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Earth Day: Teaching Students to Preserve the Environment

Janelle Cox

Earth Day: Teaching Students to Preserve the EnvironmentEvery year on April 22 people across the globe take part in Earth Day. Communities, governments, and schools acknowledge that our earth needs to be preserved and protected. This year more than a billion people will take part in Earth Day by getting involved and participating in Earth Day activities.

Here are a few activities and ideas to teach your students about preserving our earth, while learning about our beautiful planet.

Endangered Earth

Children may not quite be able to grasp how much our planet needs to be preserved and protected. To help make them aware of the risks of neglecting our environment, try giving them a visual. The website Endangered Earth is a great place to begin. This site is a great source of information, with pictures, videos, and a ton of resources for young students to explore endangered animals.   

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Another informative site to visit is The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This site is designed to teach children the importance of protecting our environment through games, quizzes, and homework. It also offers a variety of lesson plans and teacher resources.

The Face of Climate Change

Earthday.org has announced that this year's theme is calling attention to climate change. "The Face of Climate Change" means that every person who is trying to do their part to help the environment is a face of climate change. To help celebrate this theme, try the following activity with your students.

  1. Explain that our Earth is warming and humans are largely responsible for this. Discuss that the choices that we make today will affect the future of our earth.
  2. Talk about how our lives are connected to the climate and how we can reduce the risks from climate change.
  3. Then together as a class, brainstorm a list of ways we can limit the amount of gases being put into the air. (Younger students may need some prompting)
  4. For homework have students visit EPA.gov to calculate their household carbon footprint.

The Greenhouse Effect

For this experiment students can see for themselves what occurs in our atmosphere by viewing the effects of a greenhouse.

Materials Needed:

  • 2 thermometers
  • 1 clear jar
  • 1 stopwatch
  • Sunlamp
  • Observation sheet

Instructions:

  1. Group students into small groups
  2. Place the thermometers under the sunlamp until they are warm
  3. Record findings under number one on their observation paper
  4. Place the jar over one of the thermometers for one minute and record findings
  5. Continue watching both thermometers and recording findings every minute for ten minutes

Once the experiment is complete, have students talk about their findings. Discuss how the air over the exposed thermometer is always changing, while the trapped one is what happens to the Earth's atmosphere. Talk about how the sunlight warms the Earth's atmosphere, and without this the temperature would average zero degrees. Discuss the heat trapping gases of the "Greenhouse effect," and how it absorbs radioactive heat. For an extension of the activity students can graph their data. If you want to go even further you can fill one jar with air and another with carbon dioxide.

Activities to Help Get Involved

Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to provide students with activities that focus their attention on the environment. Here are a few ideas for students to help actively participate in help preserve our Earth.  

  • Use a recyclable water bottle and lunch bag at school
  •  Plant a tree in the school yard
  • Write a letter to congress in support of environmental legislation
  • Recycle their papers at school
  • Take a field trip to the local recycling center and bring personal items to recycle
  • Interview local environmental organizations
  • Adopt a highway
  • Have a poster contest and the winner receives a recycled item of their choice
  • Create a fundraiser and all proceeds go the local recycling center or endangered species
  • Make a bird house

Exploring the Earth Even Further

Choose a few of these Earth Day-related books to read to your students on Earth Day:

  • Earth Book for Kids: Activities to Help Heal the Environment written by Linda Swartz
  • Earth Day--Hooray! Written by Stuart J. Murphy
  • Sid the Science Kid: Earth Day Fun Written by Jennifer Frantz
  • Earth Day Escapade (Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew (Quality)) written by Carolyn Keene and Macky Pamintuan
  • Michael Recycle written by Ellie Bethel

Do you have a great idea or activity about the Earth that you would like to share? Share it with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts!