My Carbon Neutral School

Students explore how schools can become carbon neutral. They learn about non-renewable and renewable energy and go on a school energy audit with Dean and his friends.

Unit Overview

Through readings, activities and discussions, students explore how schools can become carbon neutral. They learn about non-renewable and renewable energy and go on a school energy audit with Dean and his friends. They also perform calculations based on the data and recommend practical and creative ways for their school to neutralize its carbon emission.


  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5

Lesson Type

In-class or online lesson

Environmental Topics

Green Guardianship, Resource Conservation, Sustainable Human Development

Environmental Literacy Core Principles

For a summary of the environmental literacy principles and concepts embedded in this lesson series, please visit Green Guardians Environmental Literacy Core Principles.


ELA: RL.3.1 RL.3.3 RL.3.4 .W.3.1 W.3.2 W.3.4 W.3.5 W.3.6 W.3.7 W.3.8 SL.3.1 SL.3.3 SL.3.4 .SL.3.6 RL.4.1 RL.4.4 RL.4.7 W.4.1 W.4.2 W.4.4 W.4.5 W.4.6 W.4.7 W.4.8 SL.4.1 SL.4.3 SL.4.4 SL.4.5 RL.5.1 RL.5.4 RL.5.7 W.5.1 W.5.2 W.5.4 W.5.5 W.5.6 W.5.7 W.5.8 W.5.9 SL.5.1 SL.5.2 SL.5.3 SL.5.4 SL.5.5 SL.5.6
History Social-Science: HSS-3.4.2 HSS-3.5 HSS-3.5.3 HSS-3.5.4
Math: 3.MD.B.3 3.NBT.A.2 4.OA.A.2 4.OA.A.3 4.NBT.A.1 4.NBT.A.2 4.NBT.B.5 4.MD.A.2 5.NBT.B.5 5.MD.A.1
Science: 4-ESS3-1 5-PS1-3 5-ESS3-1 3-5-ETS1-1 3-5-ETS1-2 3-5-ETS1-3


Teacher Guide

This project may easily be extended into optional family discussions and activities around energy consumption and what it means to go carbon neutral. To facilitate this engagement, a family guide (in English and Spanish) has been created which teachers may choose to forward to interested parents and guardians.

Family Guide (English)


Four lessons of 40-60 minutes each.

Lesson 1: Blackout!

Through a story and related activities, students follow Dean and his friends as they learn about non-renewable and renewable energy. When a blackout interrupts their science class, they begin researching the challenges facing aging power grids designed to run on fossil fuels. The class decides to reduce their school’s energy consumption and in turn, their carbon emission.

Lesson 2: An Energy Audit

The story continues as our characters conduct an energy audit. They collect and analyze their school’s daily energy consumption and compare the data before and after energy-saving practices are introduced. At the end of the experiment, they find that by changing how they use energy, the school cut 568 kg of carbon emissions in 10 days. 

Lesson Materials

Lesson 3: Carbon Neutral Schools  

In the third lesson, Teddy and Poppy give presentations on their ideas for a carbon neutral school. Teddy presents on planting trees on campus as a way to offset the school’s carbon footprint. Poppy presents on ways to conserve energy and recommends switching to energy efficient appliances. After each presentation, students work math problems to calculate the carbon savings of their recommended methods. They discuss the pluses and minuses of each proposed solution.

Lesson Materials

Lesson 4: Dean’s Clean Energy Solution

In the fourth lesson, Dean presents his idea. He suggests that the school should switch to onsite renewable energy with a combination of solar panels on the roof and spinning wind turbines on the outer walls. Until the school can make this transition, Dean proposes that the school should make green power purchases from companies that specialize in producing and supplying clean energy. The lesson culminates in a carbon neutral school design challenge that invites students to identify energy consumption issues in their schools and propose a plan to address them.

Lesson Materials

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