The first Earth Day was in 1970. After seeing the damage done by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson was inspired to organize a national day to educate the public about the environment. Earth Day created public support that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and contributed to the passage of the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act. (Learn more about these U.S. environmental acts in our Presidents Preserving Nature post).
What can you and your students do to celebrate mother nature and our planet during Earth Day 2017?
Carbon Footprint Challenge
· Create a score sheet for certain activities (such as carpooling, walking or riding a bike instead of traveling by car, shopping at a local store, bringing an organic fruit or vegetable for snack, unplugging a phone charger when it is not in use, etc.)
· At the start of each day, ask students who did any of the things on the list and give them points accordingly.
· Do this for a one – two week period and see who wins.
Expand this to create a challenge the whole school can participate in.
Educating Your Students
· Endangered species – Have students research an endangered species, then share with the class what they learned about the species, its habitat, and how it could be saved.
· Alternative energies – Divide students into groups and have them research an alternative energy source, such as biomass, hydothermal, solar, or wind. Have them make a commercial advertising the “pros” of the source, but also make a disclaimer about the cons or challenges. As a group, discuss why some alternative energy sources may be more feasible based on the town’s geography.
· Take your lesson outside for the day. Grab the worksheet, textbook, or dry erase board and find a spot in the school yard to teach.
· Go for a walk or take some time to explore the school yard. Give students some basic tools, like a magnifying glass, and ask them to explore this space and find 2 new things they haven’t seen before.
· Choose a service project that can be completed within a short time span (a day or week). This could be as simple as picking up trash around the school yard or cleaning up an area of the school.
· Choose a long-term service project. This could be starting a recycling program at school or creating a compost bin.
With both short-term and long-term projects, ask the students what they want to implement. This will increase their interest and investment!