Earth Day 2017

Celebrating Earth Day 2017 Across the Content Areas

Why limit Earth Day celebrations to the science classroom? Collaborate with colleagues to bring Earth Day 2017 to all of your students’ classes this year.

As you know, April 22nd is known as Earth Day. This celebration and recognition of protecting our planet started in 1970 and has since evolved into a global movement. Earth Day provides not only an opportunity to pause and reflect on how you impact the environment, but it is also a day to inspire action. Reminiscent of the first Earth Day, Earth Day 2017 will also be the day of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. and hundreds of other cities around the world.

Earth Day 2017The campaign for Earth Day 2017 is environmental literacy. This includes educating our students to understand climate change and threats to the planet. Not only will this inspire students to take action to protect the environment, but also to grow interest in green technologies and jobs. The goal is to achieve global and climate literacy by Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. You can help achieve this goal with an Earth Day 2017 celebration in your own school.

A great way to improve environmental literacy is by making connections to environmental issues across all disciplines. Rather than only discussing Earth Day in science class, where these topics may be present already, bringing Earth Day 2017 to other content areas will show your students the whole picture. This is bound to capture their attention and spark a passion for change. Collaborate with other teachers in your grade level to spread the message of environmental literacy throughout the entire day. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. ELA

One of my Earth Day traditions is reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. No matter what age your students are, this classic always is a hit. You can have your students relive the days of story time with a read aloud in your own classroom, or have your students read aloud to younger students. Discuss the symbolism present throughout the book and the overarching message. Then, have students create their own creative piece about an environmental issue that needs attention in their community. This will tie in the goal of Earth Day 2017 by using student expression to spread the message to others. This could be in the form of a poem, persuasive speech, story, or any other means students choose. You could even culminate this activity by planting a tree on school or community grounds.

2. Social Studies

Earth Day 2017Many problems in our environment are due to the ever-growing population of people on our planet. Social studies and history classes are a great place to lead a lesson on population and carbon footprints. Use an interactive map that will show your students how human population has grown over time. Take this one step further with maps that have been resized to show population relative to land area, carbon emissions, municipal waste, natural resources, ecological footprint, and more. Link these maps to events in history, such as the Industrial Revolution, or policies that were passed in local and national government. Humans are deeply connected to our environment, and map studies such as these will really solidify that message for students on Earth Day 2017.

3. Math

Have students investigate environmental issues in your own school with a data collection activity. Two important green initiatives can be studied within the cafeteria: reducing plastic waste, and eating less meat. First have students discuss the ways each of these initiatives would help the environment. Then have students design a procedure to answer a driving question regarding these topics. Questions could include:
• How many plastic bottles are being thrown away?
• How many students use reusable bottles?
• How many students select a meatless option for lunch?

Depending on the level of your students, this data can then by analyzed using graphs and statistics. Use these findings to spark change in your own school for Earth Day 2017.

4. Art

Earth Day 2017

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Earth Day 2017 can even be brought outside of the core subjects and into electives. Raise awareness about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with a recycled art activity. Collect various recycled materials from around the building and challenge students to create a three-dimensional piece of art that will bring awareness to this issue. If there is time, have students collect trash from the community to create their artwork to bring more meaning to their message.

Billion Acts of Green

Each of these activities can be part of the Earth Day 2017 Billion Acts of Green. Visit the Earth Day Network website to log how your students acted to help the environment. The goal is to reach 3 billion acts! Want more ideas? Click here to find more activities to help you celebrate Earth Day 2017.

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Alexandra D. Owens

Alexandra Owens is a STEM Education consultant based in Charleston, SC. She taught middle school science for many years and is now completing her doctorate in STEM Education at Texas Tech University.

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