Any Day Can Be Earth Day

You can experience the spirit of Earth Day all year with these long-term projects.

By Cathy Neushul

earth in the shape of a heart

Earth Day is just around the corner. While it's usually a one-day event, it doesn't have to be. In honor of Earth Day, you can launch an environmentally-focused project that will help learners hone important skills and be beneficial to the community. It's a win/win proposition.

Ask Your Class to List Environmental Concerns

The first thing to do is ask your class to list what they see as environmental concerns. When drawing up the list, you might have them focus on local issues. This way, you can expand the project to incorporate civics-based activities like visiting the City Council to propose a new initiative.

Depending on your class, you might want be prepared with a list of suggestions. Here are some possibilities:

  • Have your class look into the use of plastic bags and the environmental concerns involved. They could research possible alternatives.
  • If you are near the ocean, you could take your class to the beach to count the number of whales migrating from north to south along the coast. They could contact local biologists to find out about the health of the population and/or environmental challenges.
  • Another idea is to participate in an annual bird count hosted by the Audubon society. This will familiarize your class with the local bird life and identify any concerns.
  • Members of your class could visit a local lake, river, or stream. Here, they can take water samples, identify plant and animal life, and detail any environmental concerns. Consider making this a long-term project in which learners continue to collect information about the area throughout the year.

You've Picked a Project - Now What?

The most important part of this endeavor is making sure that you outline what you expect. If your class decides to organize a ban on plastic bags in their community, the first thing to have them do is make a list describing how they plan to achieve this goal. The list might look something like this:

  • Research how plastic bags affect the environment.
  • Come up with a group name and logo.
  • Create informational materials, posters, blog, etc.
  • Draw up a plan describing how to persuade people in the community to support a ban. For example, speak at a City Council meeting.

As a culminating activity, they could create a PowerPoint or another type of presentation to describe their experience and share what they have learned.

Other Earth Day Ideas

While these types of long-term projects are wonderful, you may not have the time to dedicate to this type of experience. However, you can take any environmental issue and provide a quick, enriching exploration. Choose a topic, provide background information, and have students write a podcast, blog entry, or letter to a representative to describe how they feel about the issue. They could also design a poster, film, or PowerPoint to share their views.

By connecting Earth Day activities to real-life environmental concerns, you can make sure that your class focuses on ways to improve the community year-round.

Earth Day Lessons:

The Garbage Patch: Two Earth Day Lessons                                                                

Motivate your learners with this interesting lesson. They watch a video about plastic bags and the North Pacific Gyre. Then, they discuss the history of Earth Day. Finally, they identify the stages in the life cycle of a plastic bag.

Out on a Limb

Using trees as the focus, learners discuss environmental stewardship. They could investigate the importance of wetlands, forests, and other areas in their community. This lesson could lead to a discussion of open spaces.

The Earth Day Groceries Project

While a simple idea, this is a great way to cement Earth Day sentiments. Learners decorate a paper grocery bag with pictures of what Earth Day means to them.

Clean Up for Earth Day

What a great way to celebrate Earth Day! Learners clean up their school grounds as part of an Earth Day celebration. This can kick off a discussion about environmental issues.