Earth Day is a great way to engage students in STEAM learning. While the concept of environmental conversation is largely science-based, you can talk about the Earth in any subject. Check out these lesson plan ideas to rock your classroom on April 22 and create memorable activities that also help students learn.
Our 5 Favorite Earth Day Celebration Ideas
There are hundreds of Earth Day activities you can explore! The best part is that many of these lesson plans can be made more advanced for older students or adjusted to accommodate younger learners. Here are our top picks for Earth Day 2019:
- When we say that Earth Day activities can be added to any classroom, we mean any classroom. For example, the creatives at Alfred Music shared a tutorial to make musical instruments from recycled materials. You can challenge your students to make the most creative instruments and perform one of their favorite pieces.
- Make a classroom compost bin! Tanya Khan at Garden Guides has a guide showing how to set up a compost bin in your classroom or an outdoor space on school property. You can even add worms! This project is one that students across the school can use well after the lesson ends.
- Teach about other countries and students from across the world. The Rainforest Alliance works to reduce deforestation and promote responsible land use. They have school activities sorted by grade and country for students to explore. Use Earth Day to teach how we are all on the same planet sharing the same resources.
- Let your students explore peaceful activism. After studying a unit on Martin Luther King Jr, kindergarteners at Faubion School in Portland, Oregon organized a peace march. You can teach your students how to make change peacefully by holding a mock sit-in in the principal’s office (with permission), organizing a class petition, or giving speeches about an environmental cause.
- When in doubt, take your students outside! Earth Day Canada encourages teachers (whichever country they are in) to let their kids go outside and run around for a bit. “The modern childhood takes place indoors, in highly structured, regulated, adult and goal oriented environments,” they write. “Community and play are found online rather than the outdoors.” Bring your lesson plans and activities outside or give your students a little free time to appreciate nature and celebrate the holiday.
Top Media Resources to Share on Earth Day
YouTube has become a favorite source for teachers to introduce lessons. Videos and songs engage students and get them excited about the topic they are about to delve into. Some of the top Earth Day videos for your students include:
- Have Fun Teaching took the “Going Green Song” (which teaches kids about the three Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle) and animated it. The result is a fun, three-minute video to get young students excited about Earth Day and activities that come with it.
- For a longer video, consider “How to Care for the Environment” by Turtlediary. This video is almost nine minutes long and covers various environmental concepts. From composting to water conservation, it’s a primer for activities centered on Earth Day.
- If you’re looking for a video more focused on a specific topic, Learning Junction created a water pollution-specific video. You can use this video in a lesson plan on water conservation awareness or water chemical testing for more advanced students.
- Prince Ea used Earth Day to present an apology video to future generations. He apologizes for our generation not taking action and for using up Earth’s resources. This video is particular relevant for students, because they are the future generation he is addressing and the one that will have to protect the planet.
- Michael Knight is a visual effects specialist who shares tutorials and other useful digital information online. In 2012, he created an impressive Earth Day video that feels like a roller coaster ride and shows impressive VFX skill. You can use this video to challenge your students to create their own Earth Day public service announcements or to highlight the magnitude of our planet.
Along with incorporating video into the classroom, use books to tell stories about the Earth and the importance of caring for it.
Literacy consultant Lindsay Barrett curated a list of books that you can read with your students for Earth Day. She developed her list with culturally responsive teaching in mind, so lesson plans can incorporate learners from all different backgrounds. To connect the content with local issues, which can then turn into actions and ideas, she encourages asking students questions like: “What environmental issues are important to our community?”
Additional Resources for Earth Day Activities
If you’re still trying to figure out how you can bring Earth Day to your classroom, turn to the pros. These resources specialize in finding creative ways to connect with students.
The first place to turn for lesson plans is the Earth Day Network. The focus for 2019 is “Protect Our Species” and the site has a variety of resources and activities you can use in your classroom and community. There are also action items that you can encourage students to follow or complete as a class — like taking the “Ecological Footprint Quiz” or pledging to use less plastic.
Younger learners will enjoy PlanetPals characters, who have been sharing important lessons about the environment since 1998. There are games, crafts and pages for teachers. Whatever your focus, PlanetPals has a resource.
Finally, the team at FluentU compiled a list of ESL-specific Earth Day activities. Younger students can create posters using English words, while older students can write mock letters to their representatives. These lessons can be modified for other language classrooms as well, including sign language. In a Spanish class, students could use command verb tenses and Spanish vocabulary to create Earth Day posters to display in the classroom.