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What On Earth Are You
Doing for Earth Day?


Whether you're looking to celebrate Earth Day in a BIG way or in a small way, the Internet is full of Earth Day activity suggestions. Hold an Earth Day Fair. Start a school recycling program. Or get your students involved in one of the terrific online projects that promote environmental awareness and conservation; you can read about a handful of those projects in this week's Education World CURRICULUM story, Internet Projects to Celebrate Earth Day!

Looking for "smaller" activities to celebrate Earth Day across the curriculum? You've come to the right place! Scan down this list of simple activities that extend the Earth Day theme into all areas of the curriculum.



Hands-on science. The only things that students will need to make a simple thermometer are water, a clear plastic bottle (e.g., an 11-ounce water bottle), food coloring, a clear plastic drinking straw, a clump of modeling clay, and rubbing alcohol. Follow the simple Make a Thermometer directions on the California Energy Commission's Science Projects page.

Make an "Earth Day Joke Book." Students can choose their favorite nature riddle to make an "Earth Day Joke Book." Each right-hand page has a riddle question in large letters. The flip side of the page has the answer and an illustration that gets at the silliness of the riddle. (The "Reader Riddles" page in each issue of Ranger Rick magazine is a good source for riddles. Other sources include Nature Riddles and Animal Riddles. Be sure to check beforehand to ensure that all the riddles are age-appropriate.)

Organizing information. Invite students to fold a sheet of paper into four equal squares. Label each square with one of the headings: Bathroom, Kitchen, Bedroom, and Laundry. In each square, students should write two energy-saving tips related to that room. They can use the clickable picture on the E-Patrol Energy Savers Web page as their resource.

Group discussion. Be sure to let your students visit the EPA's Recycle City Web site. Then divide students into small discussion groups. Invite each group to brainstorm a list of three ways that each of the following items can be reused, instead of throwing them away. (They can use the whole thing or only part of it.)

  • Cardboard box
  • Plastic milk carton
  • Glass jar
  • Wooden board
  • Plastic bag
  • Newspaper

Allow enough time for students to have a good discussion. Then pull the groups back together so they can share with each other their best ideas.

Be sure to check out some of the other Recycle City Activity Ideas.

Consumer testing/graphing. Students will need three or four identical flashlights to complete the Battery Life science experiment/consumer test from the California Energy Commission's Science Projects page. Use a different brand of batteries (e.g., Duracell, Energizer, Eveready, and Rayovac) to power each flashlight. Students should leave the flashlights on during the school day and monitor the length of time each flashlight stays lit before the batteries "die." Students should round the life of each battery brand off to the nearest hour and create a graph to show the life of each battery brand. (Note: This experiment could take days.)

Sequencing. Students can draw a step-by-step diagram to show the ten steps involved in planting a tree. The information students will need to draw their diagrams can be found on the How to Plant a Tree! pages of the Kids F.A.C.E. (Kids for a Clean Environment) Web site. Students might work in teams of 2, 5, or 10 to complete this project. They might bind their pages into book form and present other classes in the school with "How to Plant a Tree" books.

Hands-on science. Students can make their own "acid testing solution" from red cabbage using the step-by-step procedure on the Beakman's World Web site. Students can test rainwater, lemon juice, soap, and other solutions for acidity. (Less acidic solutions will turn the red cabbage solution to blue or green.)

Art. Each class in the school should select an Earth-friendly slogan for Earth Day and create a colorful slogan banner on recycled computer printout paper (the perforated variety) or on craft paper. Classes can display their banners outside their classrooms on Earth Day and teachers can take their classes on a banner tour.

ABC order. Invite students to put the list of environment terms found in the word search puzzle (in the previous activity) into ABC order. Teachers of older students might use a longer list, which students might help to brainstorm. Extend the activity by having students use the terms to create an "Earth Day Dictionary." Words from the word search puzzle: recycle, compost, garbage, litter, reuse, cleanup, environment, pollution, waste, landfill, reduce.

Science/art. Students can learn how paper is recycled by following the step-by-step procedures of the You Can Make Paper activity on the Beakman's World Web site. Once the paper is dried students can paint Earth Day messages on their recycled paper.

More art. Invite students to design their own bumper stickers with Earth Day themes.

More reading comprehension. (Grade 3 and up. Younger students might work in pairs.) Invite students to learn all about the cheetah on the Cheetah Spot Web page. There, students will read about the cheetah's appearance, speed, food, social habits, history, and the danger of its extinction. Teachers can print out a copy of the true/false questions on the student work sheet.
(Answer Key: 1. T, 2. T, 3. F, 4. F, 5. F, 6. T, 7. T, 8. F, 9. T, 10. F.)

Graphing animal speeds. On the Cheetah Spot Web page, students learn that the cheetah is the fastest animal on Earth. It can run at speeds up to 71 miles per hour. Have students create a graph that shows the top speed of the cheetah and of five other animals from the list below.

lion 50 mph coyote 43 mph zebra 40 mph
hyena 40 mph greyhound 40 mph reindeer 32 mph
giraffe 32 mph grizzly bear 30 mph cat 30 mph
human 28 mph elephant 25 mph wild turkey 15 mph
squirrel 12 mph pig 12 mph tortoise 0 mph


More ABC order. Use the Litter Detectives lesson plan from the Litter Prevention home page. Make a list of the different kinds of litter that students collected. Then invite students to put the list in alphabetical order.

Classifying, graphing, and comparing/contrasting. Make a checklist with ten columns. Head each column with a "type of trash." (See the chart below for column headings.) Then take students on a playground or neighborhood trash hunt. Count the number of litter items students collected in each category. Graph the results to show which categories accounted for the most waste. Compare your results to the figures in the chart below, which represent nationwide waste composition.


Metal XXXXXXXXXXXX 12 percent
Yard waste XXXXXXXXXX 10 percent
Rubber/Leather XXXXXX 6 percent
Textiles XXXXX 5 percent
Miscellaneous XXXX 4 percent
Wood XXXX 4 percent
Food waste XXX 3 percent
Glass XX 2 percent

Language arts. Invite students to write poems about trash or litter on small brown lunch bags. Then they can use the bags to collect trash in the schoolyard or in a local park.

100 Facts About Earth. Challenge students to list 100 facts about Earth that they learned in the Earth Day Challenge. Students might work in groups and bring together their group lists to form a larger class list. (Adjust the number of facts for your grade level.)


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
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