Our world seems so gigantic that it is hard for kids to believe we will ever run out of anything. This is why it's important to introduce the idea of natural resources to them early on. Natural resources are any materials from Earth that are used to support life and meet people’s needs. Starting with familiar life experiences, second graders can begin to identify natural resources, appreciate the origin of man-made products, and understand reasons to preserve the valuable resources our Earth provides.

Where Did It Come From?

Any natural substance that humans need is considered a natural resource. This includes food, fuel, and the materials we use to produce clothing, tools and shelter. Second grade students can start to understand this concept by identifying natural resources such as sand, stone, air, sunlight, soil, plants and animals, water, oil, coal, natural gas and metals. Help them identify products made by these resources by using photographs or clip art of local resources, such a forests, quarries and farms. You can also use pictures from a magazine to create a chart or poster matching a product people use with the corresponding natural resource from which it was made. Examples: Wood -- Pencil Cotton -- T-shirt Clay -- Brick -- Buildings

Non-Renewable Resources

Grandmother and granddaughters in greenhouse

Make a penny mine site in a large plastic bin by layering pebbles and sand with pennies sprinkled throughout. Tell students that they will have four chances to use a spoon to dig for pennies, each dig lasting 30 seconds. For each dig, students will put the collected pennies into cups labeled 1, 2, 3 and 4. It will be clear to the students that, with every dig, it is more difficult to find pennies because they are a limited natural resource. No new pennies are being made to replace the ones mined. Explain that fossil fuels, like coal and oil, were made in the time of dinosaurs and that no more is being made. This experiment can be done outside on a larger scale if you have a sandbox or a plastic baby pool.

Watch It Grow

Give groups of three to five students a small seedling plant. Explain that everything that plant needs to live and grow is a natural resource. What does the plant need? Children in second grade should be able to answer that a plant needs sunshine, soil, water and air. Humans can help plants grow by using commercial fertilizer and pesticides or by using stakes for the plant to climb or a container in which it can grow. When growing in their natural environment, plants have all of the natural resources they need to survive, but in the classroom, students will need to help the plants by making sure they have clean water and a place that has sunshine.

Growing Plants: Taking It a Step Further

Praise students for being great caretakers of their plants. Begin an experiential lesson by manipulating the natural resources. One day, write “DROUGHT!” on the board and only give them a few drops to water their plants. Be creative when introducing the effects humans may have on natural resources. Give the students options because they will not want to kill their plant. “Do you want acid rain or clean rain today? Do you want clean air, or should we sprinkle the plants with dust, air freshener or other pollutants?" After investing in their plant, they will want to help it grow. Extend this to caring for our natural resources on Earth.