Earth Day may not be the most exciting of holidays, but over the years, it’s only grown more important. The number of issues afflicting our planet today is downright shocking. In the oceans, microplastics have become so common that many scientists believe they could drastically alter the very nature of our seas. In South America, the Amazon Rainforest is in danger of disappearing altogether. Pollution and deforestation are causing this once great ecosystem to collapse, leading to the extinction of multiple species, and negatively affecting the quality of our air. Then there is climate change in general, which inches ever closer to disaster.

I don’t write this to be depressing. In fact, I still have hope that humanity can correct and heal the harm that’s been done to our planet. There are people who genuinely care about the environment, and when we channel our passion and knowledge into meaningful action, the results can be amazing. Take this recent story about one of VAI’s former Afterschool Cohort students who helped save threatened salamanders and build an eco-friendly culture in a Michigan town. How cool is that!

Small Steps

As educators, we can make this Earth Day meaningful by teaching our students how to be responsible stewards of our environment. Here are just a few ways we can help them understand the value of this wonderful world we call home:

  • Wonderful World: Help students appreciate our incredible planet in an open-ended, exploratory way! First, share this Interactive World Map with students. Have them explore by clicking on the various biomes which open up interactive Thinglinks. Then, have them complete the Wonderful World Scavenger Hunt (Answer Key) to discover key facts; this is a great activity to do collaboratively. Challenge groups to find as many answers as they can in ten minutes — and make sure they record where they found their answers!
  • Found Art: Turn trash into treasure with this hands-on creative challenge! First, have students collect trash items from home to create their treasure — or scrounge around your room and school for forgotten and unused items for students to upcycle. Allow students to explore the Found Art resource for inspiration. Give students five minutes to identify the items they would like to use and sketch out their design. Then, have them put their creativity to work!
  • A Classroom Garden: A classroom garden is a phenomenal way to introduce your students to earth science while also fostering communication and teamwork. Planting flowers can also help sustain pollinators like butterflies and bees which are currently declining from lack of food. Students should especially consider planting milkweed, which is a great source of food for caterpillars. Not only will this help the environment, but it will also provide teachers with an opportunity to discuss the importance of pollination and the life cycle of butterflies!
Be the Change

If you found these strategies helpful, be sure to check out additional free activities in our latest Timely Topic: Earth Day Explorers. This resource comes complete with four, 15-minute lessons designed to foster curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in students while teaching them about our fragile planet. Do one or do them all, the choice is yours! By working together, we can undo the harm done to our world and build a better, more sustainable future for our students. So, let’s do our part and explore this wonderful world and keep it safe.

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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