Action Basics

Review the Action Framework and tools to help you and your students plan an action project

Action projects should directly address the environmental issue students explored. Students are actively engaged and, to the extent possible, drive the decision-making, planning, and implementation of the solution or intervention while educators play a facilitation role by forming groups, moderating, and answering questions.

Start with what you have, then scale up!

Before you and your students brainstorm action projects, survey your school and broader community for projects, infrastructure or resources your students could tap into, update or reinvigorate—you don’t need to start from scratch. Is there a forgotten habitat or garden that needs maintenance? Is there a recycling program that needs a new champion? Your resources (time and money) could go a lot further if you build off what is already there than starting from scratch.

If your students have an action idea in mind, think about how it could be scaled up in the future. Ideally this action isn’t a one-and-done project but continues to expand year after year. Do your students want to create a community-wide recycling program? Start at the school, go through some trial and error and then scale up to the community. Do your students want to revamp a schoolyard garden? In the first year they could remove unwanted plants and add new plants. In future years, students could scale up the project to include a pollinator monitoring program or create outdoor classroom components. Looking to the past and future before selecting an action project will set you up for success and sustainability.

Use the Action Framework to get your started

Steps required to make an action project a success will differ based on the project, students involved, location, grade, etc. However, there is a basic framework you can follow to facilitate student-directed solutions and interventions. Tools from the Student Worksheet Toolbox and additional resources are included.

The Action Framework below follows the student worksheets found in the Environmental Action Project Planning set. The worksheets cover basic steps in planning and implementing an action project and can be used by students independently, in small groups, or as a class. There are five total worksheets in this planning set. Use the worksheets that make sense for your students’ action project and/or assign different pages to small groups or individuals to complete. These worksheets were adapted from a resource by ShoreRivers in Easton, Maryland.

Action Framework

Choose a Solution

  • Guide students through the process of constructing claims from their investigations and identifying evidence-based solutions
  • Identify how many projects you can manage and any restrictions you need to consider (ex. time restrictions, funding)

  • Survey your school and broader community for projects, infrastructure or resources your students could tap into, update or reinvigorate—you don’t need to start from scratch

  • Choose a strategy that involves everyone in the action brainstorming and selection process

Get Support and Approval

  • Identify people that could help your project become a success. You may need to ask for permission to do something, find an expert to help with a specific task, or recruit volunteers from your community or school to help make your project a reality.

  • Create an elevator speech for each of the stakeholders you identify then start reaching out to request permission and help.

Design and Prepare
Implement Project
  • Define project tasks and create project teams

  • Manage coordination between project teams

Monitor and Evaluate Progress
  • Monitor project and maintain where needed

  • Create a long-term maintenance plan

  • Reflect on project and prepare reflections to share with future students

Share the Project
  • Post signage or create literature if appropriate

  • Contact local media to share with community members

  • Celebrate!

Use the Project
  • Brainstorm how this project will continue into the future including scaling-up opportunities to share with future students

  • Connect the project to classroom lessons so it can be integrated into instruction

  • Tell other teachers, classes, and after-school groups and clubs about the project so it becomes a shared project across different subjects and grades

  • Use this project to apply for or support a sustainable or green school initiative

Check out the Road Map to Action and Action Plan Presentation Checklist for additional ideas on how to organize student engagement.