What started as a national conversation on pollution in the United States, Earth Day has now turned into a global holiday with over one billion people participating in environmentally-focused events every year. With Earth Day approaching, these crafts and activities present the perfect opportunity for young students to learn what they can do to work towards a brighter future and care for our planet.
Learn About Recycling
This is the first one most of us learned, and let’s face it: recycling has come a long way since the days of simply remembering to put your aluminum cans into a separate bin. Most cities and towns now have curbside recycling, and the ones that don’t still have designated recycling areas to accept various plastics, metals, cardboard and glass. That can be a lot for younger students to remember, so practice will help them learn this beneficial habit early on.
Teach kids how to recycle by bringing in examples of the different types of recyclables and having students decide as a class which bin each one goes in. You can keep this simple for younger grades with only one type of recycling bin for each material, and you can teach older grades about the different plastic types and what the different numbers in the recycle symbol mean.
Learn to Compost
Give students the information they need to understand the purpose and benefits of composting, whether you go all-out with a classroom composting bin or just present a cool science lesson! SciShow Kids has an excellent video explaining how composting works and how to get started.
In order for students to learn about composting, they need to learn about food waste. This opens up an opportunity to discuss what food waste looks like in their own homes. Sometimes food is tossed out when we don’t feel like eating every part of it, like the top of a carrot. Other times food is thrown away when it is spoiled. Discussing these things can help students learn about food waste in their own lives.
If you have the resources and time to make it happen, there are very few ongoing natural science lessons that will impact your students more than setting up a school garden. This is a large project that takes significant effort and will require assistance from everyone involved with your school; however, it offers numerous benefits to your students and the community, and it’s a great way to use compost made at the school.
Learn About Carbon Footprints
This activity is best suited for older elementary students, but younger students could benefit if you scale it to their level. This will teach students about environmental protection as they learn about their impact. No matter your students’ ages, they’ve likely heard the term “carbon footprint” before, and they probably have no idea what that means.
The simplest explanation goes in steps:
- “Carbon footprint” is the number of emissions a person creates.
- “Emissions” include carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses trapped in the atmosphere that raise global temperatures.
- A very small amount of carbon dioxide emissions come from things like animals and plants, but most of it comes from fossil fuel activities.
Discuss with your students all the different daily activities that involve fossil fuels; remember to consider activities like trucks and planes that deliver food and other items everyone uses and the resources used to provide electricity, water, heat and internet service.
Then, have students brainstorm ways to reduce their own carbon footprint by not wasting resources (like leaving lights on or water running when no one’s using it). This can be used as a prompt for a writing activity, or students can make a poster like the one included in this article.
Are you Enjoying this Content?
Take a Nature Walk
One of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day is by simply going outside and being in nature. Try to organize a trip to a local park or conservation area, a walk around the school playground or even assign “homework” over the weekend for students to go outside and explore.
Kids can birdwatch and observe the local wildlife in its natural habitat, whether it’s deer in a city park or squirrels in their own backyards!
Encourage your students to observe the signs of spring, such as flowers, tree buds, chirping birds and baby ducks! Follow up on this nature walk by discussing what they saw, what they were excited to see and what they look forward to seeing again next year. This is an activity that kids will love!
Make a Nature Journal
Keeping a Nature Journal is a good activity to combine with the Nature Walk—and it’s an ideal activity to repeat throughout the year to track the changing seasons. Students can practice their mindfulness by taking notes on what they find outside:
- Draw birds and note their features, then try to identify the species when they get back to the classroom.
- Draw flowers and plants and note their features, then try to identify the species when they get back to the classroom.
- Draw a map of the area they visited, including important landmarks and discoveries.
- Make a list of any animals they see.
The Nature Walk and Nature Journal are good topics to revisit when you’re looking for an opportunity to start a meaningful discussion in the classroom or develop an inventive writing prompt.
Make a Classbook
Another way to highlight to your students the importance of kind conservatorship over our mother earth is to publish their work into a classbook using one of our free classbook publishing kits! Simply choose a theme—any of the activities listed here are an excellent place to start—then help your students fill the pages with their words and pictures to create a class full of published authors and a classroom project everyone can be proud of.
If your students are particularly tech-savvy, or if you’re committed to reducing paper waste whenever possible, we also offer the option for you to create and publish your classbook online with our free online book publishing tool. Additionally, you can check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for additional lesson plans, worksheets, resources, classroom activities and writing prompts!
Germinating Seed Jars
Help your students celebrate Earth Day by growing their own plant sprout with this Seed Germination Experiment from Little Bins for Little Hands! Every day they’ll be able to observe the progress of their flower, fruit or vegetable, and they can relocate it to a more permanent home once it gets big enough to replant.
You need a large clear jar (or multiple jars, one for each student), paper towels, water and seeds (this works best with something that germinates quickly, like sunflowers or beans).
Fold or loosely crumple the paper towels and put them into the jar(s). Add water until the paper towels are at least damp but not submerged. Plant the seeds on the wet paper towels where they can be observed.
Ideally, the jar(s) should be left on a windowsill or somewhere else in the classroom that gets a lot of sunlight and can be viewed by students every day. It should only take a few days for your students to see some serious progress in the growth of their plants.
Recycled Hanging Planter
If you want to make recycling fun and give your students a home for their new plants, take a look at this DIY Recycled Hanging Planter from WeAreTeachers! All it takes to make this recycled craft is one empty, clean 2-liter bottle per student, plus a length of string and a craft knife (adults only!).
Simply cut a rectangle opening in the side of the bottle, poke a hole in each end, have students push their length of string through the hole and knot it, then fill with soil and plant their germinated seeds from the Seed Jar project above. The bottle can be left as-is, or it can be decorated before filling with soil. (See the linked video above for more detailed instructions). Kids, teachers and parents alike love this Earth Day project.
It may not be a school for ants, but this Simple Bug Hotel for Kids from Red Ted Art is a great way to get kids thinking about the ideal environments for all their favorite creepy crawlies! Have your students each bring in a recyclable container (2-liter bottles are ideal, but 20 oz bottles, milk jugs and glass jars will also work), along with plant matter collected from outside like fallen sticks, tree bark, pinecones, rocks and anything else they think the bugs will like.
To build the hotel:
- Cut the top and bottom off the bottle to form a cylinder (you can ask students to have an adult do this at home before bringing the bottle into school; glass jars should not be modified).
- Thread a piece of string or twine through the bottle and tie it so the hotel can be hung up after it’s completed.
- Have students fill their bottles with the plant matter they brought in, snapping twigs to fit inside the bottle and making lots of tiny spaces for the bugs to get cozy.
Once the hotel is fully constructed, students can take it home and hang it up outside to await the arrival of its new guests. The bug hotel can also be hung up outside a closed window to give students a better opportunity to look at the bugs.
For the Birds
We can’t talk about bugs without acknowledging our other flying friends: birds! Help your students reuse old cardboard tubes and turn them into a bird-feeder that will make their trees the place to be for anyone with feathers and a beak.
Have students bring in empty toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls or any other type of cardboard tube. You bring the string, scissors, a jar of peanut butter, a butter knife and birdseed.
How to make a bird-feeder from a cardboard tube:
- Cut two holes at the top of the cardboard tube (for the string).
- Spread peanut butter on the tube.
- Pour birdseed onto a plate or into a shallow tub and roll the tube in the seeds until it’s coated.
- Thread string through the holes.
- If anyone in your school has a peanut allergy, use a different type of nut butter.
- Be even more environmentally friendly by using large pinecones instead of cardboard tubes. Gather fallen pinecones from local evergreen trees if possible.
- Students can be more involved by having them spread the peanut butter: put peanut butter portions onto a paper plate along with craft sticks. Give one plate to each group of 4-6 students and have them work individually in groups.
- Students can take the bird-feeders home for use in their own yards, or you can hang them near the classroom window as part of your Earth Day celebration.
This video from Gratnells shows how to make a cardboard tube bird feeder in more detail.
Plan for the Future
This is a good activity for the end of the day after students have gained a better understanding of the importance of Earth Day and different actions they can take to keep the plants greener and the oceans bluer for longer.
Start by brainstorming with your class all the different things people can do to help heal the planet. Write down everything they suggest and focus on what they can do as individuals. Next, go around the room and have each student choose something they want to commit to doing for the rest of Earth Day and every day.
This April, celebrate Earth Day by showing students different ways to take good care of our planet so that our planet can take good care of us!