April 22, 2013 is Earth Day and since it falls on a school day, it provides the perfect opportunity to incorporate ecology-related issues such as pollution, sustainability and global warming into every subject studied that day. Regardless of your students’ grade level or age, this can be a real opportunity to teach about the issues and permanently reduce your school’s ecological footprint.
Your best chance for success in teaching your children about changing lifelong habits begins with making the entire month of April a countdown to Earth Day. Depending on the grade level involved, the actual day can be one of review and counting up accomplishments and change. Plus, it’ll give you and the children a great chance to throw a party.
Suggested Activities for Earth Day
How Much Do I Use?
Recycling and the sustainability issues behind this practice can often be underestimated by students. The word automatically brings to mind empty soda cans or plastic bottles and the children fail to recognize all the ways in which they use resources daily. At least a week before Earth Day, you can adapt the following lesson as one for math or science.
Make a list of natural resources, energy, materials and how much you use them. For instance, younger grades can count the number of milk cartons used by their class in a day, a week, a month or for the entire school year. Higher grades can calculate the amount of gas required by a school bus over a given period of time with a quick Internet search of school buses’ fuel efficiency and a real school bus route measured in miles. Reasons for recycling can become much more apparent to students as the numbers they count or calculate increase by class, by school and by all city schools.
How Much Do We Use? Landfills and Trash
As another lesson for Earth Day, ask your class to estimate how much trash it produces in a week’s time. Record the estimated numbers along with the student’s name. Introduce the concept of compostable trash bags and why they may or may not be effective in reducing the volume of landfill trash. Weigh each bag before you throw it away and keep track of how many trash bags you fill throughout the week.
The accumulation of classroom trash will provide an unforgettable lesson in addition to the one at the end of the week when you calculate the total pounds of trash for the class in a week. According to the grade level, have the children calculate how much trash per student is produced in a week or how much your total class might produce in a year. Ask how much would be saved if you were able to reuse 10 percent or even 25 percent of this trash.
There are tens of thousands of activities available for use with your children for Earth Day. However, as long as you make recycling someone else’s responsibility, it’s difficult to enlist their real support. These two activities will help encourage their contribution and stress why their habits must change.