Presented By:  Project Green Schools & UgMO Technologies

Project Green Schools is a national non-profit organization whose mission it is to develop the next generation of environmental leaders through education, project-based learning, and community service.  That is why we are excited to be embarking on this curriculum journey with a leader in the field of sustainability.  Project Green Schools and UgMO Technologies both believe that students must be engaged at the intersection of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), energy, environment and public health in order to develop sustainable solutions, employability, college and career readiness knowledge and skills.  UgMO, which stands for Underground Monitoring, is the leader in advanced wireless soil moisture monitoring.  That is why this project is the perfect marriage between leaders in the E-STEM community.

Since the dawn of modern education, and probably before, students have asked the questions, “Why do I need to know this?  And when will I use this??”  It’s a struggle that any good teacher continually seeks to overcome.  As a result, a pedagogy known as project-based learning has exploded in popularity.  Project-based learning gives students relevance, as well as something to relate to, by having them work on a current problem-based project that meets them where they are at in life.  This teaching strategy seeks to give students both the relevance and relatability that they crave.

While those who engage in project-based learning have good intention, the concept is still misunderstood in some circles and is more than just having the students create a product.   According to Farber & Bishop (2018), the authentic PBL that does exist is limited at best.  In addition to this problem, we have also noted from observations on popular online teacher planned learning communities that there seems to be universal difficulties with finding access to quality material for the instruction of certain skills in the Practice of Science unit.  For that reason, it is the goal of this Green School Action Project to attempt to provide the following solutions:

Correspondingly, this resource was created as a way to help teachers bring relevance into their classroom by bringing them into the world in which they live—their school grounds.  We do so using Peg Grafwallner’s (2017) methods:

 Green School Action Project

The lay-out of this curriculum was designed to be used as a source of both stand alone standards-based lessons and a whole-action-based project, depending on the flexibility of a school’s scope and sequence.

In the case of an action-based project, each section of this curriculum represents a step towards your classes’ Student Green School Action Project.  Your goal being to monitor school water usage and to make recommendations as to how your school can be responsible stewards in the realm of water conservation. 

Consider using this as a binder for field notes, research results, drawings, and photos, so it can serve as a record of the year’s efforts, enabling you to compare investigation results from year to year, as well as to incorporate your won lesson ideas, new resources, and “lessons learned.”

For Teachers:

The Process:

A. Exploring Your Watershed

B. Assessing Your Campus

C. Planning Your Project

 D. Maintaining Your Project

E. Resources

Learning Targets:



Two primary goals of this program are to involve students in the planning and implementation of a campus-wide water conservation project.  In conducting a Campus Assessment, small teams of students assess the school campus for specific aspects of soil moisture, as well as stormwater inputs, and make recommendations for corrective practices.

They will tour the school campus to observe:

This investigation introduces soil science where students will define properties of the 3 types of mineral particles in soils: sand, silt, and clay.  These minerals differ in size and composition.  Sand has the largest particles; silt has much smaller ones, clay particles are so small they must be seen with a powerful electron microscope.  Soils have different textures according to the proportions of sand, stilt, or clay particles in the soil.

Students will understand how and why different soils have different water retention or percolation properties also helps students grasp the importance of using native plants that are suited for specific soils and drainage conditions.

 Green School Action Project Framework

This project will following the framework for high-quality project-based learning experiences, as outlined by Farber & Bishop (2017).  This outline will include periods of Investigation, Planning, Action, Reflection, Demonstration, and Celebration.

The activities and lessons in this section will lead you and your class through the planning of your project.  Student lessons and worksheets correspond to each of the following steps:


To establish that there is a problem, students need to investigate soil moisture by collecting appropriate data.  Students will use the scientific method by making sun/shade observations, as well as identifying various factors that affect proper plant growth.

Project Goals

While the primary goal of your project be to reduce school water wastage and/or stormwater runoff, your Green School Action Plan can also serve other goals for humans, animals, and the environment.  The goals that you and your class select will help to shape your project.

Site Selection

The location of your water project is a key consideration.  Use the findings from the previous investigations and lessons to compare the potential sites for your project.

Sun/Shade Observation

It is important to select plants that are adapted to the amount of sunlight that reaches the site you and your class have selected.  This activity will help your class determine whether the site is a full sun, partial shade, or full shade light condition.

Site Characteristics and Preferences

This activity summarizes the findings from pervious investigations into one table for easy reference when you and your class begin to research and select plants.

Plant Selection

Refer to the completed Site Characteristics and Preferences table as you research and select plants.  You will need to select plants that meet the site requirements.

Recommended Materials:

Garden Design

A garden design shows the shape of your garden and the placement of plants, trees, and shrubs.  The design is usually done on a grid, so that you plan the garden dimensions and pick the right number of plants.

Recommended Materials:

Curriculum Standards

Campus Assessment

 Soil Components

 Soils Percolation

 Sun shade

Lower Elementary

K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

K-2-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

Upper Elementary

3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Middle School

MS-ETS1-1.          Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS1-2.          Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3.          Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS1-4.          Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

High School

HS-ETS1-1.           Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

HS-ETS1-2.           Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

HS-ETS1-3.           Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

HS-ETS1-4.           Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.



Project Goals

Name:  ____________________________________________                   Date:  ________________________________



Project goals need to be set at the beginning of any project. Your Green School Action Project is no different.  While the primary goal will be to conserve campus water usage, your Green School Action Project also can serve other goals for humans, animals, and the environment.  Below are other possible goals for your Conservation Garden or Food Forest.


Envision your school project.  What goals do you want to set for your project?

Note:  these goals will be further discussed with the class, so that all students involved in the Green School Action Project have a voice in determining which goals are most important.


Site Selection

Name:  ____________________________________________                   Date:  ________________________________

Picking the Best Location

The location of your water project is a key consideration.  For instance, a Conservation Garden might reduce water runoff on two different sites, however those locations might not be visible to students.  If your goals include student usage or public education value, the site with little visibility would be a poor choice.

Use the findings from your investigations and goal-setting session to answer the following questions.  The answers can guide your classes’ decision-making process.  Feel free to add other characteristics to this decision-making table.

Use your results to frame your class discussion on site selection.  Determine if more information is needed before a final selection can be made.  If necessary, determine which aspects are most important.

Site A Site B Site C Comments
Would a project on this site reduce storm water runoff?


Would this site support any wildlife-related goals?


Is it important that the project be visible to students and the public?

·       Does the area have high visibility?


Is it important that students can get to the site easily?

·       If so, can they?


Can the site be watered and maintained easily?


Is there ever standing water on the site?


Does the site present particular challenges?  If so, note them. (Challenges could include steep slop, deep clay, and invasive plants.)


Does the amount of sunlight on the site support your project goals?  (This question might require plant research.)


Name:  ____________________________________________                   Date:  ________________________________


Sun/Shade Observation


Whether you are planting a garden, trees, or a meadow, it is important to select plants adapted to the amount of sunlight that reaches your site.

Different plants have adapted to grow under different lighting conditions.  Some require Full Sun (at least 6 hours of light) during the growing season for optimal growth.  Some do best in Partial Shade (3-6 hours of direct sunlight).  Others grow well in Shade (less than 3 hours of direct sunlight or filtered light.)

Does your potential site(s) receive sun all day or just for part of the day?  You will perform the following two exercises to determine the amount of light that will reach your site during the growing season.


PART 1. Sun-Shade Estimate

It helps to understand the angle of sunlight that will fall upon your site during the growing season.  Although the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the positions of the sunrises and sunsets change during the course of a year.

  1. From what compass direction does the sun rise in late March? Northeast, East, or Southeast?  ____________________________________________________________
  2. Form what compass direction does the sun rise in late June? Northeast, East, or Southeast?  __________________________________________________________
  3. Where it set in July? ______________________________________________________________
  4. Identify north on your school property. Considering the position of the sun’s path during the summer, do you think your planting site will receive:

PART 2.  Sun-Shade Observation

Pick two (2) times in the morning and at least two (2) times in the afternoon to observe the light conditions on your site(s).  For instance, make morning observations at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and afternoon observations at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.  Do your observations on a sunny day, and record them on the following chart.  (This chart can be used for up to two locations.)



Location 1 Location 2
Note “sun” or “shade” Note “shade if this area will be shaded by trees or buildings during summer. Note “sun” or “shade” Note “shade if this area will be shaded by trees or buildings during summer.



  1. Form your observations, how many hours of sunlight do you estimate your site will receive each day from May through August?
  2. Would some areas of your garden receive less light than others, due to shade from structures?
  3. Based on Exercise 1 and your observations, would you classify this site as Full Sun, Partial Shade, or Shade? Why?
  1. Extra Credit Research Question: What are two native plants that would do well with this lighting?


Site Characteristics and Plant Preferences

Name:  ____________________________________________                   Date:  ________________________________



Different species of plants and trees have evolved to grow best under different soil, light, and moisture conditions.  The best way to pick native plants that will thrive in your garden or forest is to identify ones that fit your site conditions.  It is important that the plants also fulfill your project goals.  The tables in this exercise will help you and your classmates select the best plants, trees, or shrubs for your Green School Action Project.

Use findings from previous investigations to complete the table below.  Circle the conditions that fit your site.  Include additional notes, such as whether the site gets morning or afternoon sunlight.






Hardiness Zone

(Standard that determines which plants are most likely to thrive at a location, based on winter temperature.)



1       2     3     4       5       6


7     8     9     10     11     12


What kind of soil does the site have?


What is the pH



Sand     Loam     Clay


How much light does the site get?



Full Sun     Part Shade     Full Shade


Is the site dry, moist, or wet, for most of the time?



Dry        Moist     Wet



List the conditions for which your plants or trees must be suited (for example, Zone 7a, clay, pH7.5, part shade, wet in the spring, dry in the fall).


Site Characteristics and Plant Preferences

Name:  ____________________________________________                   Date:  ________________________________


In the following table, you will circle the characteristics you want your garden or forest project to have.  Your class decided upon some of these preferences earlier, but other characteristics relate specifically to plant selection.  If you select many preferences, consider rating the choices in the notes section.








Can your class support plants that need high maintenance, such as frequent watering or pruning?





Low          Medium           High

Bloom Time

When would you prefer for plants to flower?



March                        April-May


May-June                                  July




Wildlife Habitat

Circle the wildlife you want to attract, if any.



Butterflies                Insects                 Birds


Small Mammals




Edible Fruits & Nuts



Not important               Semi-important




Fall Color

This could be colorful leaves or grasses or branches of shrubs.



Not important               Semi-important




Winter Color

This could include grasses or evergreens.



Not important               Semi-important






Discuss which one characteristic(s) are most important; then list the characteristic in order of most importance.



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