As a former first-grade and now a kindergarten teacher, I try to help the kids establish an understanding of their environment and their responsibility for taking care of it. We first establish what personal space is. I have the kids stand by their tables and show me where their space is. We talk about who should clean it and what happens if someone else messes it up. Then I ask them what space they share with others. Who cleans that space? We move to the space on the floor and then to the space that we share with other people (restrooms, playgrounds, Wal-Mart, grocery store, churches, etc.). It helps the children to understand that we start where we can. Then I can move to other Earth Day activities that students will be able to connect with. Our school holds a "March for Parks." The kids collect change for two weeks, then we march around our city park. The kids get Popsicles or Gatorade and a cookie after our walk. We invite the Mayor and we give him the coins that we have collected to use toward purchasing playground equipment for our park.
—Kim Clutter, Cuero, TX, Kindergarten
We make air fresheners by putting potting soil in foam cups and planting "babies" from a well-established spider plant. The oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle is discussed and the importance of plants is emphasized. Each child takes home an air freshener in a decorated cup to celebrate Earth Day.
—P. Miller, Toms River, NJ, Sixth Grade
My second grade students celebrate Earth Day by planting seeds, trees, and flowers.
—Aubrey Williams, Augusta, GA, Second Grade
I am a preschool assistant teacher. Each year we take our preschoolers down to the front of City Hall, which is within walking distance of our school, and we ask the mayor if we can clean up the front lawn. He always agrees and loves it when the kids come. The Department of Transportation donates the orange vests and gloves the kids wear. The kids really enjoy this and have loads of fun to see how much trash they can pick up.
—Pamela Newhart, Luzerne County Head Start, Nanticoke, PA
We learn the following poem and recite for the school over the intercom:
No job is too big.
No action is too small.
For the care of the Earth
Is the task of us all!
—Linda Marrero, Chicago, IL, First Grade
My favorite Earth day activities include a recyclable obstacle course and recycled T-shirt painting.
—Dawn, Bayonne, NJ, Kindergarten
I am a second grade teacher in Port Orange, Florida. In my classroom we discuss the environment all year long and how we can help improve it. Many of our themes are based around the local environment, since we are so close to Daytona Beach. My students brainstormed ideas that would inform people (locals and tourists) about our beach environment and explain why it was important to keep it clean. They decided to make brochures about beach erosion, sea turtle nests, water pollution, sand dunes, litter, etc. They researched their information on the Internet and at the library. The brochures will be passed out at area tollbooths. As people come onto the beach they have to stop and pay, so my students thought they could get their message across by having their brochures handed out to each car that came onto our beach.
—Stephanie Radford, Port Orange, FL, Second Grade
To celebrate Earth Day, our first-grade ESL class is going to pick up the trash on our playground. We hope that if other students see us, they will remember to pick up any trash that they see, too. We went on our field trip to Lake Texana, and the ranger told us to remember to keep the park clean. It is a very clean park, so when we finished eating lunch, we picked up our trash and put it in the trash bags. We hope that the campers who were there at the park saw us picking up our trash, and will remember to put their trash in the trash cans, too.
—Mrs. Sharie Stelzel, Wharton, TX, Second Grade
All year, I teach my students to conserve, reuse, recycle, and preserve the treasures from the earth. My favorite activity for Earth Day is creating special projects from recycled pieces we have collected throughout the year. For example, we make flowers from the bottoms of plastic bottles. For spring, we reuse the bottles to plant flowers or as picture frames for Mother's Day. We use newspaper to make animals, and cardboard rolls (from rugs, paper towels, bathroom tissue) to create trees, star constellations, castles, and other props for fairy tales. Egg cartons become the Seven Dwarves' beds.
—Linda Marrero, Chicago, IL, First Grade
One of my favorite Earth Day projects is to have the class paint a huge Earth on a recycled refrigerator box. Then we use paper from our construction paper scrap box to trace and cut out hands in different colors. We glue these all around the Earth, and paint the words "The Earth is in Our Hands."
—Lori Koutsky, Wasilla, AK, First Grade
As part of Earth Day celebration, my third-grade students clean a small park outside of the school. Each student receives a pair of gloves and is accompanied by a chaperone.
—Smith, Beatyestown, NJ, Third Grade
To celebrate Earth Day, I love to get the entire school involved. We clean the school, learn about how to conserve our resources, and learn a little more about how to protect our environment.
—Jennifer Marquez, Las Vegas, NV, First Grade
In our school, celebrating Earth Day has been a strong tradition. All year we do projects for the Green School Program, sponsored by the Seeds Foundation of Canada. On Earth Day in the past we have prepared and presented a shadow puppet play based on the storybook The Great Kapok Tree. Another year we planted little spruce trees on a neighboring farm. We also collected Earth Treasures by putting little treasures from nature into small baggies. We have also invited into our school speakers who have brought along snakes, birds, and bees. This year we will do a chalk design using sidewalk chalk, including the efforts of every child in the school on the bus turnaround. We also run a poster, song, and poetry contest.
—Marg Frayne, Fergus, Ontario, Canada
For Earth Day, many activities go on. First, we decorate bags from a neighborhood grocery store...awareness is so very important. We also fill the halls with students' artwork including murals, banners, origami created with recycled paper, posters, and much more. Annually we clean up our school campus. The children are not only aware of their environment, but actually are making a difference in making it better.
—Susan Chaplik, Lincolnwood, Il
For my first year with fifth graders, I believe I have a rather socially conscious group! They LOVE doing for others and show lots of pride in their work. I'm working on coordinating a "beach sweep" cleanup with my class on our local shore of Lake Erie. We will start near my house, walk along the shoreline picking up trash, then end up at the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club for lunch. Our route will cover more than one mile of cleanup!
—Lisa Forbes, Fredonia Elementary, NY
When I was completing my practicum work during my last year of teacher's college, I created an environmental Jeopardy game for my fifth-grade class. I had them choose categories like Rocks and Minerals, Ecology, Water, Forestry, Plants, Animal Life, etc. It was a lot of fun (and quite competitive at times). Little did they know I was not keeping score and both teams won because everyone is a winner with the environment!
—Tara Wallace, New Minas, Nova Scotia, Canada
I'm a home schooler. To celebrate Earth Day we go along our road on my four wheeler with a trailer attached to it and we use trash picks to pick up litter. (You can buy them at your local trash dump.) Our neighbors tell us what a good job we do.
—David Headberg, West Plains, MO
For Earth Day, I ask each child to bring in one recyclable item per day. Later, we sort them into bins that I have made and labeled. Each day we count and sort the items for math skills. At the end of the week we have a field trip to the recycling center to take the items. For art that week, we paint on old architect plans that I have gotten from businesses or old paper grocery bags to show how we can reuse, too.
—Donna King, Roxboro, NC
We celebrate Earth Day by recycling construction paper scraps into handmade paper earths. Cut or tear blue and green pieces about the size of a dime. Soak in warm water separately, then make two batches of pulp. Squeeze out excess water, then form the planet shapes by pinching and pressing the pulp colors together. Dry on a raised screen and then mount and display! We also made batik earth shapes on muslin fabric with a dyed blue background. The handicapped students I work with loved both projects!
—Cara Cordes, Defiance, OH
To celebrate Earth Day, our school plants a tree for every child that we lose to cancer, accidental death, or other illness. If we are lucky enough to have made it through the year unscathed, we plant the tree for the children around the world who can no longer plant trees or play on the playground where we plant them.
—Name Witheld, TN
As a first-year teacher, this is my first Earth Day. We're celebrating it by brainstorming about different reasons to treasure and protect Mother Earth. Then the students will work in pairs to write something about the topics we've talked about. Finally, the pupils will write poems in all shapes and forms (free verse, acoustic, diamante, etc.).
—S.N.R., Houston, TX
In my fourth-grade classroom, Earth Day is a week-long event. I tie this special day into my ecology curriculum in science. We sing original recycling/Earth Day songs that I have written and we study alternatives to landfills, etc. We initiate our worm farm at this time, and we begin to study animals as helpers of our planet. I also correlate Earth Day into my social studies/economics unit by having the kids make products from reusable items. We then determine all of the economic factors necessary to sell our reusable products in our school store! All of the money we make goes to our school library for books. This creates awareness on so many wonderful levels!
—Jill Baker, North Nodaway Elementary, Pickering, MO
I teach music to grades K–3. For Earth Day we make our own musical instruments out of recycled materials (empty toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, string, cotton from medicine bottles, empty drink bottles, beads, etc.) we have saved throughout the year. It is fun and creative. It's great to see the kids playing with their recycled-made instruments.
—V. Neal, Calhoun, KY
This is an idea for a kindergarten classroom. We talk about the earth and learn what it looks like. Then I have the children paint paper plates. The outer rim of the paper plate is black, for space. Then the children paint the center blue. Once the blue has dried, we paint green land masses. I then display them on a bulletin board, stating that our kindergarten class is a group of "Earth Protectors." The children really enjoy the activity.
—Miss Scott, Glendale, CA, Kindergarten
I have participated in Earth Day in Reno, Nevada, and absolutely loved it. I chose to do pinecone bird feeders with the kids. The kids seem to enjoy this activity, and they are really excited to get home and hang them outside and watch the birds come and eat. The kids are really excited because they are making food for the birds to come and eat, and also using pinecones, which are part of the earth's environment. I love doing this activity each year and the kids really seem to enjoy it and have lots of fun.
—Shearer, Boise, ID, First Grade
Symbolize the Earth with a tree (purchased or made) and hang it on the wall. Have students and staff write pledges to the Earth on "leaves" and hang them on the tree. It's helpful to have examples of pledges such as "I will use the back of my papers as scrap paper." "I will ride my bike more often." This can be a school-wide activity on Earth Day, hosted by one class.
—L. Green, Cleveland, OH, Grades 6–7
My first-grade class plays a game called Trash Busters. We go out with garbage bags and collect the trash on our playground and school grounds. This gives the children a sense of pride about their school.
—Judy Hansel, Lawrenceburg, IN
We have procured grocery bags from our local grocery store for our students to decorate with Earth Day messages. This activity promotes environmental awareness in school as well as in the community. The students will decorate the bags with earth-friendly messages; they will also include their school name, the year, and ONLY their first name. The bags are brought back to the grocery store where they will be given out (filled with groceries) on Earth Day! The students think it is a cool project, and the community will love the beautifully decorated bags conveying an important message.
—Sarah F. Gandarias, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
In my first grade class, we brainstorm ways to conserve water, recycle, save soil, lakes, and rivers. Then we make a booklet in the shape of the Earth. Each page has one idea from each category where the child writes his idea and illustrates it. The cover has a map of the earth that the child can decorate. We also learn the song, "One Earth," by Rosenshontz. It's a bit lengthy, but they really like it.
—Kim Reilly, Joliet, IL