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A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard
Getting Started

In 2010, a second-grade class in Colorado took part in a Smithsonian online conference on environmental issues. One session was on the exploding population of deer in the United States, a subject that really hit home. Their town of about nine thousand had been overrun in the last few years by hundreds of mule deer.

The conference was one in a series that challenged students not only to learn about the environment, but also to take action to improve it. After researching the larger issue of deer populations and environmental change, the second-graders began looking for ways to educate the rest of the town and to offer possible local solutions.

In this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, we tell their story in the hope that it will inspire you and your class to take on your own environmental challenge. In the first lesson plan, your students begin their research by interviewing people who live in the community. They ask about the state of the local environment—and how it has changed over the years—before deciding on a problem to tackle. The second lesson recounts the steps of the Colorado project, which might serve as a loose outline for your class's project.

What's Your Problem coverDownload "What's Your Problem? A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard" Lesson Plan(PDF).
Botany and Art and Their Roles in Conservation cover

Download an oral history interviewing guide from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Botany and Art and Their Roles in Conservation cover

Watch "Forests and Deer," an online conference session with Bill McShea, wildlife ecologist at the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute.

Required Materials

Download the Complete Lesson PDF
A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard

Smithsonian in Your Classroom is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. Teachers may duplicate the materials for educational purposes.

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