Last updated on February 3, 2024.
In 2015, I began doing homeschool pre-k lessons with my son. I would put together little thematic lesson plans that we would do together one morning per week. Each lesson would usually incorporate art activities, sensory activities, books, play activities, and writing, all related to the topic of the week. I mixed these up with the occasional musical component, educational video, trips to a related museum/zoo/aquarium, and/or nature adventure.
In late 2016, I decided to introduce the topic of environmental issues and pollution. Even though he was only 3, I thought my son would get something out of it, and in retrospect, he did! So I thought I’d share some of the activities we did. Feel free to use or share any of these ideas!
My son still recalls the activity where we put toy animals into blue water polluted by an oil spill. I was inspired by a blog post where they used feathers in their experiment.1 I added toy animals and showed how oil in the water stayed on the animals. Here’s what we did:
We started with plain blue water to represent the ocean. I used Sargent watercolor magic to dye the water but you can use blue food coloring too. Place a towel under your container – it’s going to be messy and oily!
Next, I mixed cocoa powder with vegetable oil, as recommended by Almost Unschoolers. We started with feathers but then I quickly realized that he’d love playing with his toy animals even more.
We added a few more animals as we continued to play and experiment. He observed several times that the oil wouldn’t simply rinse off the animals or his hands.
My son had so much fun that he asked me to do it again several months later!
Recycling & Composting
I bought a sticker set from Dollar Tree which included four cardboard recycling cans with stickers. The cans represented plastic, paper, aluminum, and compost. My son took the stickers and placed them on the appropriate can and he only needed a little help. It was a fun activity to do together! You can find similar games or activities online.
The last activity we did was to create a pollution jar. I got the idea from Pinterest but cannot credit the blog because it no longer exists. I asked my son to help me choose pieces of trash of various types of materials. We chose different types of plastics, paper, string, etc. We did not use any food waste.
Then we filled the jar with tap water and put the lid on.
We kept this jar for over a year. Over time the materials did not break down, especially the plastics. While that may be obvious to an adult, this was new and interesting information for a preschooler. He thought it was cool. I will say that when I disposed of it, the smell of chemicals from that jar was disturbing.
We took a walk along the Tennessee River for that lesson as well, just to notice our surroundings. What sounds did we hear? What animals did we see? Did we notice any litter along the river? We talked about how the rivers and oceans are connected; that oceans are full of life; that water and air are our most precious resources. Even if a young child doesn’t understand everything you’re explaining, know that they are absorbing some of it and admiring your knowledge.
If you search “pollution lesson preschool” on Pinterest or Google, you’ll find a ton of additional great ideas!
I hope you can use some of these ideas with your little one. Feel free to ask questions or leave your ideas in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and please subscribe below!
All the photos in this article, except for the top one, were taken by me.
- Blog post, “Oil Spills and Advertising, a Grease Fighting Experiment,” Almost Unschoolers, July 6, 2010.