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Internet Projects
To Celebrate Earth Day

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Looking for cool Earth Day projects on the Internet? You'll find an abundance of interesting projects that involve students in Internet learning -- and saving Earth!

Thank you for providing such a simple, yet very meaningful project for the students. It truly did show them that they can get the word out and make a difference in their community.
Cristina de Cardenas -- William Lehman Elementary (Miami, Florida)

The students thank you for giving us the opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile project!
Amy Weatherly -- Bamber Valley Elementary School (Rochester, Minnesota)

Everybody in the school enjoyed the project and can't wait to do it again next year.
The staff at Armor Elementary School (Hamburg, NY)

Many thanks for the great idea that continues to foster cooperation within our community.
David Lozinsky -- St. Peter School (Tecumseh, Ontario)

Those are just a few of the comments from past participants in the Earth Day Groceries Project -- a project that brings together thousands of kids "to celebrate Earth Day and increase environmental awareness." Last year, children in 315 schools worked with local grocers to distribute more than 120,000 paper grocery bags decorated with Earth Day messages.

Students at Moanalua SchoolStudents at Moanalua Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii, participated in the Earth Day Groceries Project.

"It's a simple project that empowers kids," says teacher Mark Ahlness. "Their artwork is going to end up in someone's home!"

"I started the project in 1994 as an e-mail project," says Ahlness, a third grade teacher at Arbor Heights Elementary School in Seattle, Washington. "I had organized my school to do the activity the year before, and it was so easy, and such a resounding success, I just wanted to share the idea."

The Earth Day Groceries Project brings together kids and communities and it opens the door to all kinds of learning activities, teachers say. Students read reports from classes around the globe, add up numbers of bags distributed, create graphs to track year-to-year results, track the locations of participating schools on world maps, and much more.

Teachers frequently remark about how easy the project is. On the project's Web site teachers will find a brief description of the project. In addition, the site offers a Project Starter Kit which includes

  • a handout with ideas for what students might write or draw on the bags,
  • a description of the project for your principal or administrator,
  • simple templates for making pictures of the earth on grocery bags,
  • a letter of endorsement from the Paper Bag Council of the American Forest and Paper Association (for your grocer),
  • facts and figures, showing the growth and scope of the Earth Day Groceries Project, and
  • a news release designed to print out on your school's letterhead, which you can use to inform the media in your community of your school's participation.
Indeed, the Starter Kit includes most everything needed -- except the bags. Not to worry! For teachers who can't find a grocer willing to provide bags, the Paper Bag Council has joined forces with the project to provide paper bags.

Ahlness is still amazed by the messages of support that he gets each year from educators across the United States and Canada and around the world. Last year, schools in Costa Rica and Greece were among the participants. (You can see photos of the kids from Greece on the project Web site.) Who knows what faraway places will be part of the Earth Day Groceries Project this Earth Day!

DOWN THE DRAIN!

So how much water do you use each day? Do you think you use more water or less than your fellow students? More or less than people in other parts of the world? "Participating in the Down the Drain online project is an easy way to find out!" says Joshua Baron, Senior Internet Curriculum Coordinator at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Down the Drain is a simple Earth Day project -- but it's also a great Any Day project! This fun hands-on project, which can be used by teachers across the grades, drives home a strong water conservation message.

"The Down the Drain project was originally developed during a two-week summer course held at SIT in 1996," Baron says. "The teachers who participated had a water conservation project as part of their environment unit that was very similar to the Down the Drain project but was done just within the school. The teachers liked the idea of expanding the project so that they could collect data from people from around the world."

Participation in Down the Drain is easy! Students record the number of times each day they wash their hands, flush a toilet, shower, brush their teeth, and do laundry (among other water-using activities). At the end of a week, students enter their data into the project's database. The database feeds back information (based on an assumed formula) that estimates students' Average Daily Water Use and Average Yearly Water Use. Then students can view already collected data and compare their water usage to that of students in other parts of the country.

Down the Drain could be a great family involvement project!

Baron frequently uses Down the Drain as an example for educators of what a good Internet project should be.

"SIT focuses its educational outreach on developing unique and compelling uses of technology," he says. "Down the Drain is a good example of students using the Internet to communicate and collaborate on a project they couldn't do without the Internet. Students use Real Time Data collected by their peers around the world -- data that textbooks and CD-ROMs can't provide."

"And the students' work gets published online, which is a great student motivator," Baron adds.

NO "DEARTH" OF EARTH DAY PROJECTS!

Still looking for project ideas and resources? Here are a few more Web sites to check out:

Nikes ReUSE a Shoe Program
Collect worn out athletic shoes and Nike processes them into "Nike Grind," which can be used to surface basketball courts, tracks, fields, or playgrounds.

The National Crayon Recycling Program
Where old, rejected, broken crayons are collected and recycled into fresh, new crayons.

The Earth Foundation
Help raise money to save the world's rainforests.

Caribbean Conservation Corporation
This Web site is designed to help increase understanding of the plight of sea turtles. Kids will love tracking the turtles' treks using the maps on the Satellite Tracking of Sea Turtle Migrations section of the site.

Earth Day Network
Your connection to Earth Day events and environmental education resources and activities.

Environment Lesson Plans
Check out activities from Houghton Mifflin's Web site.

Additional Earth Day Resources

  • Don't miss additional lessons, projects, resources, and more in Education World's Earth Day Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 04/13/1998
Last updated 03/05/2010