This year Earth Day falls on a Sunday, so you can encourage your students to celebrate with their families by being active outside over the weekend. Whether they help their parents with yard work and gardening, participate in a stream clean-up, or plant trees at a community celebration your students will be getting some exercise while enjoying the outdoors.
Though your students will not be in class on Earth Day, this week is National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), and it is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the earth in your classroom. During the week, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day, no matter what subject you teach. Here is a selection of some activities you could use:
In Social Studies – Have your classes learn about the First Earth Day and watch these video clips of Senator Gaylord Nelson’s April 21, 1970 Earth Day eve address. Your class can discuss why we celebrate Earth Day, how the social, political, and environmental climate of the 60s and 70s may have influenced public support for the grassroots movement, and how that support impacted federal policies and priorities (the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, etc.). Your students can also check out the EPA@40 website from 2010 to learn about some of the progress that has been made since the 70s.
In Math – Have your students inventory your class, cafeteria, or school waste to determine how much recycling and trash is produced. You can also have them calculate how much of the trash could actually have been recycled. This type of activity can feed into a longer term Waste-Free Wednesday or Litterless Lunches initiative in your school. For more information on how to use such programs as teaching tools, please refer to our Waste-Free Wednesday and Litterless Lunches blogs.
In Science – One of the most important components of any Earth Day/EE Week Celebration is simply to get your students outside, and outside your options are limited only by your imagination. For example, you can get your students outside and teach them about the Chesapeake Bay with the Grasses, Grasses Everywhere Lesson Plan; in which students investigate the properties of aquatic grasses (SAV) and compare them to the grass in the schoolyard. Alternatively, you could use the Succession and Forest Habitats Lesson Plan. This lesson has several components, and for the last one your students will collect data on trees in the schoolyard, use the information to predict how many birds will be found in the schoolyard, and devise a plan to improve habitat for migratory songbirds in the schoolyard.
In Language Arts – It may seem obvious, but a great way to celebrate Earth Day with your students is to have them read environment-related books (especially outside). The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a great option for younger students, and selections from Silent Spring by Rachel Carson would work well for advanced readers. For more literature selections, please refer to Bay Backpack’s Reading the Environment blog, the National Environmental Education Foundation’s Green Reading List for Educators, or the EPA’s Wetlands Reading List for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12.