Every day in our classroom is Earth Day. It’s part of our science lessons to learn about energy conservation, so it’s easy to make sure we talk about the importance of conservation on a regular basis.
One year a fellow teacher thought it would a great idea to print a little paper globe for each student in our school (that’s several hundred) and write a “thank you to the Earth” type sentence.
I don’t often speak up at meetings, but I couldn’t resist with this one. Isn’t it counterproductive to teach students about conservation by wasting all that paper?
Everyone agreed, but NO ONE had any suggestions on what we could do instead. And that’s how we came up with this list of Earth Day activities (and why you should try some of them).
Do a Litter Chase: Pick up garbage in your school yard. We had a teacher who had all her students wear plastic gloves to do this. While we understand that garbage is dirty, plastic gloves are not helping with the problem. Have students wear one glove or no gloves and then show them how to wash their hands.
Plant Something: Check with local green houses for bedding plants or buy some seeds. Our school has a little flower garden that is planted and maintained by students. If you don’t have access to a garden, plant little plants in paper cups which your students can take home and plant.
If you have a place to plant wildflowers for bees or butterflies, you’ll help these creatures survive in your area.
The Birds and Bees: If your school has bird houses or bee homes, teach your students how to care for them. Clean out bee houses and bird houses with mild soap and water. You should also clean out feeders. Without regular cleaning, these can make the very creatures you’re hoping to help sick.
Go for a Walk: Talk a short walk with your class and point out some of the wonderful things you see.
Explore: Take magnifying glasses outside and look at the spring buds up close. Talk about the changes of the plants and flowers. Touch the leaves and the grass, but talk to your students about leaving nature where it belongs.
Build the Perfect World: Using sand or snow have your students create a world they would consider perfect. What qualities does it have?
Hour of Energy: Turn off the lights and as many electrical devices as possible for an hour.
Turn this into a math lesson by counting light bulbs, kilowatts or kilo joules of energy this saves.
Make Recycled Paper Art: Take some of your already used paper. Tear it into tiny pieces. Each students will need a fist full of torn paper. Mix one tablespoon of flour and one tablespoon of water together. Mix this with the ripped paper and knead it like dough for several minutes. Shape this into something and let it dry. To make it into paper, roll it flat.
Create a Piece of Art: You can get our sample upcycled art lesson in our Resource Library or you can get all the lessons for Upcycled Inspired Art Lessons in our store. We can also send you a copy when you join our ninja news email list.
Upcycle Something: Turn a container that was used for food into a container to store school supplies or art supplies.
Garbage Free Lunch: If your students bring a lunch to school, can they create a lunch that doesn’t leave any waste at school? We put the compostable materials in our compost bin, recyclables and containers return home.
Make a Pledge For a Daily Change: Ask your students to pick one thing they will do every day to reduce waste. If you have to write it down, make it digital or use a previously loved piece of paper.
Learn About Ways to Care for the Environment: Teach students ways to care for the environment and reduce waste. We talk about recycling as a last resort for something. Upcycling and reducing are the best way to reduce waste. We also talk about conserving clean water, preventing pollution and being a responsible global citizen.
Do Some Reading or Writing Activities about Earth Day: We created some Earth Day Logic Puzzles for this.
Simple Classroom Changes to Reduce Waste
Since conservation is part of our science curriculum, it’s easy for us to tell students that “not being wasteful in our classroom” is being graded. Here are some of our polices to reduce waste:
We communicate with parents digitally (email, school website and Google Classroom are the tools we use) instead of paper newsletters. If a parents doesn’t have internet access, we provide a paper copy to the family.
We use both sides of every single piece of paper and we try to write on the whole page from top to bottom. We even have challenges to see how few pieces of paper we can use in a week or month.
When we need scrap paper we go to the recycling bin and see what we can use from there. We keep all the cut off scraps for future art projects.
We encourage students to avoid bringing snacks with lots of packaging (prepackaged foods) and instead things where we can compost the leftovers (like a banana peel).
We keep a big bucket with a sealable lid in our classroom for organic scraps. Once a week we walk this over to the compost pile and wash out our bucket.
We use reusuable water bottles instead of plastic bottles. Students are permitted to keep these with them in class (except when using Chromebooks).
We host a book swap. Students can bring books for our book shelf and take another one home (our personal special books are not included in this). Students can also trade these books with each other.
Students are encouraged to bring games and puzzles with missing pieces to be used in our school makerspace. Sometimes we’ve even made a new game by finding spare parts.
Students bring craft materials they aren’t using for others to use.
As teachers we print as few things as possible. Whenever possible we show one copy on the projector instead of printing a copy for every student. If students need their own copy to refer to, we scan a copy into their Google Classroom. It’s amazing how many copies you can save this way.
Single use forks, spoons, knives and straws are not allowed in our school. Each classroom has a set of dishes that can be used, washed and reused by students. Students are encouraged to bring utensils from home (we don’t have a cafeteria so students bring a brown bag lunch every day or go home for lunch).
When we host events, we ask parents not to bring or buy food products with too much packaging. They can buy bulk items or make items at home. We try to reduce are party leftovers and garbage.
Students are encouraged to look after their school supplies so they are not wasted. We recycled our felt pens through the Crayola ColorCycle Program.
Reusable bags only. Students are encouraged to use bags that can be used over and over again instead of any plastic bags. We do use Ziploc bags for some things in our classroom, but these are used all year and sometimes year after year.
Walk (skateboard, scooter or ride a bike) to school as often as possible. We are fortunate that our students do not take buses to arrive at school and their parents usually walk with them instead of driving and dropping them off. The teachers carpool (partly because there is no parking). We forgive this when the weather is colder than -20 degrees Celsius.
Great Books to Read
We regularly talk about reading to our upper elementary students. They love being read to and often we forget that this age still needs to be read to. Share a book with them today.
Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
This is wonderful story outlining what someone would need to know about Earth from the time there are a baby.
Here Comes the The Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter
This is the mostly true story of how one city put all their trash on a barge and sent it out to the ocean-a waste management plan with destructive consequences.
All That Trash by Meghan McCarthy
This is another story about a garbage barge that started a recycling movement.
One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul
This book is beautifully illustrated and explains the challenges faced in one community and how they solved it in a creative way.
The Great Kapok Tree A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry
This book explains the importance of trees to our environment and our overall health.
Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson
This book talks about the life of Wangarĩ Maathai, one of Kenya’s most famous environmentalists.
One World by Michael Foreman
This is a close up of how pollution impacts our world through the eyes of a boy who spends a day at the beach.
Bee & Me by Allison Jay
This adorable book helps younger environmentalists understand the importance of bees in our ecosystem and food chain.
City Green by DyAnne DiSilvo-Ryan
A girl creates a community garden in her city.
Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le
This is a book explaining climate change in it’s simplest ways for younger children.
10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh
This one is great for adults too, explaining ten simple things we can do to help reduce our impact on the environment.
George Saves the World by Joe Readman and Lee Honor Roberts
George is challenged by his grandfather to recycle and it changes his views about the world.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde
We take our running water for granted in many places. This is the story of a young girl’s journey to bring water to her village.
Compost Zoo by Mary McKenna Siddals
This is an alphabet book that explains composting.
Momentus: Small Acts of Change by Hannah Alper
This is a how-to guide to activism by sharing interviews with other activists, celebrities and change-makers.
Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau
This is the story of a group of young people who learn that working together can make a difference to the world.
Touch the Earth by Julian Lennon
This is the beginning of a trilogy where you can take a plane anywhere to help make the world a better place.
Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon & Lee White
Kate finds a way to solve her problem in an environmentally friendly way.
Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton
This book highlights twelve endangered animals and explains ways to help prevent their extinction.
Earth Ninja: A Children’s Book About Recycling, Reducing, and Reusing by Mary Ninh
This book explores our impact on the Earth.
Kenya’s Art by Linda Trice
This is a book showing different ways recycled materials can be turned into art projects.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This is a way to see all the signs of green in nature.
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
This is the story about taking seeds and nurturing them into plants.
The Watcher by Jeanette Winter
This is a biography of Jane Goodall, who studied gorillas.
Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World by Zoë Tucker
This is the story of a girl who lives in the forest which is being chopped down by giants. She stands up against the giants. This one is inspired by the activism of Greta Thunberg.
We’ve noticed over the past few years that students are genuinely concerned with the lack of action by governments around the world to help protect the environment. Encourage your students to take action where you live. If everyone does their part, we can take care of the planet together.
Do you have a great activity for Earth Day? Share it with us in the comments below.