Earth Day Activities for the Classroom
EducationWorld is pleased to present this article by Christi Wilson, a credentialed teacher of highly gifted students in Northern Nevada. She has 11 years of classroom teaching experience, including K-12 education online, and writes for TeacherPortal.com.
Celebrated worldwide every April 22, Earth Day was established in 1970 and inspires events that help communities protect Earth. People learn “green” strategies to preserve the environment and conserve natural resources. Use the day to teach students ways in which they can make a difference. Below, find 10 engaging classroom activities appropriate for students in grades K-12.
Also, don’t miss EducationWorld’s collection of lessons for Earth Day.
- Plant a seed. Students in grades K-4 will enjoy planting a seed in a small pot that can be painted in class. Pots can be taken home, and students can watch their plants grow. Or, keep the pots at school and let children observe, measure and graph the plant’s growth.
- Create a school garden. This activity is appropriate for students of any age. If there is space available at your school, there’s no better way to help beautify the school grounds than creating and planting a school garden. Some schools even use their school garden to grow vegetables and fruits that are served in school lunches.
- Pick up trash. Students of any age can help clean up their school grounds, local park or surrounding streets by picking up trash. Community members will appreciate the help, and students will realize how their efforts help improve the world they live in.
- Recycling initiative. Start a recycling initiative at your school. It will be surprising to students how many recyclable items are tossed into the trash every day. Have students think beyond food packaging to consider the numerous other products and items they use every day. (See the lesson Sustainable Products, Consumer Responsibility for more depth on this topic.) Many recycled items can be used to create art or build other items (see below).
- Recycled art. With this fun art activity, students bring in an assortment of recycled materials to aid in making a sculpture, jewelry or any crafty project. This activity is appropriate for students of all ages and offers a great follow-up to a school recycling initiative. Another option is using only recycled materials to build a prop that accompanies a unit being studied in class. The possibilities for props are endless—from an item for a school play or a model of the solar system, to a covered wagon during a westward expansion unit or a 3D model of an ecosystem to accompany a science unit.
- The Lorax. Dr. Seuss’ treasured book can teach students about the destruction of a living plant or animal within an ecosystem and why it’s important to preserve our natural resources. Teachers might also show the movie version and ask students to compare and contrast the movie and book. (By the way, even without The Lorax speaking for them, did you know that trees can “speak” for themselves? Check out the grade 7-12 lesson plan Can Plants Speak?)
- Solar construction. Students can build solar ovens or even toy solar cars. There are many possibilities of items to cook in a solar oven, and students will enjoy navigating their solar cars around the school grounds. Either activity proves to students that natural resources such as the sun can provide us with energy.
- Worm compost bin. Have students learn about composting by collecting all of the wasted food from school lunches and combining it to make a worm compost bin. The compost can be then used to help fertilize the school garden.
- Junk mail tree. Most families receive a lot of junk mail at home. Have students in grades 3 and up bring junk mail to school, create a “junk mail tree” and post it in a school hallway where it can be seen by many. Students can then write a persuasive piece explaining why families should opt out of junk mail. Catalogs sent through the mail also can be canceled. See CatalogChoice.org for more information on stopping unwanted mail.
- Take a walk. Take students out for a walk to enjoy the nice weather, listen to the birds, examine plants and trees, and observe insects. As the weather gets warmer, have independent reading time outside. Students love outdoor experiences, as they are often stuck inside for hours at a time during a regular school day.
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