Earth Day, Every Day
Students learn the origins of Earth Day and tips for recycling. Plus, these classroom activities will help promote environmental awareness.
- Grades: 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Introduce the origins of Earth Day, the concept of recycling, and a story that shows what happens to all of the garbage we throw away. Various activities are presented for you so you can choose which best suit the needs of your students.
- Listen to the selected story to gather information to use in class discussion
- Participate in and contribute to class discussions
- Complete one or more of the suggested activities
- Where Does The Garbage Go? by Paul Showers
- Student notebooks or loose leaf paper
- Glue or tape
- Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- Chart paper
- Construction paper
Set Up and Prepare
Have book and materials ready to use.
Step 1: Share some of the following facts with your students:
- April 22nd is Earth Day. It began in 1970 with the message "Give Earth a chance."
- Every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees.
- Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb on for 4 hours.
- Water covers 3/4ths of the earth's surface, and almost all of it is salt water.
- People in the United States use an average of 70 gallons of water everyday.
- We throw away an average of four pounds of garbage a day, per person, in the United States.
- Americans use about 80 billion aluminum cans a year.
Step 2: Explain each fact in more detail by using visuals to show what a ton of paper or 70 gallons of water or four pounds of garbage might look like.
Step 3: Ask students to explain to you what "recycling" means.
Step 4: Ask students if they recycle at school or at home.
Step 5: Have students speculate what happens to trash once it leaves the classroom or home.
Step 6: Read Where Does The Garbage Go? by Paul Showers.
Step 7: Discuss the following questions using the Think-Pair-Share method.
- If we don't cut back on the amount of trash that we send to landfills, will we run out of places to dispose of our trash?
- What would we do then?
- How would you like to visit a landfill?
- What would it look and smell like?
- Do you think the earth, under all of that trash, is clean and healthy?
- What happens to trash in landfills?
Step 8: Ask students to complete some of the following activities individually, in groups as a class:
- Write a list of excuses to NOT take out the trash.
- Write a poem story about a family who wouldn't take out the garbage. (Did it fill up the house?)
- Brainstorm a list of words that rhyme with the word "junk" (bunk, dunk, funk, gunk, hunk, punk, sunk, chipmunk, chunk, clunk, drunk, flunk, plunk, spunk, stunk, slunk, trunk, and shrunk). Create a class rhyming book or challenge your student to try and think of a sentence using the word junk and one of the rhymes.
- Write acrostic poems for garbage, recycle, environment, and other environment-themed words.
- Brainstorm recycling slogans to write and illustrate on a poster. Examples: Protect Our Planet; Recycle Today!; Clean and Green; Going Green; Earth Protector; Waste Not, Want Not; Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute; One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure.
Supporting All Learners
All students are able to participate in class discussions and corresponding activities in corresponding to their level of understanding. Each student also had a partner to think-pair-share for post reading discussion. During think-pair-share each student has time to share and to listen to each other's comments and ideas.
- One of my favorite recycling websites was created by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. It is a great site to navigate with your students, as it has engaging pictures and simple explanations.
- The National Institutes of Health Department of Health & Human Services, or NIEHS, also has an excellent kid page with more useful information.
- Consider visiting a community landfill or invite a guest speaker from a waste management company to talk about the importance of recycling.
- Students can keep track of how many bags of trash their family makes in one week. As a class, calculate how bags of trash each family makes in a month and in a year and calculate how many bags for the entire class together. This can make an informative hallway display so the class can share what they have learned with the entire school.
- Encourage students to recycle toys by looking for a toy they no longer play with and bringing it in for a classroom toy swap.
This first lesson is laying the groundwork for several activities that will connect how caring for the environment improves the health of the planet and ourselves.
Any of the lesson's suggested activities would create opportunities for authentic assessments on the concepts presented.