Earth Day Activities to Help Students Learn about the Environment
In an effort to raise environmental awareness, Earth Day was established in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin. That year, 20 million people across the United States gathered to talk about the environment and ways to stem pollution. This action opened the door to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.
By 1990, Earth Day had gone global with 200 million people in more than 140 countries participating in environmental education programs, causes and events. Today, the focus is on recycling, global warming and clean energy.
Celebrated April 22 each year, Earth Day is a great opportunity for teachers to incorporate environmental issues into classroom discussions and curriculums.
Here are a dozen online resources where teachers can find lesson plans, activities, games, multimedia and student reading materials that can be incorporated into an Earth Day curriculum.
Activities and games
- Green Schools Initiative. Here’s a bounty of fun and action-oriented activities teachers can mix into Earth Day lesson plans. Among them: create an organic garden, mix toxic-free cleaners, organize a walk or bike to school day. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- I Want to be Recycled. This kid-friendly website explains how common materials like cans, bottles and cardboard are recycled for new uses. An interactive Super Sorter game lets kids sort materials on a moving conveyor belt. K-6; free. Visit the website.
- Planetpals. THis site offers dozens of games, activities, lesson plans and fun illustrations focusing on earth science and the environment. K-6; free. Visit the website.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Check out these 20 Eco Tips for easy activities kids and families can do together to learn about and appreciate the environment. K-8; free. Visit the website.
Images and multimedia
- KQED. Check out more than 20 informative videos covering numerous environmental topics, including climate change, adopting sustainable food practices, recycling and alternative energy sources. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- NASA. Here’s an impressive collection of high-resolution photos of Earth taken from NASA satellites, space crafts and orbiters. The photos offer unique views of Earth’s continents, oceans, rivers and atmosphere from space and include full descriptions. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- National Geographic. The diversity of Earth’s lands, oceans, forests and wildlife is beautifully captured in this collection of 20 photos with informational captions taken by photographers around the world. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- ScienceNetLinks. This rich collection of resources includes lesson plans, interactive activities and multimedia focusing on animal diversity, local ecosystems, energy conservation, global climate change and more. K-12; free. Visit the website.
Lesson plans and documents
- Department of Energy. Here’s a treasure trove of lesson plans, primary documents, maps and illustrations related to energy use and conservation. They make great supplements to classroom Earth Day activities and discussions. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- Environmental Protection Agency. You’ll find dozens of downloadable lesson plans, teacher guides and online resource links focusing on clean air, water, climate change, and ecosystems. There’s also a cool collection of quotations about the environment from famous leaders, authors and scientists. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- National Education Association. Here’s an excellent collection of downloadable Earth Day curriculum resources that focus on climate change, energy use, conservation and recycling household products. K-12; free. Visit the website.
- Scholastic. The focus here is on “teaching green” with six ready-to-use SMART board interactive Earth Day lesson plans. Topics include recycling, composting, water conservation, gas emissions and natural resources. K-12; free. Visit the website.
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