By Andrew Hawk
It seems that with each passing year, people everywhere are getting a little greener. This trend needs to continue in order to ensure a clean and vibrant planet for the generations to come. With Earth Day almost here again, teachers can help raise students’ awareness of how they can help take care of the third planet. Here are some activities that I hope you will try this Earth Day.
Planting something is perhaps the original Earth Day activity. When I was in elementary school, pine tree seedlings were distributed annually on Earth Day. After several years, my parents’ backyard began to resemble a pine tree farm. Planting something on Earth Day is still a good idea; it just needs teachers to make it a little more exciting. Teachers could bring in pots and have students plant flowers to be sent home for Mother’s Day. Science teachers could incorporate the age-old activity of growing lima beans in transparent cups with sponges. These could be started on Earth Day and transferred to the ground later. Many schools have started their own gardens—another great way to celebrate Earth Day.
Make “I Pledge” Sheets
Work with your students to make “I Pledge” sheets, and then let them get adults they know to sign the pledges. Common pledges that benefit the environment include to stop buying bottled water, to stop using coffee pods, and to start using reusable grocery bags. Change is difficult for some people. This being so, you should let the adults choose the number of days they are willing to pledge. Even if people pledge to do something only on Earth Day, it is a start.
Make and Pass Out Flyers
A great way to integrate writing and spread awareness about the environment is to work with your class to produce an Earth Day flyer. These flyers could focus on things people can do to help the Earth or even on something about the history of Earth Day itself. Copy the flyers and pass them out, too!
Research What Other Countries Do
A couple years ago, I had a student who had lived in Germany while her father was stationed there. I was surprised at several things she told me. One example was that in Germany the police regularly check trash cans that are waiting to be picked up by trash collectors. Citizens in Germany are ticketed if the police find recyclable materials in their trash cans. You can integrate social studies into your Earth Day celebrations by having your class research what other countries are doing to save the planet.
Interview Past Generations
Never underestimate how much students can learn from talking to people from past generations. As any grandparent or great-grandparent will tell you, the world has changed a lot in the past several decades. Work with your class to develop a list of interview questions that focus on the environment and the use of electronic devices. After they conduct the interviews, have your students share what they learned with the entire class.
Do Service Projects
What exactly takes place will depend on the grade level of your students. However, even kindergartners can walk around the school grounds and pick up litter. If you have the resources to do something in the community, that is great too. Students can benefit in several ways from helping improve their town or city. They feel a sense of satisfaction when they make the world a better place. Complete some research in your area and pick an environment-centered project to complete with your students. Bonus! Download “How to Create a Proposal,” a free printable page from The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference. Upper elementary students can suggest project ideas and learn to write a formal proposal using these simple steps.
Reconnect with Nature
Plan an outdoor field trip to a nature spot in your area. In many cases, children are trending away from spending time outside away from and without their electronics. A great outdoor field trip may be just the ticket to help students learn the joys of unplugging. If you can’t take a field trip, talk to students about things they can do outdoors after school.
Hold a Fund-Raiser to Save the Rain Forests
On websites such as www.rainforesttrust.org, an acre of rain forest can be purchased for as little as $10. Celebrate Earth Day by holding a fund-raiser to raise money to purchase acres of rain forest and help stop deforestation. Students will be proud to know they have taken part in an activity that will have a long-lasting, positive impact on the environment.
Calculate Your Class’s Carbon Footprint
The term carbon footprint has become a popular buzzword in recent years as scientists around the world are working to raise awareness about global climate change. Take a few minutes in your science lesson to teach your class about carbon footprints. It’s difficult to calculate carbon footprints by hand, but a quick internet search will provide you with several choices for online carbon footprint calculators.
Explore the World’s Receding Glaciers
Many people do not realize how fast the world’s remaining glaciers are melting. A person can visit various parks, such as Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, to see glaciers in person—and to see how fast glaciers are disappearing. While this isn’t possible for most classrooms, you can plan a webquest, for example, through the National Park Service website, and take your students on a virtual field trip to see the current and past condition of Earth’s glaciers.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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