Top 101+ Amazing Environmental Science Project Ideas for High School

Amazing Environmental Science Project Ideas

Environmental science is an interesting subject that lets high school students learn about important stuff like pollution, climate change, green technology, and taking care of the planet. Doing projects is a fun way for teens to understand the world and how people impact it. 

In this blog, we made a list of over 100 ideas for hands-on projects about the environment that high schoolers can do alone or with friends. The projects we picked out range from easy experiments using basic materials at home to more complicated research topics. 

Each idea explains the experiment, how to do it, what you need, and what you might discover in simple language. Whether you want to test air or water, learn about renewable energy, look at recycling programs, or explore another environmental issue. 

You’ll find an awesome project that matches your skills and what you’re interested in. We aim to give high schoolers a list of meaningful environmental science projects that teach them about ecological challenges and solutions.

Note: Also read our blog “ What is MEP Engineering: The Best And Well-Explained Guide! “

Top 101+ Amazing Environmental Science Project Ideas For High School

Table of Contents

Here is a list of amazing environmental science project ideas related to different categories, First, we will discuss some of the best environmental science project ideas based on different topics, and then we will discuss the best environment science project ideas based on different science streams. Let’s take a look.

Environmental Science Project Ideas Based On Different Science Topics

Here are some ideas for an environmental science project based on the different and important science topics in high school. 

Climate Change

  • Study how cutting down trees affects the weather nearby.
  • Look at old weather records to see if the weather has changed where you live.
  • Make a model to show how greenhouse gases warm up the Earth.
  • Check how acid in the oceans affects sea animals.
  • Come up with a plan to use less energy at your school or in your neighborhood.
  • Test the water in nearby rivers or lakes and see if it’s clean.
  • Check if dirty air affects how plants grow.
  • See how loud noises in different places affect people.
  • Look at how plastic garbage hurts animals in the ocean.
  • Find ways to make less trash at home or school.

Renewable Energy

  • Build and test a small windmill or solar panel.
  • Compare different things like wood or trash to see what makes the most energy.
  • See if your area can use heat from the ground to make energy.
  • Test different types of solar cookers to see which one works best.
  • Design a small house that can use energy from the sun or wind.


  • Count all the different plants and animals in a nearby park or forest.
  • Look at how animals that don’t belong where you live affect other plants and animals.
  • Study how animals disappear when their homes are destroyed.
  • Make a garden that animals like to visit and see what comes to visit.
  • Look at how garbage affects the animals near where you live.


  • Come up with a way to reuse things at your school.
  • Find ways to use less water at home or school.
  • See how animals are affected when their homes are taken away.
  • Make a plan to use less outdoor lights where you live.
  • Look at how making special places for animals helps them stay alive.

Environmental Health

  • Look at how dirty air inside can make people sick.
  • Study how bugs that help plants can’t live if there are too many chemicals around.
  • Check if old electronics can make people sick if they touch them.
  • Look at how too much noise can make people feel bad.
  • Make a plan to use things that don’t have bad chemicals.

Environmental Policy

  • Learn about the rules near where you live to keep the environment safe.
  • See if rules about pollution from factories help keep the air clean.
  • Look at how countries work together to help stop climate change.
  • See how groups of people who want things changed affect the rules.
  • Make a new rule for the environment where you live.

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Look at how different ways to farm affect the dirt.
  • See if food grown without chemicals is better than regular food.
  • Make a plan to help farmers use less water and chemicals.
  • See how farming up and down instead of side to side helps make more food.

Waste Management

  • Look at how different kinds of wrapping paper affect the environment.
  • See if turning old food into dirt helps the environment.
  • Study how getting money back for recycling helps people do it more.
  • Make a plan to have less food thrown away at your school.
  • Look at how old electronics hurt the environment and how to fix it.

Environmental Education

  • Make a program to teach little kids about the environment.
  • Make posters or books to teach people about the environment.
  • Have an event to teach people about a problem with the environment.
  • Make a plan for teachers to teach kids about keeping the environment safe.
  • Look at how learning about the environment makes kids act differently.

Renewable Resources

  • Look at how ocean waves can make energy.
  • See if different things like trash or corn can make power for cars.
  • Study how a special kind of water plant can make energy.
  • Make a model to show how to make hot water from underground heat.
  • See if a special kind of gas made from trash can make electricity.

Wildlife Conservation

  • Look at how animals are affected when their homes are broken into pieces.
  • Study how animals that move around a lot are affected by warmer weather.
  • Look at how a special road helps animals stay alive.
  • Make a plan to keep one kind of animal safe where you live.
  • Look at how things people do hurt frogs and toads near where you live.

Environmental Science Project Ideas According To Different Streams

Here is a list of some environmental science project ideas given according to the different science streams in the high school. 

  • Check how well different solar panels turn sunlight into electricity.
  • Look at how small windmills make energy in different places.
  • Study how hot or cold water moves in the ocean.
  • Test different things to see what keeps buildings warm.
  • Make and try a model to get energy from ocean waves.
  • Look at how dirty stuff changes water.
  • Study how acid rain hurts soil and water.
  • Try using different things to clean up dirty water.
  • Look at what chemicals are in dirty air in cities.
  • Study how old food turns into dirt.
  • Count all the different plants and animals in a place.
  • Look at how dirty stuff hurts plants.
  • Study how different ways of farming change the dirt.
  • Look at how animals in cities survive.
  • Study how plants change with the weather.

Environmental Engineering

  • Make a thing to clean water with stuff from nature.
  • Study how to clean up dirty dirt.
  • Look at different ways to make less trash.
  • Design a building that doesn’t hurt the Earth.
  • Look at how cars and buses make dirty air.
  • Look at how dirt moves and changes the land.
  • Study how big events like earthquakes hurt nature and people.
  • Look at how water under the ground changes the dirt.
  • Study how rocks and minerals are made and used.
  • Look at how old the land is and how it’s used.
  • Count all the different plants and animals in a place and see how they change.
  • Look at how cities hurt animals’ homes.
  • Study how lots of different plants and animals help each other stay healthy.
  • Look at how the weather changes plants and animals.
  • Study how one animal helps a lot of others stay healthy.


  •  Look at how the weather changes and hurts things.
  • Study how cities get hotter than other places.
  • Look at how the air in different places gets dirty.
  • Study how clouds make rain.
  • Look at how the weather changes how much food we grow.


  • Look at how living things can clean up oil spills in water.
  • Study how changing plants’ genes helps them grow better.
  • Study how stuff made from living things can help the Earth.
  • Look at how tiny living things make electricity.
  • Study how to keep animals from going away forever.


  • Look at how water gets dirty and hurts animals in the ocean.
  • Study how small pieces of plastic hurt animals in the ocean.
  • Look at how water moves in the ocean and changes the weather.
  • Study how big ocean parts don’t have enough air for animals.
  • Look at how water moving in the ocean helps plants and animals.

Agricultural Science

  • Look at how farmers use water to grow food.
  • Study how bugs that help stuff farmers hurt plants use to kill bugs.
  • Look at how planting different crops helps the dirt.
  • Look at how the weather change hurts farmers and what they can do.
  • Look at how farm animals are cared for and how to do it better.

Doing an environmental science project enables high schoolers to understand better the complex environmental issues facing our planet. 

Whether you are interested in conducting experiments to test air and water quality in your local area, analyzing solar panels’ efficiency, studying pollution’s effects on plants, or pursuing any of the 100+ project ideas outlined in this blog. 

An environmental science project is a great way to satisfy your intellectual curiosity while making a positive impact. We hope the diverse selection of environmental science fair project ideas provided sparks your inspiration to come up with creative solutions to ecological problems. 

Remember that small individual actions can add up to bring about tremendous change. The knowledge and experience you gain from these projects don’t end when high school does. 

Let environmental science be a launching pad to make sustainability and conservation central tenets of your lifestyle, career, and community. Our future depends on environmentally-conscious leaders taking informed action today.

What are some more advanced environmental science fair project ideas?

More advanced projects could include modeling climate change effects using computers, testing the biodegradability of different packaging materials, analyzing contaminants in local land or water environments, designing sustainable devices like a solar oven, creating bioplastics from renewable materials, or testing remediation techniques on contaminated soil or water samples.

Where can students find inspiration for an interesting environmental science project?

They can find ideas from environmental websites, scientific journals for high school students, books with environmental project guides, previous environmental science fair displays at their school, talking to their teacher or environmental professionals, browsing lists like this one, or brainstorm real-world environmental problems in their community that interest them.

How can a high school student find the expertise to complete an advanced environmental science fair project?

They can recruit help from science teachers, contact local scientists or companies through email to serve as mentors, use university laboratories and equipment if available in their area, look to government environmental agencies like EPA/DEP for resources, connect with environmental nonprofits, or search online for consultants with science expertise willing to advise students.

What kind of environmental topics make good science fair projects?

Any testable environmental question where data can be collected makes a good project. Popular topics include alternative energy, recycling/reuse studies, air/water quality testing, sustainability practices, habitat restoration, biodegradability of wastes, environmental engineering solutions, remediation of toxins, and using technology to monitor ecological issues.

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10 Top Environmental Projects for High School Students

High school students are often more likely to listen to and engage with environmental messages that come from their peers, rather than teachers and other adults in the school environment.

 That’s why environmental groups like Green Up have identified schools and community centers as ideal places to implement environmental projects for high school students across the country, and that’s why we’re here with some ideas to get you started on your own high school environment project. Check out these 10 great environmental projects for high school students’ ideas.

Environmental Projects for High School Students

  • Save energy with a Kill-A-Watt
  • Green your school cafeteria
  • Reduce waste in schools
  • Recycle metals into jewelry
  • Use an air filter in your room
  • Plant trees at school
  • Educate others on the importance of environmentalism
  • Build a compost bin
  • Recycle Electronics
  • Build an outdoor classroom

Let’s look into these environmental projects for high school students in detail.

1) Save energy with a Kill-A-Watt

A Kill-A-Watt is a device that can be plugged into any electrical outlet and will measure how much energy the appliance is using. If you’re worried about high energy bills, the Kill-A-Watt is an easy way to reduce your power usage without sacrificing your lifestyle.

The easiest way to start saving on electricity is by turning off lights when they aren’t in use. When you leave the room, turn off light switches at the breaker box if possible so you don’t waste power on lights left on in empty rooms or hallways.

Another quick trick for cutting down on electric bill costs: unplug anything that isn’t being used (i.e., cell phone chargers). These are surprisingly wasteful appliances! If you have a stereo system, wireless speaker, TV set, or DVD player; make sure it’s turned off when not in use.

Make it easier for yourself by plugging these items into a power strip which can be shut down with one flick of the switch. This is one of the environmental projects for high school students where you’ll save money on your utility bills and eliminate loads of wasted energy.

2) Green your school cafeteria

Greening your school cafeteria can be as simple as swapping out plastic straws and plastic wraps with reusable versions.

It might also involve hosting a bake sale to raise funds for new utensils, or just asking parents to bring in their own containers when picking up their kids’ lunches.

Find the source of your food waste: With so many student cafeterias going green these days, food waste has become an issue on campuses nationwide.

Look at what is being wasted most often and work to reduce that food production. When cafeteria workers know where their biggest problem areas are, they can allocate resources better.

Create a compost area near the kitchen: Put together instructions for students about how to make sure all of those lunchtime scraps go into the compost bin instead of down the garbage disposal (so you don’t accidentally add cheese leftovers to your sink disposal).

This is one of the environmental projects for high school students where If you want it to be truly sustainable, it should include steps for worm composting too.

3) Reduce waste in schools

High schools produce a lot of trash, but it is possible to reduce waste. One way to cut back on garbage is to eliminate food waste in the cafeteria by distributing reusable trays and containers instead of serving food on paper plates.

Schools can also save money on their utility bills by installing energy-efficient lighting, using natural light whenever possible, and replacing old equipment with newer models that use less power.

Finally, make sure you recycle! It takes less time to sort recycling from trash than it does to create new materials from scratch.

And reducing the number of recyclable materials that go into landfills means we are saving space for more important things like our children’s future. Recycling reduces pollution and saves energy; when enough people work together to recycle, we will get closer to achieving true sustainability.

4) Recycle metals into jewelry

Recycling metals is one of the environmental projects for high school students. It is a fun and creative way to reduce the number of metals that end up in landfills. It’s also a great way to spend time with friends or family.

Below are instructions on how to make recycled metal jewelry, so get your hands dirty.

Find out what type of metal you want to work with. You can recycle scrap pieces into beads and spoons into charms by hammering them down until they are thin enough to string onto a necklace.

You can melt gold coins or jewelry using low heat over an open flame (gas stove) then pour it into molds to create bars, buttons, shapes, or ingots. Make some eco-friendly candles: Making candles at home can be an inexpensive alternative to purchasing mass-produced ones from stores.

Beeswax is one of the best materials for making natural candles because it burns cleanly, produces a nice scent, and does not produce smoke when burning.

To make beeswax candles all you need is beeswax, which may be available at local craft stores or farmer’s markets if you live near apiaries. Add essential oils like vanilla extract for fragrance.

5) Use an air filter in your room

An air filter will remove dust, pollen, and pet dander from the air in your room. Place the air filter in a strategic location such as near your bed, where you spend most of your time during the day. This way, you will be breathing cleaner air while you sleep.

To save money, use an old pillowcase to cover the filter to protect it from dust particles.

Do not vacuum more than once a week: Over-vacuuming your carpet can create more allergens that contribute to people with asthma or allergies feeling worse.

Vacuum once a week at the very least; if you live with pets who shed often, vacuum every other day instead of daily.

If you are using a high-powered vacuum cleaner then this is especially important because vacuums that have a HEPA filter are better at trapping dirt particles and removing them from the air. For example, Dyson vacuums have excellent filters so they don’t produce any fine particulate emissions.

6) Plant trees at school

Planting trees at school is one of the environmental projects for high school students. Schools often have a number of trees on their campuses, but sometimes they are not in the best locations. If you are interested in planting new trees near your school, find out if there is a tree that needs to be removed and replaced with something different.

If there isn’t, talk to your guidance counselor or principal about finding a location where you could plant new trees. You can either use seeds from other existing trees on campus or purchase plants from a nursery.

Tree planters are available at Home Depot (HD) stores to help make this process easier. You may need to remove sod before you plant new trees, which will take some time and requires more water when it’s hot outside.

Another option is to plant fruit trees in areas where there might not be any food sources nearby, like playgrounds or sports fields.

7) Educate others on the importance of environmentalism

In the age of global warming and climate change, environmentalism is an important part of our daily lives. Not only do we need to be environmentally conscious in our day-to-day lives, but high school students should have the opportunity to explore their creativity when it comes to environmental projects.

If you’re a high school student looking for ideas, check out these 8 environmental projects for high school students under this category.

  • 8) Create solar-powered window clings that promote alternative energy.
  • 9) Encourage recycling with signs posted around your town or city.
  • 10) Take pictures of different locations in your area to see what has changed due to pollution.
  • 11) Teach others about the benefits of planting trees by holding workshops on tree planting at local parks or nature reserves.
  • 12) Lobby your community council to create green spaces throughout the neighborhood.
  • 13) Pick up litter at least once per week and report where you found it so that the proper authorities can come to clean it up.
  • 14) Get together with friends to collect recyclable items for donation bins near local schools or places of worship.
  • 15) Work with youth groups to plant fruit trees in low-income neighborhoods so people can get fresh produce within walking distance from home.

16) Build a compost bin

A composting system is a great way to reduce the amount of garbage you produce. By doing this, not only are you helping the environment, but you’re also generating new soil and fertilizers. To make your own compost bin, all you need is some wood or metal wire mesh and something to contain it in. You can buy some of these items at most hardware stores.

And once you have made your compost bin, just add leaves, kitchen scraps, and other organic matter that would typically go into a landfill. It’s an easy way to do your part!

Just make sure you remember to turn your compost pile every few weeks so different types of materials get turned over and decompose evenly.

Start by placing two parallel pieces of wood on the ground as if they were going to form a rectangle. Make sure they are perpendicular to each other.

17) Recycle Electronics

Recycling electronics is also one of the environmental projects for high school students. It helps the environment and can provide you with a little extra spending money. You just need a few supplies, some time, and a little bit of know-how to get started. First, open up your laptop and unplug it from the wall.

Then use an anti-static wristband or something else that provides static protection to help prevent any static electricity buildup in your body that could damage other electronic devices nearby. Next, remove any hard drives or other accessories inside your laptop before removing the screws that keep it closed together.

Dispose of these items according to whatever recycling guidelines apply in your area before turning on your laptop again.

Once you’re ready to turn your laptop back on, remember to plug it into the power cord before closing it up and screwing everything back together.

If you want to recycle more than one computer at once, make sure they are all shut down and disconnected from power cords beforehand so they don’t have any electrical surges while transporting them.

18) Build an outdoor classroom

One way to get kids excited about the environment is to take them outside. One of the easiest and most fun ways to do this is by building an outdoor classroom. The process of going through all of the steps in building an outdoor classroom will help students learn skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and resourcefulness.

Plus, it will be a space where they’ll be able to create their own environmental projects that they can show off to friends and family or put on display at school! Here’s how to make your very own:

A) Decide what type of project you want your students to complete during class time.

B) Research ideas from books or magazines, then have groups come up with their favorite concept and work together in order to build it.

C) Gather supplies, such as lumber and paint, from nearby retailers.

D) Have an adult who’s not participating supervise the project construction (or find someone who wants to volunteer)

What are some good environmental projects?

In order to make a difference, you have to get your hands dirty. In this list of 10 projects, high schoolers can find the perfect project that suits their interests and abilities.

If they are looking for something new, they can start an urban farm or build their own compost bin. If they prefer more outdoor work, they might like to plant trees in the local area or help with beach cleanups.

And if they want to be really adventurous, students can even design their own custom environmental project! Whatever it is, getting involved is always better than staying on the sidelines.

What can I do to help the environment of high school students?

The environment is a very important topic, and it’s best to start educating younger generations early on. Here are some projects that high school students can do to help the environment:

  • Buy energy-efficient appliances for your home
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room or use a night light instead of turning on the overhead light. It only takes 5 minutes of your time to conserve energy.

Teaching students about the importance of environmental responsibility, recycling, and conservation can be a lot of work.

Luckily, there are many ways to help high school students develop environmental responsibility without taking up their valuable time. Encourage them to volunteer at their local recycling center or take part in a beach clean-up. Do you have other environmental projects for high school students you think are worth considering? Please leave a comment below.

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50 Best Environmental Science Research Topics

May 31, 2023

environmental science research projects high school

Environmental science is a varied discipline that encompasses a variety of subjects, including ecology, atmospheric science, and geology among others. Professionals within this field can pursue many occupations from lab technicians and agricultural engineers to park rangers and environmental lawyers. However, what unites these careers is their focus on how the natural world and the human world interact and impact the surrounding environment. There is also one other significant commonality among environmental science careers: virtually all of them either engage in or rely on research on environmental science topics to ensure their work is accurate and up to date.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the best environmental science research topics to help you explore disciplines within environmental science and kickstart your own research. If you are considering majoring in environmental science or perhaps just need help brainstorming for a research paper, this post will give you a broad sense of timely environmental science research topics.

What makes a research topic good?

Before we dive into specific environmental science research topics, let’s first cover the basics: what qualities make for a viable research topic. Research is the process of collecting information to make discoveries and reach new conclusions. We often think of research as something that occurs in academic or scientific settings. However, everyone engages in informal research in everyday life, from reading product reviews to investigating statistics for admitted students at prospective colleges . While we all conduct research in our day-to-day lives, formal academic research is necessary to advance discoveries and scholarly discourses. Therefore, in this setting, good research hinges on a topic in which there are unanswered questions or ongoing debates. In other words, meaningful research focuses on topics where you can say something new.

However, identifying an interesting research topic is only the first step in the research process. Research topics tend to be broad in scope. Strong research is dependent on developing a specific research question, meaning the query your project will seek to answer. While there are no comprehensive guidelines for research questions, most scholars agree that research questions should be:

1) Specific

Research questions need to clearly identify and define the focus of your research. Without sufficient detail, your research will likely be too broad or imprecise in focus to yield meaningful insights. For example, you might initially be interested in addressing this question: How should governments address the effects of climate change? While that is a worthwhile question to investigate, it’s not clear enough to facilitate meaningful research. What level of government is this question referring to? And what specific effects of global warming will this research focus on? You would need to revise this question to provide a clearer focus for your research. A revised version of this question might look like this: How can state government officials in Florida best mitigate the effects of sea-level rise?

Our interest in a given topic often starts quite broad. However, it is difficult to produce meaningful, thorough research on a broad topic. For that reason, it is important that research questions be narrow in scope, focusing on a specific issue or subtopic. For example, one of the more timely environmental science topics is renewable energy. A student who is just learning about this topic might wish to write a research paper on the following question: Which form of renewable energy is best? However, that would be a difficult question to answer in one paper given the various ways in which an energy source could be “best.” Instead, this student might narrow their focus, assessing renewable energy sources through a more specific lens: Which form of renewable energy is best for job creation?

 3) Complex

As we previously discussed, good research leads to new discoveries. These lines of inquiry typically require a complicated and open-ended research question. A question that can be answered with just a “yes” or “no” (or a quick Google search) is likely indicative of a topic in which additional research is unnecessary (i.e. there is no ongoing debate) or a topic that is not well defined. For example, the following question would likely be too simple for academic research: What is environmental justice? You can look up a definition of environmental justice online. You would need to ask a more complex question to sustain a meaningful research project. Instead, you might conduct research on the following query: Which environmental issue(s) disproportionately impact impoverished communities in the Pacific Northwest? This question is narrower and more specific, while also requiring more complex thought and analysis to answer.

4) Debatable

Again, strong research provides new answers and information, which means that they must be situated within topics or discourses where there is ongoing debate. If a research question can only lead to one natural conclusion, that may indicate that it has already been sufficiently addressed in prior research or that the question is leading. For example, Are invasive species bad? is not a very debatable question (the answer is in the term “invasive species”!). A paper that focused on this question would essentially define and provide examples of invasive species (i.e. information that is already well documented). Instead, a researcher might investigate the effects of a specific invasive species. For example: How have Burmese pythons impacted ecosystems in the Everglades, and what mitigation strategies are most effective to reduce Burmese python populations?

Therefore, research topics, including environmental science topics, are those about which there are ample questions yet to be definitively answered. Taking time to develop a thoughtful research question will provide the necessary focus and structure to facilitate meaningful research.

10 Great Environmental Science Research Topics (With Explanations!)

Now that we have a basic understanding of what qualities can make or break a research topic, we can return to our focus on environmental science topics. Although “great” research topics are somewhat subjective, we believe the following topics provide excellent foundations for research due to ongoing debates in these areas, as well as the urgency of the challenges they seek to address.

1) Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Although climate change is now a well-known concept , there is still much to be learned about how humans can best mitigate and adapt to its effects. Mitigation involves reducing the severity of climate change. However, there are a variety of ways mitigation can occur, from switching to electric vehicles to enforcing carbon taxes on corporations that produce the highest carbon emission levels. Many of these environmental science topics intersect with issues of public policy and economics, making them very nuanced and versatile.

In comparison, climate change adaptation considers how humans can adjust to life in an evolving climate where issues such as food insecurity, floods, droughts, and other severe weather events are more frequent. Research on climate change adaptation is particularly fascinating due to the various levels at which it occurs, from federal down to local governments, to help communities anticipate and adjust to the effects of climate change.

Both climate change mitigation and adaptation represent excellent environmental science research topics as there is still much to be learned to address this issue and its varied effects.

2) Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is another fairly mainstream topic in which there is much to learn and research. Although scientists have identified many forms of sustainable energy, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, questions remain about how to best implement these energy sources. How can politicians, world leaders, and communities advance renewable energy through public policy? What impact will renewable energy have on local and national economies? And how can we minimize the environmental impact of renewable energy technologies? While we have identified alternatives to fossil fuels, questions persist about the best way to utilize these technologies, making renewable energy one of the best environmental science topics to research.

3) Conservation

Conservation is a broad topic within environmental science, focusing on issues such as preserving environments and protecting endangered species. However, conservation efforts are more challenging than ever in the face of a growing world population and climate change. In fact, some scientists theorize that we are currently in the middle of a sixth mass extinction event. While these issues might seem dire, we need scientists to conduct research on conservation efforts for specific species, as well as entire ecosystems, to help combat these challenges and preserve the planet’s biodiversity.

4) Deforestation

The Save the Rainforest movement of the 1980s and 90s introduced many people to the issue of deforestation. Today, the problems associated with deforestation, such as reduced biodiversity and soil erosion, are fairly common knowledge. However, these challenges persist due, in part, to construction and agricultural development projects. While we know the effects of deforestation, it is more difficult to identify and implement feasible solutions. This is particularly true in developing countries where deforestation is often more prevalent due to political, environmental, and economic factors. Environmental science research can help reduce deforestation by identifying strategies to help countries sustainably manage their natural resources.

Environmental Science Topics (Continued)

5) urban ecology.

When we think of “the environment,” our brains often conjure up images of majestic mountain ranges and lush green forests. However, less “natural” environments also warrant study: this is where urban ecology comes in. Urban ecology is the study of how organisms interact with one another and their environment in urban settings. Through urban ecology, researchers can address topics such as how greenspaces in cities can reduce air pollution, or how local governments can adopt more effective waste management practices. As one of the newer environmental science topics, urban ecology represents an exciting research area that can help humans live more sustainably.

6) Environmental Justice

While environmental issues such as climate change impact people on a global scale, not all communities are affected equally. For example, wealthy nations tend to contribute more to greenhouse-gas emissions. However, less developed nations are disproportionately bearing the brunt of climate change . Studies within the field of environmental justice seek to understand how issues such as race, national origin, and income impact the degree to which people experience hardships from environmental issues. Researchers in this field not only document these inequities, but also identify ways in which environmental justice can be achieved. As a result, their work helps communities have access to clean, safe environments in which they can thrive.

7) Water Management

Water is, of course, necessary for life, which is why water management is so important within environmental science research topics. Water management research ensures that water resources are appropriately identified and maintained to meet demand. However, climate change has heightened the need for water management research, due to the occurrence of more severe droughts and wildfires. As a result, water management research is necessary to ensure water is clean and accessible.

8) Pollution and Bioremediation

Another impact of the increase in human population and development is heightened air, water, and soil pollution. Environmental scientists study pollutants to understand how they work and where they originate. Through their research, they can identify solutions to help address pollution, such as bioremediation, which is the use of microorganisms to consume and break down pollutants. Collectively, research on pollution and bioremediation helps us restore environments so they are sufficient for human, animal, and plant life.

9) Disease Ecology

While environmental science topics impact the health of humans, we don’t always think of this discipline as intersecting with medicine. But, believe it or not, they can sometimes overlap! Disease ecology examines how ecological processes and interactions impact disease evolution. For example, malaria is a disease that is highly dependent on ecological variables, such as temperature and precipitation. Both of these factors can help or hinder the breeding of mosquitoes and, therefore, the transmission of malaria. The risk of infectious diseases is likely to increase due to climate change , making disease ecology an important research topic.

10) Ecosystems Ecology

If nothing else, the aforementioned topics and their related debates showcase just how interconnected the world is. None of us live in a vacuum: our environment affects us just as we affect it. That makes ecosystems ecology, which examines how ecosystems operate and interact, an evergreen research topic within environmental science.

40 More Environmental Science Research Topics

Still haven’t stumbled upon the right environmental science research topic? The following ideas may help spark some inspiration:

  • The effects of agricultural land use on biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • The impact of invasive plant species on ecosystems.
  • How wildfires and droughts shape ecosystems.
  • The role of fire ecology in addressing wildfire threats.
  • The impact of coral bleaching on biodiversity.
  • Ways to minimize the environmental impact of clean energies.
  • The effects of climate change on ocean currents and migration patterns of marine species.

Environmental Justice and Public Policy

  • Opportunities to equalize the benefits of greenspaces for impoverished and marginalized communities.
  • The impact of natural disasters on human migration patterns.
  • The role of national parks and nature reserves in human health.
  • How to address inequalities in the impact of air pollution.
  • How to prevent and address the looming climate refugee crisis.
  • Environmentally and economically sustainable alternatives to deforestation in less developed countries.
  • Effects of environmental policies and regulations on impoverished communities.
  • The role of pollutants in endocrine disruption.
  • The effects of climate change on the emergence of infectious diseases.

AP Environmental Science Research Topics (Continued)

Soil science.

  • Effects of climate change on soil erosion.
  • The role of land management in maintaining soil health.
  • Agricultural effects of salinization in coastal areas.
  • The effects of climate change on agriculture.

Urban Ecology

  • How road construction impacts biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • The effects of urbanization and city planning on water cycles.
  • Impacts of noise pollution on human health.
  • The role of city planning in reducing light pollution.

Pollution and Bioremediation

  • The role of bioremediation in removing “forever” chemicals from the environment.
  • Impacts of air pollution on maternal health.
  • How to improve plastic recycling processes.
  • Individual measures to reduce consumption and creation of microplastics.
  • Environmental impacts of and alternatives to fracking.

Environmental Law and Ethics

  • Ethical implications of human intervention in the preservation of endangered species.
  • The efficacy and impact of single-use plastic laws.
  • Effects of religious and cultural values in environmental beliefs.
  • The ethics of climate change policy for future generations.
  • Ethical implications of international environmental regulations for less developed countries.
  • The impact and efficacy of corporate carbon taxes.
  • Ethical and environmental implications of fast fashion.
  • The ethics and efficacy of green consumerism.
  • Impacts of the hospitality and travel industries on pollution and emissions.
  • The ethical implications of greenwashing in marketing.
  • Effects of “Right to Repair” laws on pollution.

Final Thoughts: Environmental Science Research Topics

Environmental science is a diverse and very important area of study that impacts all aspects of life on Earth. If you’ve found a topic you’d like to pursue, it’s time to hit the books (or online databases)! Begin reading broadly on your chosen topic so you can define a specific research question. If you’re unsure where to begin, contact a research librarian who can connect you with pertinent resources. As you familiarize yourself with the discourse surrounding your topic, consider what questions spring to mind. Those questions may represent gaps around which you can craft a research question.

Interested in conducting academic research? Check out the following resources for information on research opportunities and programs:

  • Research Opportunities for High School Students
  • Colleges with the Best Undergraduate Research Programs
  • College Success
  • High School Success

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Emily Smith

Emily earned a BA in English and Communication Studies from UNC Chapel Hill and an MA in English from Wake Forest University. While at UNC and Wake Forest, she served as a tutor and graduate assistant in each school’s writing center, where she worked with undergraduate and graduate students from all academic backgrounds. She also worked as an editorial intern for the Wake Forest University Press as well as a visiting lecturer in the Department of English at WFU, and currently works as a writing center director in western North Carolina.

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environmental science research projects high school

7 Environmental Science Extracurriculars for High Schoolers

What’s covered:.

  • Extracurricular Activities for Budding Environmental Science Majors

How Do Extracurriculars Impact Your College Chances?

Colleges are drawn to students who pursue their academic interests through their extracurricular activities. Students interested in math can get involved with the math league, students interested in French can join the French club, and students interested in politics can run for student government. 

But, for some students, it’s not so easy to find a club that reflects their interests and passions. Environmental science, for example, is a nuanced field that doesn’t correlate to an abundance of obvious extracurriculars. 

If you’re looking for ways to show your commitment to environmental science through your extracurriculars, this post is for you. Here, we’ll outline seven impressive extracurricular options for the environmental scientists of tomorrow. 

Extracurricular Activities for Budding Environmental Science Majors 

1. volunteering.

Including a service element in your extracurricular involvement is always a good idea, and environmental science happens to be an area where volunteer opportunities abound. 

You can start by looking for established volunteer opportunities. These include things like:

  • Recycling programs
  • Conservation projects
  • Neighborhood cleanups
  • Community gardens
  • Habitat restoration projects
  • Sustainable living education
  • Park and beach cleanups
  • Wildlife rehabilitation centers

Network through friends, family, and teachers to get an idea of what already exists in your area.

If you can’t find something that suits your interests and works for your schedule, start your own volunteer project or create an opportunity with a group of interested peers. 

In addition to being marketable during the college admissions process, volunteering provides future environmental scientists exposure to the nonprofit world—which is extremely important for that field. Through volunteering in high school, you’ll learn about the day-to-day activity of nonprofits, including research, publications, public outreach, manual labor, and more. 

Finally, your volunteer work can provide important networking and mentoring. Keep in touch with your volunteer supervisor even after you’ve finished your project, and let them know if you’re available for work. This connection could become an important one further down the line as you pursue higher education and ultimately a career in the field.

2. Research

Research in high school typically can take on two forms: independent research or research in a lab. The former requires self-discipline and accountability and the latter requires networking.

Independent research is a great option for any student who is seriously considering a career in environmental research. To get started, think of the local issues and concerns that interest you. Try to find something that you truly care about or that’s locally relevant. 

Next, you’ll want to follow the steps we outline in our post A Guide to Pursuing Research Projects in High School . These include finding a mentor, setting a timeline, and publishing a report.

Independent research can cover a myriad of topics:

  • Air—pollutants, lung health, carbon emissions, greenhouse gasses
  • Water—acid rain, pollution, purification
  • Food—GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, soil contamination
  • Energy—oil industry, alternative power green energy
  • Waste—recycling, food waste

If you hope to get involved with higher-caliber research at a young age, you will want to find your way into a reputable lab. The first step is networking with people you know in the field, reaching out to professors at your local community colleges, and attending lectures, talks, and conferences where you can meet professionals who are doing research. 

If someone decides to take a chance on you and let you help in their lab, you will be able to learn more about your future career path and get hands-on experience. The key is getting an industry professional to see your passion for the field and your work ethic, then give you a chance.

3. Self-Driven Projects

One way to show that you care about environmental science is by conducting a public outreach campaign focused on an issue of personal interest or local relevance. While you can do this on your own, you’ll be more effective and generally achieve a broader reach if you have partners in your plan.

You could organize initiatives like:

  • Meatless Mondays
  • Upcycling clothing drives
  • Community cleanup days
  • Habitat conservation days
  • Recycling initiatives with reward systems
  • Carpool Wednesdays
  • Fundraisers for sustainable nonprofits

Starting your own outreach campaign shows great leadership skills and initiative. In addition, you will ideally have the satisfaction of seeing the impact that your programs have on your community. 

Clubs are the “obvious” choice when it comes to extracurricular activities, but environmental science clubs aren’t always readily available to students. This means that you might have to start your own club.

Some ideas for environmental science clubs:

  • School Garden
  • Environmental Science Club
  • Sustainability Club
  • Community Cleanup Club
  • National Green Schools Society
  • Sustainability Magazine/Bulletin
  • Marine Sciences Club

If you want to start an environmental science club, talk to your teachers and mentors about your next steps! Also, check out our article about how to start a club in high school . 

5. Summer Programs

If you have time to pursue extracurriculars during the summer months, you’ll find that you have even more opportunities available to you. Many programs offer summer environmental classes along with extensive labs and hands-on fieldwork. 

Here are a few options to consider:

  • Sustainable Summer

This program offers travel and adventure learning trips geared specifically towards environmental science. Their courses range from ecology, conservation, and agriculture, to policy, sustainable design, and sustainable energy. Courses take place in exotic locales such as India, Ecuador, and the Galapagos, but their Environmental Leadership Academy is offered only at Dartmouth College. 

  • The National Student Leadership Conference’s Environmental Science and Sustainability Program

Here, students work with top research scientists and policy advocates to explore pressing environmental issues and the careers that address them. Classes take place at either Yale University or the University of Washington. 

  • The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL)

Brown University offers high school students the chance to “study the interactions between natural and social systems with Brown-affiliated educators and place-based experts.” Courses also include leadership development with the mission of developing socially responsible leaders of tomorrow. The program is offered both in Alaska and along the Rhode Island coast. 

  • The Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Science

In this program, high school students work in actual research laboratories on existing projects, supervised by graduate students. Different areas of focus and varying time commitments are available. 

Keep in mind that if you pursue one of these opportunities, it will be most meaningful on your college application only if you do so as part of a bigger context. That is to say, participating in one summer program, particularly if the program is located in a remote part of the world, does little to contextualize your interest in environmental science as a serious and prolonged pursuit. 

6. College Classes

If a short-duration, intensive residential program isn’t right for you, consider taking an online college course or a class at your local community college during the summer.

Community college courses are reasonably priced, do not require students to travel far from home, and are a great way to get exposed to the format and rigor of college-level courses. They are also a surefire way to make your college application stand out!

Tuition for community college courses is typically around $100 per credit hour. This means that a full course will end up costing you a few hundred dollars. Of course, this includes access to professors, labs, and technologies that students would otherwise not have access to. Community colleges operate at a local level, so we recommend that you look into the schools in your area for accurate tuition rates and course offerings.

Note: Some high schools have programs arranged with local community colleges so that students can receive high school credit for the courses they take. This is often the case with smaller high schools, where there are fewer AP or IB offerings. That said, even if you don’t receive high school credit, you will likely receive some college credit for your community college courses once you get to your university.

7. Internships

A professional internship is a perfect way to get your feet wet in the field of environmental science. You will learn about the subject matter, while also learning about career paths and job responsibilities. Additionally, if you look hard enough, you might be able to find a paid opportunity. 

Popular environmental science internships include:

1. Boston University – Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) Internship

Specialty: Various tracks, including environmental science

Location: Boston, MA

Duration: 6 weeks (July 2-August 11, 2023)

2. Brookfield Zoo King Conservation Science Scholars Program

Specialty: Animals and zoology

Location: Brookfield, IL

Duration: Varies, at least 30 hours per calendar year

3. UT Austin College of Natural Sciences High School Research Academy

Location: Austin, TX

Duration: 5 weeks (summer)

4. Lincoln Park Zoo Malott Family Zoo Intern Program

Specialty: Animals and conservation

Location: Chicago, IL

Duration: 7 weeks (early July to mid-August)

5. Animal Care at the San Diego Zoo

Location: San Diego, CA

Duration: 12 weeks (summer)

6. Henry Hall Fellowship

Specialty: Urban conservation and environmental justice

Location: Baltimore, MD

Duration: Year round

7. Boyce Thompson Institute High School Internship

Specialty: Plant science and computational biology

Location: Ithaca, NY

Duration: 6 weeks (June through August)

8. Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program

Specialty: Natural resources and environmental management

Location: Varies

Duration: 8 weeks (summer)

9. GeoSciences Bridge Program

Specialty: Marine sciences

Location: Princess Anne, MD

Duration: 6 weeks (summer)

10. Plant Genome Research REU

Specialty: Sustainability and agriculture

Duration: 7 weeks (July 27-August 11, 2023)

11. EnergyMag Internship

Specialty: Renewable energy

Location: Virtual

Duration: Either 2-8 weeks (20 hrs/wk) or 1-9 months (8 hrs/wk)

You can also check various national organizations such as NOAA, the National Park Service, the National Science Foundation, the EPA, and the USGS for paid internship opportunities. Though they don’t always have internships—and when they do, the application process is fairly selective—you never know when an opportunity might arise that’s just the right fit for you.

For more environmental science internships, check out our post 20 Environmental Internships for High School Students .

Grades and test scores are important in the college admissions process, but admissions officers also want to see who you are beyond the numbers. Through extracurriculars, you can show admissions officers your specific interests and, more importantly, your commitment to your specific interests.

Our CollegeVine team recommends that you focus on 2-3 extracurricular activities that you care deeply about. If your extracurricular list shows breadth rather than depth, your admissions officer might not understand how truly dedicated you are to the field of environmental science.

Additionally, admissions officers often group activities into one of the four tiers of extracurricular activities . The highest tiers—Tiers 1 and 2—heavily influence college admissions and are reserved for rare extracurriculars where students show extraordinary skill or leadership. Lower-tier activities—those in Tiers 3 and 4—are less distinguished, and thus, have less of an impact on college admissions.

For example, an admissions officer is going to be more drawn to a student who worked in a food conservation lab at their local university and organized Meatless Mondays at 10 schools in their region—activities in Tiers 1 and 2—than a student who organized their school’s green week activities—an activity in Tier 4.

As you choose your extracurriculars, think about what will stand out to admissions officers. Additionally, put your extracurriculars into CollegeVine’s free chancing engine , which will tell you how your extracurriculars will affect your admissions chances at specific colleges and universities.

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10 Environmental Science Internships for High School Students

If you have a passion for environmental science, then you should definitely look into the internships below! Consider exploring these programs to deepen your understanding of environmental science, gain practical insights, and showcase your dedication to applications and resumes.

Environmental science internships can significantly enhance your college applications by demonstrating your commitment to both academic and hands-on learning. Admissions committees highly value candidates who exhibit a genuine passion for their chosen field. The impact of an internship on your application can be influenced by its alignment with your academic goals and the reputation of the hosting institution.

Internships with prestigious organizations, such as leading environmental research centers, conservation organizations, or sustainability initiatives, can carry substantial weight. However, regardless of the organization's prestige, emphasizing your responsibilities, accomplishments, and the skills you've acquired during the internship is crucial to effectively showcase your dedication to environmental science and your potential contributions to the college community.

Specific internships in the field of environmental science for high school students can vary widely in terms of availability and popularity. The top ten options can change from year to year, but here are ten specific environmental science-related internships that have been recognized for providing valuable experiences for high school students interested in the field:

How do I choose the internship that’s best for me?

When selecting the ideal environmental science summer program or internship, keep the following points in mind:

1. Outline your Goals: Begin by clearly defining your goals for participating in an environmental science internship. Determine whether you aim to acquire specific environmental knowledge, develop practical research skills, explore a particular aspect of environmental science, or gain a comprehensive understanding of the field.

2. Look for Research Opportunities : Look for internships that provide research experiences. Engaging in research allows you to delve into unexplored areas of environmental science, fostering hands-on experiential learning and contributing to the advancement of the field.

3. Align with Your Interests : Choose a program that resonates with your environmental science interests and career aspirations. Whether your passion lies in ecology, conservation, climate science, or environmental policy, selecting a program aligned with your interests will enhance your engagement and fulfillment.

4. Assess Program Components : Thoroughly evaluate the internship program's components, including its curriculum, faculty expertise, available facilities, and resources. Consider factors like program duration, location, financial considerations, and the availability of scholarships or financial aid. Additionally, seek insights from past participants and assess whether the program offers the academic rigor and practical experiences you seek.

By following these steps, you can make an informed decision and select the environmental science internship that best aligns with your goals and interests.

1. NASA OSTEM High School Internship Programs

Location: NASA centers across the country

Stipend: Awarded based on academic level and session duration

Program dates: Spring session (Mid-January - Early May), Summer Session (Late May-August), Fall session (Late August - Mid-December)

Application Deadline : May 26 (Fall), August 30 (Spring), October 20 (Summer)

Eligibility: Be a U.S. citizen; Have a cumulative 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale); Be a full-time student; Be a minimum of 16 years of age at the time of application (no exceptions)

NASA provides internship opportunities for high school students interested in space science and environmental research related to Earth's atmosphere. For example, NASA's Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) High School Internship Programs offer an incredible opportunity for high school students passionate about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These programs provide a gateway to the world of space exploration and environmental science, allowing students to work on real NASA projects, collaborate with leading scientists and engineers, and gain hands-on experience collecting and analyzing data . Whether participating in the High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) program, engaging in online learning experiences, or securing internships at NASA centers, these programs empower young minds to explore STEM fields, ignite their curiosity, and potentially inspire the next generation of space scientists and environmental researchers.

2. Ladder Internship Program - Environmental Science Track

Ladder Internships   is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world!  The startups range across a variety of industries, such as environmental science and sustainability. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, environmental science and sustainability, healthcare and medicine, media and eco- journalism and more.  

You can explore all the options here on their application form .   As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 

Interns are offered one-on-one training in communication, time management and other such valuable skills and will also have the opportunity to attend group training sessions with other interns in their cohort. The virtual internship is usually 8 weeks long.

Cost : $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:   Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline:  April 16 and May 14

Program dates:  8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!

3. Student Conservation Association Internship

Location: Various SCA agencies around the world

Stipend: Expense paid (~$1,000 to offset travel costs)

Program dates: Varies

Application Deadline : Rolling Application

Eligibility: For the paid internship, you have to be 18 or older. There are youth programs (18 and younger) available as well.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) offers an internship experience for high school students passionate about conservation and the environment. SCA's high school programs provide a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in hands-on conservation work, whether it's preserving national parks, restoring wildlife habitats, or addressing environmental challenges through public outreach. These programs not only offer practical skills and knowledge but also instill a deep appreciation for the natural world and a sense of responsibility toward its protection.

4. Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program

Location: A fishery or aquatic center in your area

Stipend: $3,000

Program dates: 8 weeks over the summer

Application Deadline : Mid-February

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors, rising high school seniors, and rising college freshmen

The Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program is a highly competitive internship program designed for high school students interested in fisheries biology and aquatic sciences. This program offers a remarkable opportunity to delve into the world of fisheries research and conservation. Participants work alongside professional fisheries biologists, gaining hands-on experience through fieldwork, data analysis, and laboratory research. Each student that is accepted into the Hutton Program and matched with a mentor will participate in a unique internship opportunity for the summer. Hutton Mentors are located all over the country and work with a wide variety of organizations, resulting in a unique internship opportunity at each location.

5. Conservation Corps North Carolina Youth Conservation Crews

Location: Various sites across North Carolina

Stipend: N/A

Program dates: 3-5 weeks during June, July, and August

Application Deadline : Rolling Admissions

Eligibility: Ages 15-18

The Conservation Corps North Carolina (CCNC) Youth Conservation Crews are a commendable initiative that offers young individuals a chance to engage actively in environmental conservation efforts. These crews comprise high school students who work together on diverse conservation projects throughout North Carolina's natural landscapes. Participants gain hands-on experience in trail maintenance, habitat restoration, and various environmental stewardship activities. Beyond practical skills, the program instills a deep sense of responsibility and an understanding of the importance of protecting our natural resources.

6. Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science (TREES)

Location: University of Pennsylvania

Stipend: No information about stipend availability

Program dates: July 9 - August 15

Eligibility: Open to all high school students

The Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science program, often referred to as TREES, is a remarkable opportunity for young individuals eager to explore the world of environmental science. Only a select group of eight high school students are annually chosen to collaborate individually with mentors on their designated projects. This program is fully funded, and starts with the development of fundamental laboratory skills and later transitions to self-directed research endeavors. These research projects provide students with hands-on exposure to the scientific research process and equip them with the ability to effectively communicate their findings. The program reaches its culmination when participants present their results at a public presentation. Additionally, participants will partake in a range of enrichment activities, spanning from college readiness to career exploration, enriching their overall experience.

7. Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE) | Environmentor Internship

Location: Rockaway, NY

Stipend: $1,200

Program dates: July 6 - August 17

Application Deadline : May 1st

Eligibility: 9th- to 11th-grade students who live or attend school in or near the Rockaway peninsula are eligible to apply to Environmentor. The program is entirely in-person.

The Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE) | Environmentor Internship is a dynamic program dedicated to fostering environmental stewardship and equity among high school students. The RISE Environmentor program offers students an exceptional opportunity to engage in shoreline research along the Rockaway, New York coastline, all while being guided by scientists from nearby universities and research institutions. Program participants will undergo training in water safety and CPR , in addition to enjoying summer activities like kayaking, surfing, and biking. Interns are encouraged to commit to a four-day workweek and can receive a stipend of up to $1,200 for their dedication and contributions. Moreover, students have the chance to accrue community service hours by actively participating in RISE community service weekend events.

8. NOAA Ocean Guard Youth Ambassadors

Location: Local marine sanctuaries

Program dates: January 6

Eligibility: Students ages 12-18

The NOAA Ocean Guardian Youth Ambassador program is an inspiring initiative that empowers young individuals to become advocates for ocean conservation and environmental stewardship. Through this program, participants gain in-depth knowledge about marine ecosystems and engage in meaningful projects that promote ocean awareness and protection within their communities. Program participants work in their communities by spearheading projects focused on environmental and ocean conservation, such as organizing beach cleanups, and actively imparting their acquired knowledge and abilities to the local community. Ambassadors receive backing in the form of toolkits, presentations, and expert guidance to further enhance their initiatives and maximize their positive impact.

9. The Morton Arboretum Research Technician Fellowship

Location: The Morton Arboretum

Stipend: Yes

Program dates: Seasonal Projects

Application Deadline : April 14

Eligibility: Undergraduate or High School Student over 16

The Morton Arboretum Research Technician Fellowship is a great opportunity for individuals aspiring to delve into the world of ecological research and conservation. This program offers immersive hands-on experience in environmental science, where fellows work alongside renowned scientists and researchers on a diverse range of projects related to plant conservation, ecosystem management, and biodiversity preservation . As research technicians, participants not only gain invaluable skills in fieldwork, data collection, and laboratory analysis but also contribute to cutting-edge research efforts aimed at understanding and safeguarding our natural world.

10. Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area | Clean Water Ambassadors Internships

Location: Downtown Seattle

Stipend: $18.43 an hour

Program dates: July 17 - August 18

Application Deadline : May 15

Eligibility: High school students who are at least 16

The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area's Clean Water Ambassadors Internships provide interns with hands-on experience in environmental stewardship, focusing on water quality and conservation efforts within the pristine Mountains to Sound region. Under the mentorship of experts, participants engage in critical research, restoration projects, and community outreach initiatives to protect and enhance the area's water resources. The Clean Water Ambassadors Internships not only equip students with practical skills in water monitoring and conservation but also instill a deep sense of responsibility for safeguarding our natural environments. This program fosters a commitment to preserving the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Mountains to Sound region.

11 . Northwest Youth Corps – Youth Community Program

Location: Various community sites

Stipend: $2,000

Program dates: June - August

Eligibility: Students aged 15 - 18

The Northwest Youth Corps' Youth Community Program is an initiative that empowers young individuals to connect with their communities through conservation and service projects. This program provides a valuable platform for youth to engage in hands-on environmental stewardship, from trail maintenance and habitat restoration to urban greening initiatives. Participants not only acquire essential skills in teamwork, leadership, and environmental science but also develop a profound sense of civic responsibility. The Youth Community Program fosters a strong bond between youth and their local environment, promoting community engagement.

It's important to do your own research on each program, visit their websites to gather application specifics and due dates, and directly contact the organizations for the most current insights into internship openings tailored to high school students interested in environmental science.

Furthermore, don't hesitate to seek advice from your school's career services department or science educators for support in identifying suitable internships within your region.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to further explore the field of environmental science and play a more direct role in uncovering parts of our past, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program , a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business!

  • internships

Enhancing Junior High School Students’ System Thinking Competency through Water Treatment with Plant Modification: A Focus on Environmental Pollution

The research on the ability to think in systems in education is also minimal, which is why the ability to think in systems in Indonesia has not been optimally trained. Dealing with a system's complexity can be challenging at any age, particularly for students who must apply the system's cognitive capabilities during the learning process. Systems thinking is a key to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) competency since it can help learners understand the complexity and dynamics of the world. This research investigates the impact of system thinking on Junior High School students through simple science projects addressing environmental pollution. The study involved 7 th -grade students in a private school in Bandung, utilizing a quantitative approach with a one-group pre-test and post-test design; the research aimed to measure the improvement in students' system thinking competency using test items and analyzed the data with SPSS software and Rasch Stacking and Racking. Results from the Wilcoxon test indicated a significant difference after completing learning activities, with a 50% improvement based on Rasch analysis. This underscored the critical role of project-based learning in enhancing system thinking competency. Applying appropriate learning models is expected to enhance students' system thinking competency. The recommendation for future reference to other studies, such as directing the scientific investigation in detail. Design more precisely from the initial stage to the final stage so that the expected learning can be achieved, and students can go through all stages of STEM learning correctly to create a better prototype.

Ariyatun, A., Ningrum, P., Musyarofah, M., & Inayah, N. (2018). Analisis Efektivitas Biji Dan Daun Kelor (Moringa Oleifera) Untuk Penjernihan Air. Walisongo Journal Of Chemistry, 1(2), 60.

Boone, W. J. (2016). Rasch analysis for instrument development: Why, when, and how?. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(4), rm4.

Cebrián, G., Palau, R., & Mogas, J. (2020). The smart classroom as a means to the development of ESD methodologies. Sustainability, 12(7), 3010.

Clark, S., Petersen, J. E., Frantz, C. M., Roose, D., Ginn, J., & Daneri, D. R. (2017). Teaching Systems Thinking To 4th And 5th Graders Using Environmental Dashboard Display Technology. Plos ONE, 12(4), 1–11.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage publications.

De Haan, G. (2006). The BLK ‘21’ Programme In Germany: A ‘Gestaltungskompetenz’-Based Model For Education For Sustainable Development. Environmental Education Research, 12(1), 19–32.

Etikan, I. (2016). Comparison Of Convenience Sampling And Purposive Sampling. American Journal Of Theoretical And Applied Statistics, 5(1), 1.

Fanta, D., Braeutigam, J., & Riess, W. (2020). Fostering Systems Thinking In Student Teachers Of Biology And Geography–An Intervention Study. Journal Of Biological Education, 54(3), 226–244.

Fraenkel, J. R., Wallen, N. E., & Hyun, H. H. (2012). A Guided Tour Of How To Design And Evalaute Research In Education. How To Design And Evaluate Research In Education, 1–29.

Hidayatno, A. (2016). Berpikir sistem: pola berpikir untuk pemahaman masalah yang lebih baik [Systems thinking: patterns of thinking for better understanding of problems]. Research Gate.

Hoffmann, T., & Siege, H. (2018). What is education for sustainable development (ESD). Human Development, 1(8), 1-6.

January, E., Putra, H. S. C., & Zairinayati, Z. (2021). Penggunaan Lidah Buaya (Aloe Vera) Sebagai Koagulan Alami Untuk Menurunkan Kekeruhan Air. Ruwa Jurai: Jurnal Kesehatan Lingkungan, 15(1), 23.

Kanabkaew, T., & Puetpaiboon, U. (2004). Aquatic Plants For Domestic Wastewater Treatment: Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera) And Hydrilla (Hydrilla Verticillata) Systems. Aquatic, 26(5), 749–756.

Kartini, F. S., Widodo, A., Winarno, N., & Astuti, L. (2021). Promoting Student's Problem-Solving Skills through STEM Project-Based Learning in Earth Layer and Disasters Topic. Journal of Science Learning, 4(3), 257-266.

Mambrey, S., Timm, J., Landskron, J. J., & Schmiemann, P. (2020). The Impact Of System Specifics On Systems Thinking. Journal Of Research In Science Teaching, 57(10), 1632–1651.

Nuraeni, R., Setiono, & Himatul, A. (2020). Profil Kemampuan Berpikir Sistem Siswa Kelas XI SMA Pada Materi Sistem Pernapasan. Pedagogi Hayati, 4(1), 1–9.

Osunji, O. (2021). Relationship Between Consciousness About Environmental Education Concepts In Secondary School Chemistry Curriculum And Attitude Of Students Towards Environment. Science Education International, 32(1), 80–84.

Riess, W., & Mischo, C. (2010). Promoting Systems Thinking Through Biology Lessons. International Journal Of Science Education, 32(6), 705–725.

Schuler, S., Fanta, D., Rosenkraenzer, F., & Riess, W. (2018). Systems Thinking Within The Scope Of Education For Sustainable Development (ESD)–A Heuristic Competence Model As A Basis For (Science) Teacher Education. Journal Of Geography In Higher Education, 42(2), 192–204.

Streveler, R. A., Litzinger, T. A., Miller, R. L., & Steif, P. S. (2008). In The Engineering Sciences: Overview And Future Research Directions. Journal Of Engineering Education, July, 279–294.

UNESCO. (2017). Changing minds, not the climate.

Wright, B. D. (2003). Rack and Stack: Time 1 vs. Time 2. Rasch measurement transactions, 17(1), 905-906.

Yadav, R. K., Sahoo, S., Yadav, A. K., & Patil, S. A. (2021). Epipremnum Aureum Is A Promising Plant Candidate For Developing Nature-Based Technologies For Nutrients Removal From Wastewaters. Journal Of Environmental Chemical Engineering, 9(5), 106134.

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How social background and interest in science are linked to junior high school students’ perceptions of the ecological transition.

Kvin Nadarajah,

  • 1 Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Apprentissages en Contexte (LaRAC), Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
  • 2 Laboratoire de Psychologie: Cognition, Comportement, Communication (LP3C), Psychology, Rennes 2 University, Rennes, France
  • 3 Laboratoire Inter-Universitaire de Psychologie, Personnalité, Cognition, Changement Social (LIP/PC2S), Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, Grenoble, France

Junior high school students are tomorrow’s key protagonists in the ecological transition. They need enlightened education to face the uncertainty and challenges of climate change. The development of climate change education programs requires a clear understanding of how young people perceive the issue. This study deals with social representations. Its aim was to understand how social background and interest in science are linked to the way young people perceive the concept of the ecological transition. Four hundred twenty-nine junior high school students took part in this study. Data were collected and subjected to prototypical analysis and factorial correspondence analysis. Three main findings emerged from the analysis: (1) the participants had significant knowledge of the ecological transition, (2) their awareness of the social aspects of climate change was limited, and (3) their representations of the ecological transition were linked to their interest in science and their parents’ social background. To conclude, these results underline the importance of educating all social classes about effective solutions for the ecological transition. Our findings also highlight the need to consider existing representations and prior knowledge when designing educational programs on climate change issues.

1 Introduction

Climate change is defined “ as the shift in climate patterns mainly caused by greenhouse gas emissions” ( Fawzy et al., 2020 , p. 2,070). There are multiple consequences for humans and our ecosystems: extreme weather events, species extinction, food shortages, population displacement, and increased health risks, etc. (e.g., Pachauri et al., 2014 ; Haines and Ebi, 2019 ). To tackle these consequences, governments have repeatedly pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., Kyoto Protocol; 21st Conference of the Parties), undertaking to keep temperature rises below 2°C. These commitments have led to the choice of an ecological transition which, although based on ecological, economic, regulatory and social issues ( Geels, 2011 ), has mainly focused on scientific and technological solutions in favor of ecology in Europe (e.g., Kemp et al., 2007 ; Kreinin, 2020 ). This choice necessarily involves developing scientific knowledge in order to encourage individual commitment to climate change (e.g., Fouad and Smith, 1996 ; Ojala, 2021 ), especially as 2,100, the impacts of climate change will have profoundly altered the health of the planet ( Whitmee et al., 2015 ). Children born today will suffer the consequences of climate change throughout their lives ( Watts et al., 2019 ), so they need to be given the scientific and technological tools that will enable them to adapt to tomorrow’s world ( Lopoukhine et al., 2014 ).

The young people of today will be the main actors of tomorrow’s ecological transition (e.g., Kagawa and Selby, 2012 ; Burke et al., 2018 ; O’Brien et al., 2018 ; Cianconi et al., 2020 ). A study of 10,000 young people aged 16 to 25 in 10 countries (i.e., Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States) found that they questioned the consequences of climate change and seemed particularly uncertain about the future ( Hickman et al., 2021 ). To overcome the inaction of previous generations and tackle the problem of climate change ( Lee, 2013 ), they will need to be well informed ( United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015 ). Karsgaard and Davidson (2023) suggest that school is the place for the “ development of youth knowledge, creativity, efficacy and collective action skills in the face of climate change ” (p. 4). Educating young people about the challenges of climate change can give them the skills to cope with the forthcoming disruption and the power to act ( Schreiner et al., 2005 ; Cambers and Diamond, 2010 ). However, as pointed out by Rousell and Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles (2020) , climate change education is a field that is in its infancy. While it is clear that young people today have strong feelings and considerable knowledge of climate change ( Lee et al., 2020 ), little is known about how they perceive the ecological transition. According to the National Research Council (2012) , developing climate change education “ begins with a clear picture of how students currently understand the issue ” (2012, p. 11).

Social Representation Theory (SRT; Moscovici, 1961 ) can help us to analyze the social construction of perceptions. This theory explains how individuals and groups give meaning to an issue, a risk or a social object ( Höijer, 2011 ). In other words, how people build naive theories about their social environment ( Jodelet, 1984 ), in order to attribute meaning to their world. These naïve theories are constructed around opinions, attitudes, beliefs and information related to an object or situation ( Rateau et al., 2011 ), and their representations are linked to people’s social affiliations ( Doise, 1990 ; Wagner et al., 1999 ; Joffe, 2003 ; Rateau et al., 2012 ). As social agents ( Beauvois, 1984 ; Dubois and Pansu, 2021 ), individuals have a relationship with objects according to their cultural values ( Howarth, 2006 ). This in turn gives them their social anchorage ( Palmonari and Emiliani, 2016 ). These socially constructed representations can be studied according to their internal structures, in particular using the structural approach to social representations ( Abric, 1994 , 2003 ). According to this approach, social representations are made up of peripheral elements (i.e., dependent on the social contexts in which the individual evolves) organized around central elements (i.e., stable elements resulting from the history and ideology of the collective). Central elements have three functions: (1) signifying (i.e., the meaning given collectively by the group); (2) organizing (i.e., by repercussion on all the contents of the representation) and (3) stabilizing (subject to a strong consensus). Peripheral elements are based on the core consensus elements and express the variability of individual experiences in different social contexts. SRT therefore provides an understanding of how communication conveying scientific knowledge is transformed into common sense ( Moscovici and Hewstone, 1984 ). SRT is an interpretative framework which may help to understand the representations of young people ( Parrott et al., 2023 ) especially when it comes to environmental issues ( Buijs et al., 2012 ).

The objective of this study was to: (1) analyze the representations of junior high school students (14–15 years old) in France with regard to the ecological transition; (2) understand how social and psychological filters structure the way they perceive the ecological transition. As socioeconomic status is a predictor of educational achievement ( von Stumm et al., 2020 ), it has been hypothesized that the structuring of representations may depends on social determinants: such as parents’ socio-professional categories. Since scientific knowledge plays a central role in the ecological transition ( Kreinin, 2020 ), it is also hypothesized that the participants’ interest in science contributes to the structuring of representations ( Fouad and Smith, 1996 ). Finally, this paper aims to provide a stronger understanding of how young people’s representations of the ecological transition are structured.

2.1 Participants and procedure

The study proposal was reviewed and approved by the “Research Ethics Committee, Grenoble Alpes” (CERGA) of the University of Grenoble Alpes – Ethical approval number: Grenoble CERGA-Avis-2023-09. The study was carried out in partnership with the territorial services of the French Ministry of Education and conducted between May 2023 and October 2023. Four Hundred Thirty-nine junior high school students from 11 schools in the Auvergne Rhone Alpes region took part in the study (M age  = 14.1, SD age  = 0.619, range = 12–16, 53% female). Students were divided into three categories based on the socio-professional categories (SPC) of the first parent mentioned in the questionnaire. If the parents belonged to two different categories, participants were placed in the category corresponding to the higher SPC: SPC+ (self-employed trades professions; engineers; teachers; managers – 52.6%); SPC- (agricultural, factory and office workers – 37.8%); Inactive (students; retirees; unemployed – 6.4%). The three categories were based on information from the INSEE, which is the French Office for National Statistics and Economic Studies (see Supplementary materials for further details).

A few weeks before the study was carried out, the parents were asked to read an information leaflet and fill in the consent form to authorize (or not) their children’s participation. The researcher then visited the schools volunteering to carry out the study. The study took place in a computer room at predefined time slots. After presenting the study, the first author asked each pupil to go to a computer to complete an online ecological transition questionnaire on the Limesurvey © platform.

2.2 Measures

2.2.1 perceptions of ecological transition.

A free association task was used to collect perceptions of the ecological transition (e.g., Lo Monaco et al., 2016 ; Moliner and Lo Monaco, 2017 ). In this task, the junior high school students were presented with the stimulus words: “ecological transition.” On the basis of this induction, participants were free to associate four words or phrases that came to mind. This methodology yielded spontaneous associations from the participants.

2.2.2 Interest in science

Fourteen items were used to measure interest in science adapted from Fouad and Smith (1996) . This scale was originally developed for secondary school students to assess their interest in mathematics and science. Here, the mathematics items have been removed. Students were asked how much they liked to do certain things (e.g., Visit a science museum), rated from 0 (“I do not like it at all”) to 10 (“I like it very much”). The scores were aggregated. Internal consistency was satisfactory (α = 0.93).

2.3 Results

The corpus was composed of productions from 439 participants. A total of 1,578 verbal associations were collected from all participants, some of whom did not provide the expected 4 words. The corpus was cleaned up by the use of Excel ® (version 16.74) and Python ® (version 3.11), and then categorized by the authors, independently, using standard content analysis rules ( Jones and Rosenberg, 1974 ; Dl Giacomo, 1980 ). 288 different words were obtained (167 are hapax, 57.98% of this corpus). Data were analyzed using JAMOVI ® (version 2.3.18), R ® (version 4.1.3), FactoshinySR (version 1.1 – Brosset and Delouvée, 2022 ) and two analyses were carried out.

Firstly, a prototypical analysis ( Lo Monaco et al., 2016 ; Moliner and Lo Monaco, 2017 ; Delouvée et al., 2021 ), traditionally used in the structural approach to social representations, was conducted on the words given by the participants. This analysis was used to highlight the salience of elements in the representation by producing a table cross-referencing word frequency (i.e., below and above 10% of the number of evocations excluding hapaxes) and the order in which the word was produced, i.e., average occurrence rank (i.e., based on 2.5, the median of the four numbers of ranks – see Table 1 ).

Table 1 . Prototypical analysis: results in terms of frequency and average importance associated with the categories of words reported by the participants for the stimulus words “ecological transition.”

Cross-referencing the evocations with the highest frequency and rank of appearance revealed three sub-categories (i.e., top left cell). The first category describes the causes and consequences of climate change (i.e., pollution, global warming). The second category describes the idea of moving toward a more ecological model (i.e., ecology, change, transition). Finally, the third sub-category expresses some of the best-known responses to the problem of climate change that have already been widely implemented (i.e., recycling, waste sorting, wind turbines). Moreover, for these young people, the main challenge of the ecological transition is to respond to climate change issues for the “planet” and its “flora.” These descriptive elements constitute the core representations of the ecological transition (e.g., Abric, 2003 ; Galli and Fasanelli, 2020 ). This suggests that young people are aware of the issues at stake in the ecological transition, both in terms of the problems it seeks to solve and the ways of achieving it.

The top right cell (peripheral; Abric, 2003 ) contains the frequent words, which do not appear quickly in the associative chain. Elements in this cell clarify the content evoked for the core. In fact, 2 categories can be identified. The first one concerns elements which refer to the idea of preserving natural environments for the future (i.e., nature, future, good for the planet, preserving the environment). The second category mentions solutions that are harder to implement in response to the consequences of climate change (i.e., water management, alternative transport, dams). Finally, it seems that for these young people, the “economy” is fundamental to the ecological transition.

The bottom left cell represents the contrasting elements that may not reach a consensus, but appear quickly in the associative chain, and are therefore considered very important by certain minority groups ( Pianelli et al., 2010 ). Also, some individuals will emphasize the idea of turning to more virtuous models (i.e., transformation, evolution, consuming less and better). Participants also mentioned alternative solutions (e.g., tidal turbines, electric cars or solar energy, etc.). Finally, for the words in the second periphery (i.e., bottom right cell), i.e., the least salient of the peripheral system of representation that could be described as contextual (e.g., Delouvée et al., 2021 ), participants mention energy sources that produce greenhouse gasses (fossil fuels), and nuclear power, and their associated uses (i.e., plastics). Finally, participants express the idea of a better world as a possible consequence of the ecological transition. Although these elements are infrequent and unimportant, they seem to emerge in the content of the representation and are linked to the social context in which these young people evolve.

Secondly, a correspondence factor analysis (CFA; Benzécri, 1976 ) was carried out on participants’ evocations. This descriptive analysis was conducted to study how the words given by young people are associated with the parents’ socio-professional categories and the participants’ interest in science ( Mouret et al., 2013 ; Nadarajah et al., 2022 ). In accordance with the work of Piermattéo et al. (2014) and the recommendations of Deschamps (2003) , evocations whose frequency was greater than or equal to 6 were selected ( n  = 42 categories, 89.50% of the corpus without hapax). The relationship of these evocations with two variables was studied: (1) Interest in science was divided into two categories (“weak” and “strong”), which were defined with a distribution by the median 5; and (2) parents’ socio-professional categories were separated into 3 categories in accordance with the SPC groupings used for economic analyses by the French Office for National Statistics: SPC +, SPC −, and Inactive.

The CORR. F. A. highlights two factors that explain 75.70% of the table’s inertia (Factor 1 = 43.29%; Factor 2 = 32.41%). Factor 1 has a contribution from the terms of the variables “Socio-Professional Category”: CF (SPC+) = 0.07, CF (SPC−) = 0.10 “Science Interest”: CF (Science.Interest.Strong) = 0.37 + CF (Science.Interest.Weak) = 0.45, i.e., a contribution of 99%, to the formation of the factor. Factor 2 has a contribution from the terms of the variables “Socio-Professional Category”: CF (SPC+) = 0.36, CF (SPC-) = 0.47 “Science Interest”: CF (Science.Interest.Strong) = 0.07 + CF (Science.Interest.Weak) = 0.08, i.e., a contribution of 99%, to the formation of the factor. Figure 1 illustrates this configuration.

Figure 1 . Graphical representation of the results produced by the factorial correspondence analysis for Factor 1 (Solid line block) and 2 (Dotted line block) concerning the “ecological transition” stimulus term. Shaded blocks refer to experimental conditions. The “Socio-Professional Category and Interest in Science variables” contribute to the formation of Factor 1; the “ Socio-Professional Category and Sciences Interest variables ” refer to the variables and measures that contribute to the formation of Factor 2; the “Socio-Professional Category and Interest in Science variables” refer to the variables and measures that contribute to the formation of Factors 1 and 2. “Perceptions” refers to perceptions that contribute to the formation of Factor 1; “ Perceptions ” refers to perceptions that contribute to the formation of Factor 2; “ Perceptions ” refers to perceptions that contribute to the formation of both Factors 1 and 2.

The vertical axis (factor 1) draws a distinction between young people according to their interest in science. Factor 1 indicates that the perceptions of participants with a strong interest in science differ from those of young people with a weak interest in science. Participants with a strong interest in science associate the ecological transition with the idea of evolution and the preservation of the environment. They also mention the changes in habits that are needed in order to achieve this (e.g., alternative transport). Finally, they mention “nuclear power,” probably because of its resurgence in the media as a “clean” energy that could enable the ecological transition. At the bottom of the vertical axis, the participants with a weak interest in science refer to individual actions to talk about the ecological transition (e.g., sorting waste). They are aware of the problem of climate change (e.g., planet) through the issue of fossil fuel scarcity. They also mention the “solar panel” as a technology that could play a part in the energy mix. However, they remain rather vague and descriptive when it comes to characterizing types of energy (e.g., electricity). Finally, they mention “ecologists” as being a category of the population that does not include themselves.

The horizontal axis (factor 2) shows young people according to their parents’ socio-professional category. Factor 2 indicates that the perceptions of participants whose parents belong to a high socio-professional category differ from those of young people whose parents belong to a low socio-professional category. Thus, participants whose parents belong to a high socio-professional category associate the ecological transition and the resolution of climate change with strategies or technologies to be implemented (i.e., water management, wind turbines, dams), or specific energy sources (i.e., renewable energy). Finally, these participants also refer to the idea of cutting through the old system of over-consumption to move toward more environmentally-friendly consumption (i.e., consuming less and better). On the other side of the axis, participants whose parents are in lower socio-professional categories use more general terms to refer to the ecological transition (i.e., change, nature, transformation, good for the planet). Furthermore, the “economy” takes on a predominant character for these participants when they think of the ecological transition.

3 Discussion

The aim of this study was to clarify the way the junior high school students perceive the ecological transition and to analyze their representations. Three mains’ results were obtained: the participants (1) have significant knowledge of the ecological transition and its underlying principles, (2) have little awareness of the social aspects linked to climate change, and (3) their representations of the ecological transition are structured by their interest in science and the socio-professional categories to which their parents belong.

Young people perceive the causes and consequences of climate change and link them to the need to switch to a more ecological model, through individual behaviors and technological solutions in favor of ecology ( Kemp et al., 2007 ; Kreinin, 2020 ). Some research has shown that young people have misconceptions about climate change that persist despite the emphasis placed on climate change education ( Jeffries et al., 2001 ). In this study, no misconceptions were observed. On the contrary, their representations of the ecological transition provide the foundations upon which learning in the classroom can be built. These results support the findings of Corner et al. (2015) showing that today’s 18-25-year-olds are probably the most well-informed age group. Nevertheless, in the corpus of this study, the social aspects inherent to climate change are barely mentioned. Indeed, the representations of the participants are oriented toward causes and consequences and have a technocentric vision of the ecological transition. For example, factors such as social justice, inclusion, citizen participation do not feature in the participants’ responses (e.g., Favreau, 2017 ; Huntjens, 2021 ). Another explanation for this technocentric vision could come from the chosen inductor term. The term “ecological transition” immediately implies thinking about the methods and technologies that could make this transition possible. However, other terms such as “sustainable development,” anchored in the three pillars: economic, environmental and social, could have enabled students to produce words related to social aspects ( Mensah, 2019 ). Nevertheless, these factors should be considered when designing education programs for the ecological transition. As such, the concept of socio-ecological transition could provide an interesting theoretical foundation, while opening up a research program to study how it is perceived in non-scientific contexts ( Larocque, 2023 ). Additionally, our results show that differences in the representational content are mainly linked to interest in science and the parents’ socio-professional category. Indeed, participants with a strong interest in science tend to describe the ecological transition by placing it in the broader context of environment preservation, while those whose interest in science is weaker only evoke solutions. Similarly, young people whose parents are in the low socio-professional category contrast with those whose parents are in the high socio-professional category. The former mentions a change for a better world, but remains relatively vague, whereas the latter develops strategic orientations and suggests technologies to break with an old system rooted in over-consumption. In both groups, the principles of objectification (transforming an abstract object to make it concrete), and anchoring (integrating the object into a pre-existing thought system), do not seem to have operated identically ( Doise, 1990 ; Moliner, 2015 ). It is as if the objectifying and anchoring processes rely on psychological and social affiliations to elaborate the content of their representations of the ecological transition.

These results must be interpreted with the limitations in mind. First, the fact that there was only one time point of measurement calls for caution. Second, only 11 schools agreed to take part (out of 389). As a result, there may have been a sampling bias due to the school selection. To reduce this bias, we made sure that the schools were located in both urban and rural areas. Future studies could endeavor to recruit a greater number of schools in a wider geographical area.

To conclude, the ecological transition is a major issue for junior high school students, even if it manifests itself differently depending on their interest in science and the social group to which their parents belong. These results are important because new knowledge is embedded in a pre-existing system of representations. They can help us build a new way of designing educational programs by taking account of young people’s representations and prior knowledge of climate change issues. Today, young people do not need to be convinced of the reality of climate change, but it is essential to educate all social classes toward the development of a common knowledge base that will foster the implementation of solutions for the ecological transition. The ultimate goal is to educate all young people so that they are able to debate climate change issues in an organized and structured way, which would mean that they can (1) listen to each other’s differing viewpoints, and (2) work together constructively to develop strategies for the ecological transition. The principles of cooperative learning could be applied in order to facilitate productive ecological transition debates, thereby improving the knowledge acquisition process.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The studies involving humans were approved by Research Ethics Committee, Grenoble Alpes. The studies were conducted in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. Written informed consent for participation in this study was provided by the participants’ legal guardians/next of kin. Written informed consent was obtained from the minor(s)’ legal guardian/next of kin for the publication of any potentially identifiable images or data included in this article.

Author contributions

KN: Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. AS: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – review & editing. CB: Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review & editing. PP: Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review & editing.

The author(s) declare that financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Research supported by the French government as part of the “Territoires d’Innovation Pédagogique” program of the “Programme d’investissements d’avenir,” operated by Caisse des Dépôts (La Banque des Territoires).


The authors would like to thank the partners in this project for their collaboration: la caisse des dépôts; la banque des territoires; l’académie de Grenoble; l’académie de Lyon; L’Université Grenoble Alpes; Le Campus des Métiers et des Qualifications d’excellence Smart Energy Systems; La Région Auvergne Rhône Alpes; and Engie. The authors would also thank, the colleges and young people who volunteered to take part in this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Supplementary material

The Supplementary material for this article can be found online at:

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Keywords: climate change, ecological transition perceptions, social representation, interest in science, social background, junior high school

Citation: Nadarajah K, Somat A, Baeyens C and Pansu P (2024) How social background and interest in science are linked to junior high school students’ perceptions of the ecological transition. Front. Psychol . 15:1360166. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1360166

Received: 28 December 2023; Accepted: 12 March 2024; Published: 12 April 2024.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2024 Nadarajah, Somat, Baeyens and Pansu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Kévin Nadarajah, [email protected] ; Céline Baeyens, [email protected] ; Pascal Pansu, [email protected]

† These authors share senior authorship

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Nevada Today

School of public health promotes interdisciplinary research, assistant professor li li partners with environmental science student, paola miramontes to conduct research on liquid crystal monomers.

Assistant Professor Li Li standing next to student, Paola Miramontes on a stairwell.

Assistant Professor Li Li and Paola Miramontes

Assistant Professor Li Li of the School of Public Health, and student Paola Miramontes, studying in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, completed a model-based study researching liquid crystal monomers that resulted in her first publication by the American Chemical Society. Miramontes is the primary author on this article published in the Environmental Science & Technology Letters , and has the honor of being featured on the cover of the journal.

Miramontes initially reached out to Li about this research after taking one of his courses. When asked about his decision to accept Miramontes’ partnership, Li said “ I believe she saw its direct connection to our daily lives. Some might think, ‘She is just a sophomore; what depth can she really add to scientific research?’ But from my perspective, there's nothing more crucial than genuine curiosity and passion when it comes to making strides in research.”

Liquid crystal monomers are human-made substances used in everyday electronics, which have the potential to invade indoor spaces, such as a classroom or home. Miramontes was inspired to research the environmental pollutants and potential health risks of these substances.

“ Working with Dr. Li gave me an opportunity to learn aspects of environmental science and use techniques that I had not learned in the classroom,” said Miramontes.

The interdisciplinary research conducted brought a unique perspective to this study. It created an integration of Li’s public health focus and Miramontes’ background in ecological studies, identifying the implications of liquid crystal monomers both for humans and wildlife. 

In her testimony to Li, Miramontes stated, “As an undergraduate student, another valuable aspect of working with Dr. Li was getting to learn about the research process and implications of the project. This project motivated me to continue seeking research opportunities because I felt better prepared to work on other research projects.”

Interested in conducting research as an undergraduate or graduate student? We encourage you to explore the interdisciplinary research taking place at the University . 

Impact & Student Success

Sagebrushers season 3 ep. 2: Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Melanie Duckworth

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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Ranked #1 in Environmental Health Sciences by Peers in U.S. News & World Report

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been ranked #1 in the nation in Environmental Health Sciences , as measured by U.S. News & World Report . The ranking represents the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering’s leadership in programs and courses in the discipline of environmental health.

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings  include 213 public health schools and programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. The U.S. News rankings survey, which is sent to leaders of accredited schools and programs, is based on a single question about the academic quality of each public health school or program. 

"We are very proud to be recognized as the leading environmental health sciences program by our public health peers for our work to protect the health of people and the environment." Marsha Wills-Karp, Department Chair

"We are very proud to be recognized as the leading environmental health sciences program by our public health peers for our work to protect the health of people and the environment,"  says Marsha Wills-Karp, PhD, Department Chair and Anna M. Baetjer Professor in Environmental Health. " We will continue to strive to improve the health of people and the environment through the translation of our fundamental research into policy and practice and the education of the next generation of environmental engineers and scientists."

Here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • Our Center for Health Security received a $23.5 million award to partner with the CDC on a pioneering new epidemic preparedness project, and we were selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to lead a new Johns Hopkins Center for Climate-Smart Transportation .
  • The Planetary Health Alliance now has a home at Johns Hopkins, and just this month we announced the launch of a Universitywide Johns Hopkins Institute for Planetary Health , housed in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. The Institute will bring together efforts across disciplines to work at the intersection of human health and the environment. 
  • We demonstrated that narrower traffic lanes can prevent collisions. Shima Hamidi , PhD, lead author of the study, has been consulted by municipal and state leaders, and industry experts across the country on how they can make their streets safer for all road users.
  • Led by Benjamin Huynh , PhD, a  study  estimating that nearly 70% of children under age 6 in Chicago may be exposed to lead-contaminated tap water garnered media coverage from across the country.

MORE:  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Again Ranked #1 by Peers in U.S. News & World Report

Environmental Health and Engineering is a cross-divisional department spanning the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Whiting School of Engineering. This hybrid department is uniquely designed to lead pioneering research and prepare the next generation of scholars to solve critical and complex issues at the interface of public health and engineering. Learn more about our programs .


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    High School, Environmental Science Science Projects. (30 results) As humans we are part of the environment. With over 7.5 billion of us on Earth, our combined actions also have a big impact on the environment. As long as we are aware of the impact, we can do things as individuals, and working together as groups, to lessen the detrimental impact ...

  2. 101+ Best Environmental Science Project Ideas for High Schoolers

    Here is a list of some environmental science project ideas given according to the different science streams in the high school. Physics. Check how well different solar panels turn sunlight into electricity. Look at how small windmills make energy in different places. Study how hot or cold water moves in the ocean.

  3. Environmental Science Science Projects

    Environmental Science Science Projects. (56 results) As humans we are part of the environment. With over 7.5 billion of us on Earth, our combined actions also have a big impact on the environment. As long as we are aware of the impact, we can do things as individuals, and working together as groups, to lessen the detrimental impact of billions ...

  4. 10 Environmental Project Ideas for High Schoolers

    Environmental Science Project Ideas For High Schoolers If you're interested in learning more about topics related to ecology, sustainability, conservation, climate change, green energy, or environmental impact and implications, consider using one of the eco-inspired ideas on this list as the focus for your research or passion project.

  5. Environmental Science Research For High Schoolers

    Remember, every small action can have a cumulative impact. Here are more specifics on finding an environmental science research project and mentors you can work with. Find research programs close to home. To find environmental science research opportunities close to home, check out our High School Student Research Opportunities Database. Click ...

  6. 15 Best Environmental Science Project Ideas for High School

    1List of Environmental Science Project Ideas for High School. 1.1Examining the Impacts of Acid Rain on Local Vegetation. 1.2The Effects of Plastic Pollution on Marine Ecosystems. 1.3The Impact of Deforestation on Local Wildlife Populations. 1.4Examining the Efficiency of Various Renewable Energy Sources. 1.5Examining the Causes and Consequences ...

  7. High School

    Discover the challenges life faces on the coasts—and what scientists and regular people can do to save them. Field ProgramsExplore the diverse content offerings of SERC's High School Science Program, from field studies on our 2,650 acre research campus to SERC research based programs for the classroomStudent OpportunitiesGet involved at SERC!

  8. Environmental Inquiry

    Environmental Inquiry is a website and curriculum series developed at Cornell University to help students conduct environmental science research ... appropriate book cover below. Otherwise, a good way to start is by browsing through this list of topics for student projects ... This EI website is designed for use by any interested high school ...

  9. Student Research Projects in Environmental Science

    Explore Environmental Science research projects completed by high school students who worked with our mentors and participated in our online research program. Our next deadline is April 15, 2024 11:59pm PT.

  10. Environmental Science Research Projects for High Schoolers: How to Get

    Doing a research project can: Build credibility. Boost complexity in applications. Set as requirement for certain jobs. Could count towards volunteering. What are some cons of doing an Environmental Science Research Project? When it comes to research projects in general, there are some problems that could arise.

  11. 14 Environmental Studies Summer Programs for High School Students

    Subfield: Ecology, Research; Eligibility: High school students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade; Important Dates: June 18 - August 1. Application Deadline: April 21. TeenNat is a distinctive and engaging summer program for high school students in environmental studies. It emphasizes hands-on research and a personal connection to the natural ...

  12. 10 Environmental Studies Summer Programs for High School Students

    Brown Environmental Leadership Labs (BELL) is a summer camp for high school students that offers a distinctive approach to exploring environmental topics. Through hands-on outdoor learning, community service, and art projects, BELL provides you with new ways to engage with environmental science. You will work with live animals or plants and ...

  13. 30 Environmental Internships for High Schoolers in 2024

    This paid internship program is aimed at students over the age of 16 interested in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. Over the program's five weeks, students will work 30 hours a week on mentor-guided research, attend workshops, visit agricultural operations, and explore careers in ag. 25.

  14. 10 Top Environmental Projects for High School Students

    Contents hide. 1 Environmental Projects for High School Students. 1.1 1) Save energy with a Kill-A-Watt. 1.2 2) Green your school cafeteria. 1.3 3) Reduce waste in schools. 1.4 4) Recycle metals into jewelry. 1.5 5) Use an air filter in your room. 1.6 6) Plant trees at school. 1.7 7) Educate others on the importance of environmentalism.

  15. 15 Environmental Science Internships for High School Students

    SCA offers various environmental internships, allowing high school students to work on conservation projects across the U.S. Positions may include trail maintenance, habitat restoration, and environmental education. 2. Environmental Volunteers High School Internship Program (HIP) Location: unspecified. Registration Fee: unspecified.

  16. High School, Environmental Science Projects, Lessons, Activities

    With over 7.5 billion of us on Earth, our combined actions also have a big impact on the environment. As long as we are aware of the impact, we can do things as individuals, and working together as groups, to lessen the detrimental impact of billions of people. Explore important topics like air quality, water quality, the effects of climate ...

  17. High School, Environmental Science Lesson Plans

    High School, Environmental Science Lesson Plans. (7 results) As humans we are part of the environment. With over 7.5 billion of us on Earth, our combined actions also have a big impact on the environment. As long as we are aware of the impact, we can do things as individuals, and working together as groups, to lessen the detrimental impact of ...

  18. 10 Environmental Science Competitions for High School Students

    National Competition - June 22-24, 2024. International Competition - August 23-27, 2024. Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12, aged 15 by August 1 of the competition year, who have conducted a water-related science project . The Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) is prominent among high school students' top environmental ...

  19. 50 Best Environmental Science Research Topics

    2) Renewable Energy. Renewable energy is another fairly mainstream topic in which there is much to learn and research. Although scientists have identified many forms of sustainable energy, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, questions remain about how to best implement these energy sources.

  20. 7 Environmental Science Extracurriculars for High Schoolers

    The Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Science In this program, high school students work in actual research laboratories on existing projects, supervised by graduate students. Different areas of focus and varying time commitments are available.

  21. 12 Summer Research Programs for High School Students in 2024

    6. Research Science Institute (RSI) at MIT. The Research Science Institute (RSI) at MIT is an intensive six-week summer program that brings together exceptionally talented high school students from around the world to engage in cutting-edge scientific research. Under the guidance of experienced mentors, participants work on individual research projects in fields such as mathematics, biology ...

  22. 10 Environmental Science Internships for High School Students

    The Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science program, often referred to as TREES, is a remarkable opportunity for young individuals eager to explore the world of environmental science. Only a select group of eight high school students are annually chosen to collaborate individually with mentors on their designated projects.

  23. High School, Environmental Engineering Science Projects

    High School, Environmental Engineering Science Projects. (9 results) The human population on Earth is now more than 7.5 billion, and growing quickly. With more and more of us living an energy-intensive, modern lifestyle, the environmental stresses from human activity continue to increase. Greenhouse gases leading to global warming and ...

  24. Enhancing Junior High School Students' System Thinking Competency

    Systems thinking is a key to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) competency since it can help learners understand the complexity and dynamics of the world. This research investigates the impact of system thinking on Junior High School students through simple science projects addressing environmental pollution.

  25. What's quieter than a fish? A school of them

    Swimming in schools makes fish surprisingly stealthy underwater, with a group able to sound like a single fish. Engineers working with a high-tech simulation of schooling mackerel offer new ...

  26. How social background and interest in science are linked to junior high

    Keywords: climate change, ecological transition perceptions, social representation, interest in science, social background, junior high school. Citation: Nadarajah K, Somat A, Baeyens C and Pansu P (2024) How social background and interest in science are linked to junior high school students' perceptions of the ecological transition. Front.

  27. 15 Environmental Science Internships for High School Students

    The Oceanography Society High School Internship Program provides high school students with valuable opportunities to engage in marine science research and gain hands-on experience in the field. This program offers students the chance to work on real-world projects related to marine biology, conservation, and oceanography, allowing them to ...

  28. School of Public Health promotes interdisciplinary research

    Assistant Professor Li Li of the School of Public Health, and student Paola Miramontes, studying in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, completed a model-based study researching liquid crystal monomers that resulted in her first publication by the American Chemical Society ...

  29. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Ranked #1 in Environmental Health

    The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been ranked #1 in the nation in Environmental Health Sciences, as measured by U.S. News & World Report. The ranking represents the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering's leadership in programs and courses in the discipline of environmental health.

  30. Video series explores environmental science topics for elementary and

    Video series explores environmental science topics for elementary and middle school students. 4/9/2024. In the Recycling episode of this series, Maria Bonner, co-director of the Zero Waste Program at Rural Action, explains recycling and how that fits into the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle cycle. Then join Bruce Underwood, executive director of the Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, for a tour of a ...