7 Resources to Celebrate Earth Day in the Elementary Classroom
Happy birthday, Earth Day!
To honor this 45-year ecology tradition, we highlighted seven environmental resources for elementary school teachers to use in the classroom. You can browse to help find ideas and activities for students that focus on ecology and environmental education.
We hope these online resources will help you shine light on Earth Day 2015!
Earth Day Network
Grade levels: K-12. Earth Day Network’s Climate Education kicks off with lesson plans and activities for April 18-25. Watch the Earth Day 2015 video for a quick rundown. Start with Saturday’s Explore the Outdoors video and lesson plans for grades K-4.
Climate Change Monday begins with a video narrated by Bill Nye, the Science Guy. It’s followed by a Q&A for K-4 students that answers simple questions about the environment.
For April 22, the website offers teachers a brief history of Earth Day, followed by several nifty activities and interactive tools, including a follow-your-footprint quiz/calculator that motivates students to learn about the environment.
In honor of Earth Day, Doorley has compiled a thorough list of “50 Earth Day Activities for Kids.” Each activity encourages children to make things from all-natural resources and recycled materials. The activities include succinct summaries and links to exquisite pages filled with photos and step-by-step instructions.
Activities range from building a fairy garden with small-scale plants and figurines to decorating rocks with earth-friendly materials.
From the Ground Up
Grade levels: 3-6. From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil, by the Nutrients for Life Foundation, is dedicated to educating people about managing and sustaining a healthy food chain.
Teacher Resources offers a quick synopsis of the site, including lesson plans and videos about the relationship between soil and agriculture. Six lesson plans focus on three key messages: plant nutrition, food production and food security.
In lesson one, for example, students explore essential nutrients, study the periodic table of the elements and learn to identify which plants are likely to contain key nutrients based on what they’ve learned about soil.
Green Education Foundation
Grade levels: K-12. It takes a little digging, but once teachers become familiar with the Green Education Foundation’s website, they’ll find lots of resources and lessons for students to celebrate Earth Day.
The Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse breaks lessons into grade ranges. Elementary school teachers can select from PreK-2 or grades 3-5. From there, the categories are science, health, social studies, language arts, math or creativity. Sustainability topics include climate change, economics, energy and waste reduction.
Each lesson offers thorough descriptions and procedures, along with supplies teachers will need.
A Tree is Nice, for example, gives first-grade students an opportunity to explore information about trees with an exercise that involves identifying the different parts — from the trunk and branches to leaves. To view the lesson, select preK-2 and Science.
Ecology and Choice
Grade levels: K-6. In “16 Student Projects for Earth Day” first-grade teacher Meghan Everette hearkens the arrival of spring with a learning unit on recycling and ecology.
One lesson, Make a Difference, entails reading texts to learn about conservation. It teaches students the importance of preserving the environment for future generations and how they can raise community awareness through recycling. Everette timed her lesson to end on Earth Day, but you may want to adapt the timeframe.
Teachers can also select from ideas that allow students to choose their own activities, from reporting back on a visit to a museum to performing a play or puppet show about protecting the environment.
Earth Day Curriculum Resources
Grade levels: K-5. Retired middle school teacher Phil Nast is into spring and education. “Earth Day Curriculum Resources, Grades K-5” drills straight down to a well of worthwhile activities to help teachers celebrate Earth Day.
Lesson plans include Conserving Water through Art! Comparing Light Bulbs, and Build a Pizza Box Solar Oven.
Nast dug the sun-powered box oven idea up from the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The activity entails making chocolate-marshmallow s’mores in a homemade oven using wooden sticks, aluminum foil, tape, paper and scissors — and a pizza box.
National Environmental Education Week
Grade levels: K-12. The National Environmental Education Foundation is diving into a week of environmental celebrations to promote green Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.
Greening STEM Learning Center helps classes explore the connections among sustainability, conservation and technology. The toolkits give teachers access to activities, resources, infographics, case studies, webinars and highlights from innovative organizations.
This year’s theme is Surrounded by Science, which builds on the Greening STEM series.
The evolution of Earth Day
Beginning in 1970, with the first Earth Day celebration, schools have focused on teaching students to think about their environment. Although the issues — from traffic congestion and air pollution to recycling initiatives and sustainable energy — still exist, teachers remain at the forefront of conservation education.
Whether it’s watching videos, reading books, planting trees or making earth-friendly gadgets, teachers have hundreds of activities at their disposal to celebrate Earth Day. The ideas and activities encourage teachers to help students get the facts about sensitive ecosystems and the resilient, if fragile, environment.
Happy Earth Day!Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- "Frequently Asked Questions," National Environmental Education Week