For more than a decade, people have been powering down for an hour every March, and that includes kids in schools across the US. Earth Hour was created by the World Wildlife Fund to encourage people around the world to stop and consider their impact on the planet.
The concept is simple: People turn off their lights for just one hour to cut down on the amount of energy being used. Pretty simple — and easy for even the youngest kids to do! With approximately 1 billion kids worldwide living at extreme risk from the effects of climate change, using Earth Hour activities in your classroom can help your students better understand what’s at stake … and how to be the change that this world needs!
Technically, Earth Hour won’t occur during the school day. In fact, Earth Hour is always celebrated on the last Saturday in March at 8:30 p.m. local time. But even though your students will be away from school at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening, there’s still plenty you can be doing in your classroom to mark the occasion, and incorporating Earth Hour into your lessons touches on geography, science, and a whole lot more.
Explore Earth Hour resources ready to be printed!
Considering this global celebration in your classroom? The teachers on the Teach Starter team have put together some ideas to make your lesson planning simple this year with ideas you can use for kindergarten, 1st grade, and so on, up to 6th grade!
Earth Hour Ideas for Elementary School
Visit World Landmarks (Virtually)
Famous landmarks around the world traditionally take part in Earth Hour. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund famously kicked off the first Earth Hour in 2007 by asking the Sydney Opera House to power down for an hour. So why not add a tour of these important spots around the world as part of your efforts to mark the event?
Supplement your geography lessons by using Google Earth to virtually visit the Taj Mahal, London Eye, and other landmarks that traditionally go dark on Earth Hour.
See more fun (and free) ways to use Google Earth in your classroom!
Calculate Landmarks’ Power Usage
Teaching upper elementary grades? Incorporate the landmarks’ power usage right into your math lessons alongside your virtual field trips.
For example, the Eiffel Tower famously uses 7.8 million kWh of electricity every year or 22 megawatts every day. Can your students figure out how many kWh or megawatts are saved by shutting down the tower for an hour? Get power usage statistics for more landmarks from Times Square to the Vegas Strip for students to calculate.
Perform a Classroom Energy Audit
Do you turn off the lights when you leave the classroom? Do students power down tablets or other devices when they’re done using them? Make an audit of classroom energy use into a whole class activity, brainstorming ways to be more efficient!
Assign a “Class Electrician” or “Power Monitor” as one of your classroom jobs — making energy conservation something that specific students do daily. Aside from the numerous benefits that come from classroom jobs, this particular role is a subtle reminder to your students that even kids can make a difference for the planet.
Talk About Where Electricity Comes From
It may seem like magic when they flip a light switch or plug in a laptop! Dive into the science behind how electricity is created and the path it takes from fuel source to power source.
Get more ideas for teaching about electricity.
‘I Love…’ Earth Activity
Researchers have found that when kids feel more connected to the earth, there’s a correlation to being actively more sustainable. Use Earth Hour as a chance to make the concepts of what we get from the Earth more concrete and focus kids on their relationship with the planet that a lot of folks take for granted.
In this simple writing exercise, grab our free Heart Template and print it half-size. Use green paper to represent the Earth, if you have some handy! Encourage your students to write 2 reasons they love the earth.
Earth Hour is all about electric usage, so what better time than to discuss renewable and non-renewable energy resources?
Ask your students:
- Which type of energy, renewable or non-renewable, would be better for the Earth? Why?
- What would happen if the resources to make electricity ran out?
- In what way might turning off the lights affect natural resources on Earth?
- What other options might people have instead of turning off the lights?
- What other actions might people take to reduce their use of natural resources?
Get teaching resources all about renewable and non-renewable resources!
“We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands”
Similarly, you can create a display in your classroom using the heart from the Earth Day template. Set it up on the week before Earth Hour, and you have a ready-made display to carry you through Earth Day!
- Students color in the heart-shaped Earth and cut it out.
- Then, they trace their hands on colored paper and stick each hand on either side of the heart.
Encourage your students to write what their pledge to the Earth will be and stick these on your Earth Hour classroom display.
Take Your Class Outdoors
If you’re lucky enough to have good weather at the end of March, take the chance to get outside for an hour with your students! Not only is this a chance to talk about using natural light instead of electricity to explain the goal of Earth Hour, but it’s a good mood boost for everyone and a chance for students to get up and get some of their wiggles out.
Load up on fun outdoor activities while you’re at it!
Watch “Our Planet”
This incredible nature documentary is available on YouTube for free, thanks to Netflix!
Lead By Example with Sustainability
At the end of the day, the best way to teach your students about sustainable practices is to implement them yourself in the classroom. This free download, Classroom Practices to Promote A Green Future – A Teacher’s Guide, offers up plenty of ideas specifically written out for teachers, by our teacher team that will guide you on going green in the classroom.
For more Earth Hour teaching resources and activity ideas, check out our Earth Hour Teaching Resource collection.