home contains more chemicals than the average chemical laboratory did 100 years ago! In Monroe County, the average household contains between 3 and 10 gallons of hazardous waste. Participants discover that hazardous waste is not just in factories. This is an introduction to proper household hazardous waste usage and disposal habits, which includes paints, cleaners, medical aids, electronics, and other potions. Organic alternatives are introduced. Older participants brainstorm what effects hazardous materials cause in the ecosystem, conduct a team house search, learn about bioaccumulation, and take a toxic trash quiz together and younger ones do some basic sorting.


How have humans throughout history disposed of their trash, what has been thrown "away," what do you throw away in YOUR garbage and how can you change how the earth is being treated? The history of trash discussion leads to groups conducting archaeological digs in- shoeboxes. Students learn how landfills are constructed and maintained and participants create a "human landfill"! Students unearth a variety of items that reveal some interesting things about the people who put them there. What would your trash tell us about you?

NOTE: For 4th grade and up.


What's better than recycling? Reuse! Reuse is not a new concept to society but even when it comes before recycling in importance- "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", it is often forgotten. This session helps participants understand the importance of reusing items. Reducing waste by reusing not only helps us use less but reminds us that 'One person's trash is another person's treasure' and new is not always better! While reuse art isn't keeping vast amounts of waste out of our landfills, it raises awareness about what we use, how we use it, and what we waste. Participants reuse everyday items to create crafts. Crafts best suited for K-6 although the session may be adaptable for older participants. A story and/or discussion of reuse is included prior to the reuse craft. Craft options: -Earth Flag (5th-6th) -Green At Heart Bracelet (4th-6th) -Napkin Ring Holder (3rd-6th), - Gratitude Necklace/Mobile/Garland -Earth Angel -Mouse pad Earth -Spiderweb art -Milk/water jug/pine cone bird feeders -Wizard wands -Tree art -Branch weaving -Egg carton flowers/creatures -Shakers -Holiday card recycling -Medal of Honor -Frisbee Earth - Earth Valentine/Flying Valentine - Reusable Bag Reminders - Other

NOTE: Crafts may change as reuse supplies are available.

NOTE: For K-8th grade.



Did dirt make your lunch? By exploring the foundation of life, participants find that their waste can feed the world. What can be done with meal scraps and yard waste to reduce garbage and pollution, and increase nutrients in our soil, creating a healthier Earth? Participants see and understand a conservation connection they won’t forget! This is a comprehensive look at composting with worms and their decomposer friends. Younger participants use magnifying glasses, older students use microscopes. All ages wiggle! A great supplement to geology, earth science, and microorganisms.

NOTE: Middle School and High School participants can create a cafeteria trash and waste observation data table prior to the session.


Adopt a batch of "red wigglers" or redworms for your classroom and have participants experience a conservation connection they won't forget! Participants fill a worm bin for their classroom, look closer at microorganisms that also work to care for the earth every day and take an in-depth look at the food waste that can be composted and the history of composting. Participants celebrate worms via movement and explore related concepts in a Food Chain game or an outdoor Hike And Seek Scavenger Hunt.

NOTE: Availability of worm bins dependent on supply. A great supplement to geology, earth science, and microorganisms.

Trees and Tree Products


What stays green all year round? It is also the oldest living thing in the world, the heaviest living thing on Earth, and the tallest thing alive! Find out in this session which investigates the secret life of trees, sustainable forestry, conservation education in presidential history, a president's family who had their own ideas, and some holiday trivia. Participants may then create a reuse craft that reminds them of being "green" or earth-friendly year-round or older participants focus on forest management and sustainable forestry.


Why recycle paper? Get to know some amazing forest facts and understand how trees satisfy many needs. Trees have families and visitors as well. Explore the life cycle of a tree, parts of a tree and their functions, and how nature naturally recycles. Explore a mystery bag of tree products, become a human tree, and learn what a tree cookie is. In other versions for different ages participants perform a tree story and/or enjoy some "Around the World" tree riddles, focus on multiple perspectives of sustainable development in protecting, preserving, and restoring natural areas, or focus on forest management and sustainable forestry.

NOTE: See Evergreen Tree Talk for a tree session with craft option.


What is the most used product in a school or business that comprises 40% of our waste stream nationwide? It’s paper and it’s filling up our landfills when it shouldn’t even be there! In this session, participants experience an example of recycling via the paper manufacturing recycling process by making their own paper from scrap paper that they collect prior to the session. They also learn to prevent waste, understand the importance of recycling, a little history of paper, and discover that more than 5,000 items-- “forest products” are made from trees. Participants also play a real pick-up-sticks game that illustrates conservation concepts.

NOTE: For K-6th grade: Classes are asked to collect bright scraps of construction paper or other bright paper leftover from projects to be used to make recycled paper. This session is best for K-6th although older age groups could experiment with various materials in paper making.



Where does water come from, where does it go, and how do perceptions of water determine actions to conserve it? Participants are introduced to the water cycle by dividing the world’s water and going on a cloud journey. On the cloud journey participants discover how water is used and how it can be saved, not polluted, and not wasted. When K-1st participants land, some if requested, may create a “flutter fish.” Older elementary, 2nd on up may create a raindrop story, a water cycle bracelet, or go on a faucet journey and/or play a water conservation limbo game. Middle school and high school participants are introduced to perceptions of water and its use—concepts from The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman, follow water from the faucet to Lake Monroe and a water cycle literary activity is included. An outside water relay can be included for daycare programs. A great way to introduce stormwater pollution, the leading cause of pollution in the United States.


Science has found that when the populations of frogs, toads, salamanders, and other amphibian species decline, all is not well with the environment. What can frogs and toads tell us about the environment? For a little creature that sleeps in the mud and eats bugs, its voice is loud and clear. The sound of a frog is interpreted differently in various cultures but they do vocalize the same thing. The best translation would be: "Keep our environment pollution free!" Participants learn about the importance of wetlands, what a watershed is, and how to prevent water pollution. Younger participants play "Spring Serenade," older participants create origami frog water holding cups or play "Frogs, Insects, and Flowers." A great way to look at storm water pollution, the leading cause of pollution in the U.S and wetlands, found in every county and climatic zone in the U.S.

NOTE: For K-5th grade.


Do you live in a watershed? Yes. Everybody does and wetlands, found in every county and climatic zone in the U.S. are one of the most valuable and fragile components of a watershed. However, for many years they were filled and drained for agriculture and development. Destroying or degrading wetlands can lead to increased flooding, extinction of species, and decline in water quality. However, wetland restoration and the renewal of natural and historical wetlands is a growing activity that can improve water quality and wildlife habitat across the nation. Participants will get to know the frog as an “indicator species” to environmental health, play a game that illustrates an environmental concept, do wetland metaphors in groups, and learn what stormwater pollution is and how to prevent it.

NOTE: For 6th grade on up.

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