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April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day!
The following project ideas and suggestions are from our regular contributors on the T2T mailing list. Teach your students habits that they can adopt for life and encourage them to educate others.

Increasing awareness about the use of shopping bags
“Our school often contacts local grocery stores and has them donate grocery sacks to be decorated and then returned to the stores for use. The kids love going to the store and seeing their art work on bags being used. It's a good community P.R. thing too. It's free and easy. We really enjoy it.” -Heather

Join the Catalog Canceling Challenge and see how many catalog mailings your students can help eliminate. See how many students can join the "One Tree Club" - a student can save a tree by canceling 60 catalogs personally, and they'll receive a patch from the One Tree Club. Fourth grade teacher, Ted Wells, founded the project and maintains the website. He also writes for the Green Page at Huffington Post.

A similar activity is organized on a national level at http://www.earthdaybags.org. But it doesn't take nationwide organizing to do something like this at the local level. Simply contact a nearby grocery store and offer to have your students decorate a hundred or two paper bags with a simple Earth Day design. Then make a large poster to put up in the store to identify your class, and perhaps offer a small tabletop Earth Day display.

A book to check out: What on Earth You Can Do With Kids; A Good Apple Earth-Related Activity Book for Grades 1-5, by Robyn Freedman Spizman and Marianne Daniels Garber, Ph.D. This book contains ideas for each month of the year, but they can be adapted to other months. -Bonita

  1. Here are a few modified examples from What on Earth You Can Do With Kids:
  2. Create a bulletin board with the earth as the background. Have students write poems based on themes such as "I Love the Earth."
  3. Draw pictures of all the things that the sun's energy helps.
  4. Observe nature and organize activities centered around it.
  5. You are the author of a new book all about helping planet Earth - design a book cover for it.
  6. Make a wish list for things the Earth might need.
  7. Give A Hand to Mother Earth: Each student has a copy of a large hand. Everyone likes a compliment. Mother Earth likes to be appreciated also. Another way we pay a compliment to Mother Earth is by taking care of her. On each finger, write one thing you should remember to do to take care of Mother Earth.
  8. Some Bunny Loves the Earth!: A petition is a formally drawn up and submitted to an authority soliciting a favor or request for your cause. Decide what you think needs to be done to help the earth. Write a statement of your request. Ask your friends and neighbors to support you by signing their names to show they agree.
  9. You-nique! There's only one you. There is only one earth. It is special. How is the earth different from all the other planets? How is the earth like the other planets?
  10. Planter Pizzazz: Many containers can be recycled and made into beautiful planters for growing seeds or repotting plants. Students can collect milk cartons, old pots, and a variety of containers.

Have an “Earthday” Party! Be sure to sing “Happy Earth Day to You” as if you were having a party for “The Earth.” I think substituting “Earth Day” for “Birthday” in that song would be a cute idea ... just a thought! Anyway, it would be a great excuse for some refreshments! -Jonna

Hands-on: For Earth Day we had the students trace and cut out their hand print. On each of the fingers and the thumb they had to write how they would celebrate Earth Day, such as, conserve energy or water, recycle, etc. We placed these on a bulletin board around a big picture of the earth. -Stephanie in KS

Ecosystem in a bottle: I use Native American Literature to teach respect for Mother Earth. We are making terrariums and planting. I was lucky enough to secure an Ames grant for $280. You can make simpler ones with soda bottles. It really shows the water cycle and the interdependence of our environment. -Joan

I began this week talking about recycling. Yesterday we looked around our room for any item that had the recycle symbol on it. For homework the children had to look in their homes for the symbol and bring something in to share. Today we recycled coke cans into a fun learning game. Each student got five cans. They also received five numbers 2" x 4" (vertical) They colored their numbers, cut them out and pasted them on different colored constuction paper 4" x 10". These pieces of paper were then glued on the coke can. I partnered the students and they had to add the numbers on their blue cans, then their orange cans, etc. Then one of my third graders would pick on of his/her numbers and find two of the first or second graders cans that added up to the number they chose. Finally we set up 10 of the cans and bowled. They had to add the numbers on the knocked down cans for score. This was a fun way of reinforcing addition and could be used I'm sure for many other math activites. The students took their cans home to play with brothers and sisters. -Retta

Tried and true:

  • Build a terrarium. Soda bottle style or otherwise.
  • Make your own recycled paper
  • Plant a tree - You'll be covering Arbor Day, too. National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. There are also state Arbor Days.
  • Reseach items that can be recycled in your area. What do those numbers on plastic mean?
  • Hold a class contest (or competing classrooms) to see who can recycle the most... collect office paper, magazines, cans. Work with your local government to host a collection of household hazardous waste or computer components and telelvisions that can be recycled. Many school parking lots are now sporting paper recycling bins, like PaperRetriever™, for convenient year-round drop off, and your school is rewarded for the paper collected.
  • What is a carbon footprint?
  • Create crafts from trash. Be creative! How about a desktop sculpture or a unique basket created from a carton or jug?
  • Clean up a local outdoor space by removing trash and debris. (But do be careful. Wear proper attire and protective gear and make sure you get permission from all proper authorities including parents and administrators. Of course, you know this already.)
  • Turn out the lights in your classroom and unplug power supplies when they aren't in use. Talk with your students about easy, everyday ways to save energy.
  • Create a compost pile. You can even do this indoors. Work with your school cafeteria to integrate some food scraps! Take it a step further by donating your compost to a local grower, or plant your own produce. You can even plant in a pot in the classroom.
  • Be a locavore - serve a snack or meal that comes from local sources. Then talk about the carbon footprint of foods that travel great distances.
  • Learn about certified organic foods.


A few more links:

  • Event Ideas from EarthDay.org
  • Kaboose for quick and easy project ideas
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency hosts a wealth of information on their website. The EPA is asking Americans to commit to at least 5 actions to protect the environment. Don't miss their section on how to do your part at school. You can also plan ahead and have your entire class participate in their It's My Environment Video Project. You can also search your environment by zip code for a report that includes a map of all local business that report information to the EPA. You'll find air quality information, a breakdown of inhaled pollutants, UV index, radon, ozone, Superfund sites nearby, Brownfields, water quality information and more. A great resource not only for Earth Day but a variety of local science lessons!
  • ABCTeach hosts fun activities for toddlers and elementary grades. Coloring pages, worksheets, games, mazes and more.


Take 5

Have your students estimate the number of shopping bags a family uses in a year. Discuss ways to reduce then number of bags used.

Brainstorm as many ideas for saving energy at home as you can in 5 minutes and compile a list on the board. Later, have the students copy the list onto magnets and decorate. Keeping the list on the refrigerator at home will serve as a reminder for the whole family. (Sheet magnet is available at any sign shop - usually for free if you request their scraps and tell them you're a teacher!)