With Earth Day around the corner, you may be looking for another few ideas to go green with your class and inspire the students to think critically, creatively and realistically about how they can work towards environmental sustainability. These fun ideas can be used as short classroom activities or as a springboard for deeper discussions, projects and action plans. With the goal of empowering, mobilizing and inspiring students towards stewardship of the earth, this can be the most memorable Earth Day yet.
- Idea #1: Turn school trash into treasure.
To bring attention to the waste created in schools, try creating art from discarded school materials. There are plenty of eco artists and designers who make an earth-friendly statement by transforming trash into treasure. Supplies can be glued onto a footprint to symbolize our ecological footprint, or they can be assembled into an interesting structure. Class discussion can focus on what is creating waste at school and steps to reduce it. Consider the following materials that can be collected from classrooms and the office during Earth week:
- ink cartridges
- keys from junk keyboards
- disposable dry-erase markers and pens
- lunchables, like yogurt containers, lids, and plastic spoons, that can be washed out
- paper, shredded paper
- discarded library books
- single items, like a shoe, that has been in the lost & found for a long time
- discarded art supplies like old paint bottles and brushes
Idea #2: Become very calculating this Earth Day.
Nothing will prompt us more to reduce our ecological footprint than finding out what our own impact is, how we are contributing to pollution and the use of resources. For Earth Day, try calculating just how many resources the students, their families or the school are using, and even better, how many can be saved.
A grade 10 math class in New York calculated the number of disposable dry-erase markers that were thrown out each year in the school district, and the cost associated with those markers. Then the students calculated the waste savings if the district purchased refillable dry-erase markers. The waste and cost savings were staggering – enough to cause a district-wide movement that saved hundreds of pounds of waste and hundreds of dollars spent on throw-away markers. For tips on how to figure this out, visit www.ecosmartworld.com
, distributors of AusPen refillable markers.
To get an idea of the size of the students’ individual ecological footprint, use the free online calculators from the Global Footprint Network. The site offers a kid’s version with questions such as: How often do you eat meat products? It also gives tips on how to reduce your environmental impact. Similarly, Myfootprint.org offers quizzes to find out your demand on resources.
Idea #3: Go green in the school yard.
Whether it’s simple school yard maintenance with your students, the creation of an outdoor classroom space, or a full-on gardening project, getting the students involved in school yard greening will have lasting educational value. Here are some ideas, big and small:
- Order bags of soil, compost and mulch for the students to put around the trees or garden beds.
- Have the students plant flowers, bulbs, seeds or plants in border gardens.
- Older students can measure the quality of the soil with a home soil testing kit purchased at a local nursery.
- Raise money to buy a bench, canopy, bags of mulch, river stones or other materials for an outdoor classroom space.
- Raise money for rain barrels or children’s gardening tools.
- Create a school yard garden box for fresh vegetables. The harvest can be shared among the classes, sold at the farmer’s market, or donated to local food organizations.
- Take a field trip to a local nursery or to another school that has its schoolyard greening projects well under way.
Idea #4: Look to the stars.
Many celebrities have used their fame and fortune to crusade for planet Earth. To give your students a good reason to look at celebrities as role models, why not let your students study the environmental acts of these actors, athletes and socialites? Rodale.com has assembled a list of 50 environmentalist celebs and their favorite causes, organizations, products and green lifestyle tips. Discussion questions can include which initiatives are the most inspiring and the power that resides in the individual – famous or not – to effect positive change.
Idea #5: Write your own plea.
In 1992 at the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio, 12-year old Severn Suzuki, daughter of the famous environmentalist Dr. Suzuki, made a heartfelt plea for the environment… and silenced world leaders for 7 minutes. Her now-famous speech called on world leaders and adults everywhere to consider the younger generations and become true stewards of the earth. She told them sternly, “If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.”
For a powerful exercise, watch and discuss Severn’s speech (Click here for Severn Suzuki’s famous speech
) at the UN Earth Summit in Rio. Consider having your students write their own heartfelt pleas to world leaders or their local officials.
With these classroom activities, your students will be able to express their concern for the planet, their love for nature and their passion for sustainable choices. This way, Earth Day can serve as an opportunity to reflect on green actions taken throughout the year and new commitments to be carried out in the months to come.