Environmental Engineering Project Ideas

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

An increasingly popular job in the 21st-century is that of an environmental engineer. In this asset, you'll find several environmental engineering projects for students grades K-12.

Environmental Engineering

The job of an environmental engineer is to create solutions to environmental issues (such as global warming, pollution, soil erosion, etc.) to help the world. Although environmental engineering requires expert knowledge of several fields of science and coordination with governmental organizations, students of all ages have enough information to dabble in the field. The first project in this resource is designed for elementary-aged students, the middle project for all students and the final project is designed with middle and high school students in mind. Because of the wide age ranges used, adjust the parameters to meet your students' needs.

Projects for Lower Grades (K-5): Planting Seeds to Prevent Erosion

Implement this project after students have learned about the problems of erosion and the various methods used by farmers and environmentalists to prevent erosion.

Create groups of about five students. Give each group two cardboard shoe boxes, enough potting soil to fill each box and a packet of seeds. Students will fill both the boxes with soil but plant seeds in only one of the boxes. Students will water both boxes equally until the seeds have sprouted and are about 5 inches tall. At this point, they should prop one end of each shoebox on something that is a few inches tall so that the boxes are at an angle. Students should record a hypothesis about what they think will happen. Continue to water both boxes equally. Over the course of several days, students should make daily notations of the differences between the boxes. At the end of a given time period (anywhere up to two weeks), students should create an illustrated report that includes their hypothesis, observational notes, compares the end result of the boxes and explains why they think this happened.

  • Materials Needed: Potting soil, seeds, shoe boxes

Project for All Grades - Recycling Campaign

For this project, students will design and advertise a recycling campaign for the school. Use this project at the end of a unit on recycling or natural resources. As a class, discuss the following topics:

  • Overuse and reduction of available natural resources
  • Increasing size of landfills
  • Plastic pollution in waterways

Then, in small groups, students will design a school-wide recycling campaign, much like how an environmental engineer would. In groups of about five, students should create the following:

  • A justification for why the school needs a recycling plan (or why the current plan needs to be updated)
  • A step-by-step plan for what the recycling plan looks like
  • A list of resources needed to make the plan work (encourage students to think of low-cost solutions)
  • An advertisement for their campaign

Each of these materials can be adjusted based on readiness. Older students might write out the plans, but younger students could draw images or simply talk about the plan. After the plans are made, groups should share their ideas with the class. You may want to invite a school administrator and have them consider implementing the plans your students created.

  • Materials Needed: Paper, coloring materials

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