Here’s a quick (3-minute) introduction to how Earth Day started and the impact it’s had:
Earth Day 2021
April 22, 2021 marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. The theme for Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth and it features five pillars, one of which is providing students with high-quality education to advance climate and environmental literacy.
Just in time to support Earth Day this year, PLT has released a new, cutting-edge resource for elementary and middle school educators, Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. Learn about the guide’s 50 field-tested, hands-on activities and get a copy directly from PLT’s Shop or by attending a local PLT professional development workshop conducted by PLT’s 50-state network of 75 coordinators and 1,000 facilitators across the country.
Another way teachers and parents can observe Earth Day is to simply take children on a nature walk, whether that’s in your backyard, at a local park, on a nearby forest trail, or on school grounds, depending on what’s accessible in your area at this time. Doing a nature walk is not only about celebrating Earth Day. It’s also an opportunity for learning experiences in a variety of subjects such as science, geography, math, and art. Make your nature walk educational and fun at the same time with these 12 Nature Walk Activities for Earth Day (or Any Day!)
Even though Earth Day has a rich history, many people associate it with recycling. You’ll probably find a lot of Earth Day activities for the classroom that focus on just that. This can be a great starting point, especially because it’s an action students, schools, and families can do right away. If you want to incorporate activities on recycling in your Earth Day lesson plan, be sure to check out these reduce, reuse, recycle lesson plan ideas for every subject.
Young students can, and do, make a big difference. As an educator, you have the opportunity to spark a passion in students that will drive them to do their part to take care of the Earth. Here are a few different kinds of activities you could add to your lesson plans to inspire your students this Earth Day:
Make a pledge and a plan to take action
Writing down a commitment and making a plan are two actions that increase the likelihood that someone will follow through. So if you want those Earth Day lessons to stick, this is an easy activity to do with students of any age. This is a great way to incorporate an art project with a writing prompt.
Here are a few examples:
Integrate art projects
Art projects are fun way to add a hands-on activity to a lesson about Earth Day. Creating art can also help students feel connected to environmental topics, even if the issues you’re studying are happening far away from home. It’s also a great way to help them imagine the world they want to live in.
Here are a few examples of art projects for Earth Day:
Make signs for school and at home
Sometimes we just need a little reminder to help us change our habits. Have students think about what they can do at school and at home to help the environment and how they can encourage others to change their habits.
Make a video or presentation urging others to take action
Students can make a bigger impact if they influence others to do their part to protect the environment. Putting together a video or presentation also helps them internalize the material – they need to understand it before they can explain it to others. Presentations can be given in the classroom or even to the whole school. Eventually, they may be able to present their lessons and research at a local conference, like these students from Two Rivers Magnet Middle School in East Hartford, Conn.
Plant a tree
The Earth Day Network has a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees by 2020 – one tree for every person alive. By planting trees, you’re taking a tangible action with your students and you’re taking part in this bigger goal. Don’t forget to check out these tree planting tips before you get started.
Engage students in a pollution experiment
Teaching about pollution is an essential part of Earth Day because it helps students understand the consequences of not protecting the Earth. It can be much easier to prevent pollution than to remedy it later. Students can experience the effects of pollution on a small scale in the classroom.
An activity for younger students:
See more types of pollution experiments you can do in your classroom and check out PLT’s “Pollution Search” activity.
Pick up trash around your school
Trash clean-ups are another hands-on activity you don’t even have to leave the school grounds to do. To make a bigger impact, have students write down what kinds of trash they pick up and where. After analyzing the data together, you can find patterns and explore solutions so you can stop the trash at the source.
In fact, there’s a new app that can help you do just that. Check out Litterati, the app that makes it fun to pick up littler and helps prevent litter:
Host a drive to collect e-waste
E-waste is a growing problem in the U.S. and around the world. E-waste represents more than 70% of toxic waste in landfills. So it’s probably not surprising that only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled.
This is an opportunity for your students to help raise awareness about this problem within our school and community. Students can research a nearby recycling facility and organize a drive to collect e-waste to help combat this problem in your community.
Show them examples of other students making a real difference
It’s important for students to see examples of young environmentalists so they know they don’t need to wait until they’re older to make a difference. These inspiring examples of young environmentalists is a great place to start, and there are many more young people doing great work. Learning about the work these young people are doing can give your students new ideas for how to protect the environment. It can open the door of possibilities for how to think about finding solutions to problems they can help solve.
Earth Day isn’t just on April 22. It’s every day. How will you celebrate Earth Day and help students make a difference year-round?