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Environmental Issues Research Paper Assignment For Middle School

Earlier in the school year, to cap off our unit on the environment, my 6th graders completed an environmental issues research project and  presentation. This project was a great opportunity for the students to demonstrate both their public speaking and tech skills, as well as provide a forum for student-directed learning. Each student had a chance to teach their peers about their topic and lead a demonstration or activity related to their environmental issue. They did a fantastic job and came up with activities that really enhanced their presentations. The students were engaged and supportive of their peers.

Just a few examples of their demonstrations/activities: 

  • Noise Pollution – using a decibel app, one student asked the class to take part in different activities and monitored the noise level. The student then compared the noise level in the classroom to their equivalents such as jack hammers or traffic.
  • Garbage Patch – using a tray with an ocean/coastal scene decorated with items attached to magnets, one student demonstrated how gyres in the Pacific Ocean move plastics from the coast to the Great Garbage Patch by sliding magnets under the tray.
  • Poaching – each student took part in a role-playing game modeled after “Assassin/Spy”. Each student was given a role card (such as an elephant, tiger, or poacher). As they played the game, students had to find the poacher to save as many animals as they could.


  • List of 50 environmental issue topics (pdf)
  • Detailed project requirements (pdf)
  • Peer review sheet (pdf)
    • this was for personal note taking, not shared with the presenter


  • Day 1 – Introduction and pre-research, students pick their top 10 choices
  • Day 2 – Students pick topics and brainstorm 10 guiding questions to help guide their research
  • Day 3 – Discussion in small groups, students share questions and modify
  • Days 4 to 7 – Research phase
  • Days 8 to end – Students present topics

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Product Description

I made this for my class (so it has my name and city specific info inside of it). However, I thought it could be a good place to start when tackling a major project like this.

This word doc contains the various documents that students will need to complete a TN standard aligned research project on environmental issues that humans have caused/impacted. These issues include water pollution, air pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, release of CFC's, littering, and pesticide/fertilizer use. To view the document without the comments, you can turn them off in the view section of word.

This purchase will include an assignment overview, presentation requirements, a mini-lesson on using books and recording sources, a mini-lesson on finding reliable sources, a mini-lesson on presenting to a class, source cards for students to record information, a research checklist, a note-taking handout, and a rubric.

This document does not include any specific websites or articles for students to use in their research. The idea is that they are finding these articles on their own on the internet or in library books that you provide.

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