What is Earth Day About?
Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22nd each year, reminds us of how much damage the human race has caused to the Earth and inspires us to learn how we can correct and prevent more damage to it.
The key to teaching Earth Day concepts to children is to help them realize, that even at a young age, they can be part of making change possible.
The what, when, and who of Earth Day
- What is Earth Day about - It is a day to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment.
- When - Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 each year
- Who - Earth Day is now coordinated globally and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year. Numerous communities also celebrate Earth Week.
- Why Celebrate Earth Day? - We put aside a special day to create awareness not only of the amounts of pollutants damaging our Earth but to inspire, empower and educate people to make changes .
- History - The idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day"was introduced at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day was observed in San Francisco and other cities on March 21, 1970. Soon after that, April 22 was chosen to celebrate Earth Day..
Help children to respect plant and animal life
Teaching kids what Earth Day is about can start with helping them understand how to respect and care for animal and plant life, natural resources and their habitats.
One way to start is to choose to teach about one endangered plant species that is relevant to where the children live rather than a broad topic. An example is the Nelson's checker-mallow, see image above, that grows in Northwest USA.
One fifth of the worlds plants are under threat of extinction. To find a plant in your area, check this list of endangered plant species...
Canada has a great site called, Plant Watch. They provide a wonderful teacher's guide called, Plant Watch Identification Guide, which is geared to older students but will help you find endangered species in your area and it is available in French and English. Here is the link to download it....
Here in Victoria, BC the Garry Oak trees are threatened due to the growth of residential housing. They are important because Garry Oak meadows host more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in Canada.
More than 100 species of birds, as well as large and small animals and approximately 800 insects live in the Garry Oak Meadows. The Garry Oak ecosystems were once extensive on southeastern Vancouver Island, but now only tiny fragments remain, surrounded by housing.
Find Resources Locally
In most areas there are societies established to help endangered species and they are a great resource. See a sample here: http://www.goert.ca/ Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery
Study one local endangered plant or animal...
- Make a booklet to record what they have learned about the plant or animal
- Model the plant or animal with Plasticine™
- Listen to books or watch DVDs about the species
- Participate in a class fundraising activity to raise money for an organization that helps the animal or plant. (To actually view most endangered animals, except for in zoos, would do them more harm than good.) Example: the marmot on Vancouver Island...
Learning Outcomes for kindergarten children
Learning outcomes vary geographically. Some of the science learning outcomes for this type of activity are listed below. Children will:
- Use the 5 senses to make observations
- Share with others information obtained by observation
- Describe features of local plants (or animals) such as color, shape, size, texture,
- Compare common animals or plants
- Demonstrate the ability to observe their surroundings
- Describe features of their immediate surroundings
Other Ways to Help...
The best way to get children to understand the question - What is Earth Day about?, is to have them feel like they are making a valuable contribution by participating in practical ways such as:
- joining in on community clean ups (communities assist in local clean-up programs by providing t-shirts, gloves, bags, product and promotion).
- providing habitats for wildlife around their schools by working with adults to plant native vegetation and removing invasive species
- writing letters(jointly with their teachers) to get school boards to eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides
- using reusable bags when shopping at the grocery store
- learning how to recycle paper, glass, and aluminum cans
- asking their parents if they can ride a bike or walk instead of drive to destinations
Teach Earth Day terms
Young children learn new vocabulary easily if it is presented with hands on experiences, art activities, music, games and by introducing literature about the topic. Introduce Earth Day terms such as the ones below:
- extinct - to die out, there aren't any left alive
- endangered species - when an animal or plant species is in danger of becoming extinct
- habitat - an area or region where a particular type of plant or/and animal lives and grows
- pollution - is when water, air, or land becomes dirty and not usable by human beings and animals
- protect - keep something safe
Teach Earth Day vocabulary with literature...
In a Nutshell (Sharing Nature With Children Book) (Sharing Nature with Children Books)
An acorn drops from a great oak and grows. Animals nibble at it, a fire threatens it, but overcoming many challenges it eventually towers high in the forest. Eventually its energy passes into many other life forms--even the cherry pie enjoyed by the boy in the house below.
The Earth and I
Don't Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books)
Endangered Species (Saving Our World)
Giant pandas, Black Rhinos, Monarch butterflies and many more, from tigers to elephants to polar bears, orangutans to dolphins, penguins to sea turtles — are disappearing, threatened by deforestation, poaching, fishing nets, global warming, and more. After enjoying the book’s eye-catching, dramatic format, kids can follow the simple suggestions offered to help save the animals.
Environmental education pages:
Environmental education activities skills list
Free science worksheets
Green kids and Earth Day
What is Earth Day about?
Leaf rubbing planet Earth - art activity
Pressed plants art activity
Easter Science Activity
Outdoor ed. degree
Recycling for kids - Part 1
Recyling for kids - Part 2
Science books for children
Tree Seedling Experiments
Year long environmental activity ideas
Earth Day toys and resources
In Social Studies Section: The Food Chain