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.
- Develop an interest and understanding of environmental sciences and sustainable practices and technologies.
- Develop problem solving and logical reasoning skills, then apply them to environmental issues.
- Improve communication and teamwork skills by working the way scientists and engineers do - in teams.
- Develop responsible attitudes about science and how science relates to the real world, people’s lives, the environment we all depend on.
- Gain experience in problem solving and decision-making using science process skills.
- Develop knowledge and skills related to environmental stewardship.
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 or other animals or plants that interest you
- Learn about energy cycles
- Create a collection (leaves, seeds, insects, plants)
- Learn the proper way to mount your collection and identify what you found
- 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
- Volunteer at an eco-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
- Monitor water quality in your community with the IOWATER program
- Investigate the potential of various energy sources to power Iowa homes
- Job shadow and Interview a forester, entomologist or botanist
- Enter a research project in a science or technology fair
Take It Further
Project Hot Sheet
Fair Exhibit Tip Sheets
Tip sheets are used by judges to evaluate your exhibit. Use them to help make the best presentation of your work. Choose a tip sheet based on your project's intended purpose.
If your project:
- Represent environmental collection—use Environment & Sustainability Tip Sheet (pdf)
- Is intended to inform its audience about a topic—use Poster Exhibit Tip Sheet (pdf)
- Represents an engineering solution to a problem—use Engineering Exhibit Tip Sheet (pdf)
- Represents a scientific investigation of a question—use Scientific Investigation Tip Sheet (pdf)
- Uses technology to accomplish a task or render a service—use Using Technology Tip Sheet (pdf)
Delve Deeper into these Topics
Other Opportunities to Explore:
- 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.
- Here are other opportunities to explore. National Youth Science Experiment.
- Study an area of environmental science and enter the State Science + Technology Fair of Iowa.
- Become an official water quality monitor.
- 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 fields related to the environment and sustainability? 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.
Environment & Sustainability Hot Sheet (pdf)
The Power of Wind
There's No New Water
National Youth Science Day Activities
Exploring Your Environment
4H Making an Entomology Exhibit
Project Butterfly Wings
Publications and kits available through your County Extension Office
Delve Deeper into thes Topics
- 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.
- For more ideas, visit the Wildlife page.