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The Office of Sustainability Schools Program is Here to Support You!

Dear Teachers, 

We thank you for all that you do and all the ways in which you may have transitioned to distance learning during this unprecedented time. As educators ourselves, we want you to remember that we remain a steadfast part of your crew - we're sailing this boat together (with distance between us of course)!

We will be sending out this newsletter regularly to provide educational resources and support for you and your students. School may be remote for a bit but we are still here for you as fellow teachers of stewardship.

If you have other ideas or suggestions on how the Office of Sustainability (OOS) Schools Program can be a resource for you, students at home or our greater community during this time, please fill out our
Distance Learning Educator Needs Survey.

You can also reach out about our current programs any time at

At-Home Learning
Zero Waste Lessons
Zero Waste Student Ready Science Lessons
The Story of Poo - Source: California Academy of Sciences
Science & English/Language Arts Lesson Plans
We've compiled the following ready to use Zero Waste lessons challenging students of all grade bands to observe their surroundings and actions, compile data and analyze their results. 

1. Humans Use Natural Resources  
(Gr. K-5) Students will go on a scavenger hunt to link common household items to the natural resources they are made from. They will then explore and analyze the implications of extracting natural resources from biotic communities. - This lesson was adapted from Close the Loop; a K-6 curriculum about Integrated Waste Management and Resource Conservation. 

2. The Story of Poo Experiment
(Gr. K-5) The California Academy of Sciences does a great job of explaining the journey of the 3P's (poo, pee and paper) through our municipal wastewater systems in The Story of Poo. We created a hands-on lesson that can be done by students at home to go with this video and spark an inquiry and discussion on the science of paper and synthetic fibers. 

3. A Rot is Happening Here 
(Gr. 3-5) 
Have your student explore the secret world of microbes. This simple experiment will let students grow icky stuff in the name of science! 

4. Personal Solid Waste Inventory
(Gr. 6-12) Challenge your students to keep track of the waste they generate at home with this waste audit checklist. Compare results daily, weekly or over the course of a month to create a more grounded understanding of what we consider as waste and how much we create over time. 
Zero Waste Arts & Crafts

Arts and Crafts Lesson Plans

What better time to create than when you're at home! Below are a few curated ideas for your students to re-purpose items that would otherwise be buried in the landfills. 

1. COMPOST-ory Cubes (Gr. PreK-1)
There's a sort of unseen magic happening in a compost pile and it's even more magical that some types of garbage help gardens grow! Children can practice retelling the story, Compost! Growing Gardens From Your Garbage or tell their own COMPOST-ory. 
COMPOST-ory Video
To learn more about composting visit our website at! We offer free compost or worm bins to schools. Parents can get them at a discount. 

2. DIY Binoculars (Gr. K-2)
These binoculars  are great for encouraging kids to engage with play-pretend professions that are S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) oriented, but also provide a way to reuse toilet paper rolls. 

3. Build a Model Landfill (Gr. 3-5)
Engage your students in creating a landfill as a part of a unit of exploring where solid waste goes. This model allows for outside research, reading comprehension and engineering principles to be applied to a hands-on project. - Adapted from: Wake County Environmental Services

Make a Paper Wallet (Gr. 6-12)
Challenge your middle-schoolers to make a wallet out of paper they already have lying around the house. Have students design the wallets to fit each of their individual personalities. 

Zero Waste Art Contest

Rethink Waste wants your students to know that the annual Trash to Art Contest is still on! Please click on the link for rules and guidelines.

Submissions are due May 8

Rethink Waste also has a fun online sorting game to help with sorting waste at home. Please note that these guidelines and the Trash to Art Contest are for the Rethink Waste/SBWMA service area which is comprised of 12 local jurisdictions.
To find out if you or your school are in the Rethink Waste service area, click here.
Zero Waste Maverick
Rob Greenfield 

"Live simply and you live free."

Rob Greenfield is an adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference. He is dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world. Rob is known by many as "The Trash Man" for his month long project wherein he consumed like the average American and wore all the trash he created. The purpose of the project was to create a shocking visual of how much garbage just one person generates.

A great on-line activity would be to  have your students watch and write a response to the following video about his Trash Man Project. 

Additional Environmental
Education Resources
The San Mateo County Office of Education's Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) Team has designed and curated a number of resources that are useful to both students and teachers during this period of at-home and distance learning. Please reach out to the ELSI Team at if you have questions or are looking for more resources.

Find their latest ELSI Distance Learning Resources HERE.
The Pacific Beach Coalition is dedicated to preserving the ocean, coastal habitat, and wildlife, and ending litter through advocacy, education, community building, and citizen action.
They have compiled a list of generous resources, many of them related to plastic waste. 
The County of San Mateo's YESS (Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science) program provides high school students with the opportunity to learn about the local impacts of climate change through a mixture of classroom activities and field trips. The YESS program is free to schools and teachers and covers transportation costs. The YESS Program is part of the County of San Mateo's Office of Sustainability.
Here is a link to the YESS Program's most recent newsletter.

For questions and ideas, or to subscribe to the YESS newsletter, please contact Zoe van Duivenbode at 

About The OOS Schools Program

The Office of Sustainability Schools Program provides a diverse array of Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core aligned curriculum tailored to classroom, school, district, and youth organization goals aimed at students taking action to reduce waste, conserve resources, and protect the environment.
To read more about what we do, visit the OOS Schools Program web page

To learn more about the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, visit the Office of Sustainability website

For questions and comments,
Please contact:
Subject line: Schools Program
Copyright © 2020 County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability, All rights reserved.

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