Environment & Sustainability
Find programs and mentors near you with CYSTEM (Check it out!)
Are You Into It?
Do you want to make the earth a better place to live? It is all about the environment in this project, whether it’s plants, animals, habitats, environmental issues, saving energy, renewable rescources, or recycling! You pick the topic and then learn and make a difference. Become active in your community, school, club, and home.
- Understand the connection between living and non-living things.
- Learn about the energy cycle and renewable and non-renewable energy.
- Understand the importance of food, water, shelter and space for all living things.
- Learn how to be a good environmental steward- by recycling, conserving, and preserving.
Here’s what you can do all year!
Starting Out Basic / Level 1
- Choose an environmental focus (bugs, trees, birds, prairie, energy, recycling)
- Observe life cycles of insects
- Learn about energy cycles
- Create a collection (leaves, seeds, insects, plants)
- Learn the proper way to mount your collection and identify what you found
- Shadow or interview a local environmentalist
- Find out about Iowa’s renewable and non-renewable energy sources
Learning More Intermediate / Level 2
- Learn about different tree species and critters on your vacation. Record location, name of species, and type of climate
- Learn about tree diseases
- Conduct experiments
- Host an energy fair for your community
- Study an environmental issue (acid rain, global climate change, or soil erosion)
- Compare the costs and benefits of renewable energy sources
- Learn how to set up an apiary
Expanding Horizons Advanced / Level 3
- Conduct a forestry quiz bowl for your community
- Organize a community service learning project to weatherize homes of needy families
- Monitor water quality in your community with other IOWATER program
- Investigate the potential of various energy sources to power Iowa homes
- Interview a forester, entomologist or botanist
- Enter a research project in a science or technology fair
Hot Sheets/Tip Sheets
Project Hot Sheet
Fair Exhibits Tip Sheets
- Environment/Sustainability (color or B/W pdf)
- Engineering (color or B/W pdf)
- Scientific Investigation (color or B/W pdf)
- Poster Exhibits (color or B/W pdf)
Exhibit Evaluation Form (pdf)
Here are other opportunities to explore the environment & sustainability:
- Contact your county ISU Extension Office for other local workshops, activities, and events.
- Meet others interested in the environment? Check out camps at the Iowa 4-H Center.
- Power up for the Future with the 2011 National Youth Science Experiment.
- Study an area of environmental science and enter the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa.
- Is it county fair time? Consider taking an exhibit, a piece of your project learning to the fair for judging and to show off what you have learned throughout the year. It might get selected to go to the Iowa State Fair.
- Look for opportunities with your County Conservation Board.
- Become an “official water quality monitor” by attending an IOWATER workshop with the Iowa DNR.
- Attend Iowa 4-H Youth Conference and participate in workshops, motivational speakers and a community service project, bringing ideas back to your community.
- Interested in a college education in the area of biological sciences, environment, education, engineering, design and technology, physical sciences, premedical and health. sciences, social sciences, agriculture and life sciences or humanities? Schedule a visit with Iowa State University to explore those majors.
Step It Up
Pass it on! Now that you know how, share it with others. Here are ideas to get you started.
- Do a presentation on the benefits of wind energy.
- Create a “Trees of Iowa” poster.
- Demonstrate how to collect and mount insects, leaves, plants, etc.
- Create a blog about an environmental issue.
- Create a video on how to weatherize your home.
- Complete a Service Learning project
- Help out at your local park.
- Write a letter to the editor about a conservation or environment issue that concerns you.
- Create a Sustainability Team to reduce non-recyclable products.
- Clean up a local pond or lake to help the local fish environment.
- Plan and conduct an “energy fair” teaching younger kids about wind, solar, biomass, and coal energy.
- Organize an environmental club in your community.
- Reuse your family's food scraps by building a composting bin.
- Create a survey on what other youth think and feel about today’s environmental issues. Tweet your friends and keep a tally. Report out through a poster, video, etc.
- Develop a workshop that shows others how to be good environmental stewards.
- Create an original piece of artwork using natural objects. Explain how the objects are connected.
- Develop a presentation or working exhibit that shows how to make a solar oven.
- Do a presentation on how to do a home energy audit.
- Create a video on pros and cons of sun, wind, nuclear, coal power.
- Build your own wind turbine.
- Can you identify local trees? Make a poster to help others learn.
- Develop a display or notebook on forest diseases.
- For more ideas, visit the Forestry page.
- What attracts butterflies to your garden? Find out and share your findings in a video.
- Do an insect collection or a plant collection.
- For more ideas, visit the Entomology page.
- Create a timeline with visuals of significant events and how Iowa’s wildlife has changed through the years.
- Build a bat house.
4-H Environment & Sustainabiliy Manuals
- Follow the Path Forestry Level 1
- Reach for the Canopy Level 2
- Explore the Deep Woods Level 3
- Forestry Helper's Guide
- Teaming with Insects
- 4-H Making an Entomology Exhibit (4H422)
- Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Us (4H808B)
- Project Butterfly WINGS