Why not get your students thinking more about the world around them and challenge them to write essays using these writing prompts on the environment. Whether you are discussing recycling, air pollution, or what to do with public lands, these environmental writing prompts will get your students thinking a little greener.
For Younger Grades
Prompt 1: A king has granted you the superpower of saving the earth. What three things will you do to help nature or animals survive?
Prompt 2: Think of a clean, sandy beach and then imagine it filled with trash from food wrappers and water bottles that people did not throw away. How does the image of the dirty beach make you feel?
Prompt 3: If one of your classmates litters outside on the playground, it probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. But what if none of you threw away your trash? How long would it take for you not to be able to play on your playground?
Prompt 4: Write a story about something that has been recycled, like a can, newspaper, or plastic bag, and its adventures along the way.
Prompt 5: Studies show that very few people recycle. Why should we recycle and how would you convince your family to do it?
For Older Grades
Prompt 6: Honey bees not only make honey; they also pollinate about 80% of all the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Everything from apples to zucchini is available to us because of the hard work of the honey bee. And yet, it looks as if they may be headed for extinction. Why do you think this is happening? Could it be the result of the toxic chemicals we use? Some have suggested that a possible reason is all of the cell phones and radio frequencies have caused electromagnetic interference. Write an essay on what you believe might be the cause, and what you think we can do to keep the honey bees from becoming extinct.
Prompt 7: Our world produces hundred of millions of plastic bags, which are intended to only be used once. Should they be banned? And if they are banned, what would people use to line their trashcans, throw out dirty diapers, or take wet towels home from the beach?
Prompt 8: There is a Native American saying which states, Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Do you think that we should live this philosophy in our daily lives in order to keep Earth viable for future generations? What types of things can each of us do that will make a difference generations from now?
Prompt 9: Pick an animal that is facing possible extinction and write a story where you are the animal. Write about your typical day and explain the types of things you do each day to survive.
Prompt 10: The anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Do you believe that’s true? Give examples of what you think a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can do to help our environment. Pick a subject (animal extinction, saving the rain forest, cleaner water for all people around the world, or whatever is important to you) and write about what people could do in their day to day lives to change the world for the better.
Prompt 11: It is estimated that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every day due to the deforestation of rainforests. That means we are losing over 50,000 species every year. The reason the land is being cleared is for the timber, for mining operations and to provide grazing areas for large scale cattle ranching. What do you think can or should be done to stop the deforestation?
Prompt 12: According to the environmental website, greenupgrader.com, plastic water bottles don’t begin composting for 700 years. That means if water bottles were in existence in the 1300’s and someone threw one out, it would only start composting now. Does reading something like this make you think twice before buying water bottles, or does the convenience for people outweigh the environmental impact? What do you think we should do to convince people not to use water bottles?
Prompt 13: Your class has been studying ways of improving our environment. One of these ways is by recycling items you would normally throw away. This might be an empty paper towel roll, empty milk carton, or an old telephone book. Explain how you can create or recycle something from a discarded item or throwaway. Before you start writing, think about what item you are going to recycle. Think about what new item you are going to create from it. Decide on the materials needed for this project. Think about the clear, step-by-step directions for making your recycled item. Decide how this recycled item will be useful.
Prompt 14: Gasoline and diesel powered engines are a necessary part of modern life, but they have an affect on the environment. Write an essay that discusses the environmental impact of the use of gas and diesel engines versus what these devices provide for society.
Prompt 15: Water is life. There is the same amount of water now on Earth as when it was first created. For us, it’s easy…we turn on the tap and there it is. Yet in Africa and Asia, women and children spend about 6 hours a day and walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to collect water, according to water.org. This is time they could be spending in school or caring for their families. Think of five ways you and your family could conserve water so that everyone can do their part.
Prompt 16: The mayor has to make a big decision–should some land in your community be used for a new shopping mall or for a park. Write a letter to the mayor telling what you think.
Prompt 17: Picture your favorite nature spot. It could be a park or a camping site, a beach or even your own backyard. Now envision what it would look like if no one had thrown out any of the garbage they’ve used there for the last two years. See in your mind all of the water bottles, plastic bags, and fast food bags littered all over. Two years worth! Do you think it makes much of an impact if each of us just takes care of our own little corner of the earth? Why or why not?
Prompt 18: A tract of land is being sold in your community. Fictitious bidders include the National Park Service, a children’s hospital, a shopping-mall developer, an oil drilling company, and the U.S. Armed Forces. Choose one and become a lobbyist for one that group writing arguments on behalf of their interests.
Prompt 19: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” Think about that Benjamin Franklin quote for a moment and think about how often (brushing your teeth, taking a shower, flushing a toilet, cleaning your clothes, washing dishes, and cooking meals) and how easily we use water (open a tap, push a button, grab a water bottle). Now imagine waking up to no water. How do you feel? How would you cope? What would you do?
Prompt 20: What are the man-made causes for plants and animals to go extinct?
Prompt 21: Before Earth Day was created in 1970 it was legal for factories to spew toxic smoke into the air and dump toxins in nearby streams. Senator Nelson decided to do something about it, so he created Earth Day, which in turn created the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Write an essay on how damaged our planet (and our health) would be today, if Senator Nelson had not pushed for a cleaner environment.
Prompt 22: On average, people waste a gallon of water each time they brush their teeth if they let the faucet run. Picture ten soda cans full of wasted water. Now envision 20 water-filled soda cans if you brush twice a day. If you’re a family of five, that would be 100 cans of wasted water every single day. Do you think knowing these facts will make you more aware when you brush your teeth? Why or why not?