Now more than ever, we need to pay close attention to the needs of our planet. What better way to raise awareness about our world than to celebrate Earth Day? Earth Day is nationally recognized to focus on the global mobilization of various environmental issues. This could mean having an open discussion about better ways to recycle or ways to better use the natural resources provided to us by the Earth every day. In 1969, there was a growing concern about the condition of our environment as many of America’s youth were protesting oil spills, factory pollution, wildlife extinction, and the Vietnam War. As these protests gained national attention and the movements merged, it led to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Soon after, Congress passed several acts to protect the environment and endangered species. It took two decades for Earth Day to become a global event in 1990 that mobilized 200 million people across 141 countries to acknowledge the day and work towards real change that could improve the quality of life for everyone on our planet.
If current trends continue, the Earth’s population could very well exceed 10 billion before the year 2100. More people means more dependents on our natural resources and more people to produce more waste — which, if not properly disposed of and handled responsibly, could mean more damage to our environment.
That’s a lot of ‘could be's’, but there’s also a lot of ‘what if’s?’. What if we all made small changes today that could become simple habits for our immediate future? What if we had more conversations about these easy changes instead of feeling powerless to have any real and lasting impact on our environment?
If we don't have these conversations now, as you've seen, the Earth will continue to deteriorate, but this is where you come in! First, think about things that you enjoy that actually give back to the Earth. Do you enjoy gardening and growing your own vegetables? Try composting! You may also enjoy finding different ways to reuse items that would otherwise be tossed into the trash, or sorting out your recyclables.
It's also the perfect time to start teaching your students about environmental science and how they can play a huge part in what goes on around them.
Ways to Celebrate Earth Day
There are tons of ways to celebrate Earth Day that will take you far beyond the confines of a classroom and help students connect with the world around them! For example, you might be interested in using one of the newest features of Google and taking your students on one of their 360-degree tours. Not only can you visit various historical sites, but you can also view national parks and monuments.
Recycling means more than just reusing an item for its intended purpose. You can get creative and bring new life to something that you would have just discarded without a second thought. Using items for arts and crafts is another fun way to give new life to items that we would normally just throw away.
A third idea for ways you can celebrate is to challenge your students to spend more time outside doing something of their choice. You could encourage them to go for a daily walk with a friend or family member. Give them a goal of total hours spent outside to achieve by the end of the year. Throughout each month, starting with Earth Day, they can log how often they find themselves outdoors enjoying nature.
Learn to Grow
What better way to appreciate the Earth than to take the time to grow something with your own hands? This activity will teach your students just how much goes into the natural resources that grow around us each day. For the project, you will need the following:
Before you pass out the materials, you can teach the students a lesson on plants' life cycle and how they grow. Emphasize how crucial it is that the seeds be planted in nourishing soil and watered routinely to ensure they grow big and strong.
From there, provide each student with their own gloves and table covers to ensure the classroom doesn't get too messy. Each student will be given 2-3 seeds to plant in their soil. After they're done potting the seeds, students will place their plants near a window within the classroom.
Each student should be given a few minutes every couple of days to chart their plant's progress. At the end of the semester, if all goes well, each student will take home a plant they helped grow!
Arts & Trash
Mixed media is a term used to describe artworks composed from a combination of different media or materials. Many well-known artists use discarded materials to create beautiful and thought-provoking works of art that encourage recycling and conservation.
This Earth Day, allow your students to express their creativity with an ‘Arts & Trash’ project. A quick internet search for 'garbage art' will give you plenty of examples of people who have turned trash into artistic treasure. Once you've given them plenty of inspiration, it's time to gather your garbage!
Challenge your class to look for household items that aren't recyclable or biodegradable, but plastics, fabric, metals, paper, and other recyclable materials also make great supplies. Ask the students’ families to help ensure that nothing has sharp or jagged edges.
Be sure that the compostable items stay in the composter; otherwise, there are no rules other than the trash should be clean. They can bring in plastic bottles, shopping totes, shreds of fabric, buttons, and broken small appliances that can easily be taken apart — you never know what art supplies they might find inside their homes! Gather all your supplies and add glue, acrylic paints, glitter, yarn, markers, etc., to the mix. They can work on their own or in small groups to 'take out the trash' and start creating something new and original from the supplies.
Once your class is done with their creations, put on a Garbage Art Show for Earth Day so they can show off their designs and inspire other budding artists to think unconventionally the next time creativity strikes. This would also be an excellent opportunity to invite someone from your local environmental organizations or waste management facilities to come and speak to your class and judge your art show!
Earth Day comes around every year, and we encourage you to make the most of it by spending a little more time thinking about what you can do to help. As always, stay tuned for more exciting Gallopade blogs filled with helpful information and resources for your reading pleasure.