You’ve probably heard the saying “Earth Day is every day” at some point, but let’s face it: If we are ever going to make that true, it takes getting the youngest generation involved! With the official Earth Day slated for April 22 — a Friday in 2022 — there are plenty of ways to get your classroom full of kids excited about being good stewards of our planet.
We’ve pulled together some of the Teach Starter teacher team’s favorite Earth Day activities for kids and ways to carry through on the Earth Day theme, plus some of the best ways to help kids connect to the earth and be more sustainable!
What Is the History of Earth Day?
Whether you’re incorporating Earth Day into science, social studies, or ELA this year, talking about the history of Earth Day is ripe for discussion in the classroom. First celebrated on April 22 in 1970, the first Earth Day was founded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and organized by an activist named Denis Hayes who chose the date because it would fall between most colleges’ spring breaks and students’ final exams. The goal was to get youth involved, and it succeeded with protests about the environment at thousands of universities, and an estimated 10 percent of Americans taking part in Earth Day activities. The message was clear: Young people care about our planet.
That same year — 1970 — the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created, and environmental laws began being passed in America, including:
- National Environmental Education Act
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Clean Air Act
- Endangered Species Act
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
Of course, the Earth Day movement didn’t stop there. By the 1990s, it had gone global, and now more than 190 countries participate — from governments to private citizens, adults to kids. It’s estimated that as much as 95 percent of schools in the US now participate, along with schools worldwide.
What Is the Theme of Earth Day 2022?
This 2022 Earth Day theme is Invest in Our Planet. It’s a call to give back to Mother Nature that’s been made by Earthday.org, the non-profit that takes lead on environmental advocacy in Earth Day’s name.
So what can students — and teachers — do for Earth Day? We thought you’d never ask!
Earth Day Activities for Kids
Write to Your Local Congressperson
Take your cue from the Invest in Our Planet theme for Earth Day 2022, and direct older students to write persuasive letters to your local Congressperson asking them to make investing in our planet an anchor of their Congressional activities.
Collect the letters and mail them in one envelope to your local politician, and see if they respond. Many will, opening up discussions about the impact individual citizens can have — even kids — by being proactive and talking to their politicians.
Plant Seedlings in Decomposable Materials
Teach your students about decomposition and reusing materials at the same time by starting seedlings in newspaper cups or empty cardboard egg cartons. The seedlings can be kept in the classroom for charting growth, then planted in a school garden or taken home for students to harvest on their own.
Get free seeds for your students!
- Setting up a butterfly garden at your school? Get free pollinator seeds from the Save Our Monarch non-profit, which focuses on helping the butterfly population.
- Teaching third grade? The Bonnie Cabbage Program will send third-grade classrooms free cabbage seeds for the project, and students can win a $1,000 scholarship for their record-keeping!
- Apply for free seed packs from Rob Greenfield, a non-profit that focuses on reducing food insecurity in the US.
- Teacher your students about heirloom variety plants with free seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — email [email protected] to apply.
Grab a free plant growth chart to help students track progress and a free “producer, consumer, decomposer” poster to explain the process of how the food chain works and how plants and animals depend on one another!
Learn about Biodiversity
Biodiversity is a hugely important topic, but it’s also pretty complicated (especially for little minds who find the world a pretty big place!).We get it! To give your students a brief introduction, print a Biodiversity Poster to post in the classroom.
Once you’ve taken a look at exactly what biodiversity is, your students will be ready to zoom in on some of the big issues. Add on the Critically Endangered Species Map and some Endangered Species Facts Cards to help your students explore endangered animals.
Animals that have been driven to extinction show just how delicate our world is. Use this resource to discuss how society has negatively impacted animals and their habitats. This is a great place to start a discussion on what action can be taken to stop harming the world’s ecosystems.
Go to Earth School
Of course, you can always go to Earth School! A collaboration between TEDEd and the United Nations, Earth School invites your students to embark on a whole month of daily quests.
These adventures take you through real-world concepts, from the t-shirt-making process to how food reaches our plates. Help your students develop empathy and connect with nature with interactive resources, videos, quests, and activities.
See more free virtual field trips for your students!
Pledge to Become Wildlife Heroes
Take the pledge to become a wildlife hero. Once your students have been spurred to action, encourage them to commit to being a part of the solution. The printable Wildlife Hero Pledge is a great way for your students to come up with a tangible action that they can take, and they can be taken home to share with family members to spur the entire family into action.
“My pledge is to take care of the plants and animals in my environment by not littering and leaving insects in peace!”
Set Up Classroom Recycling
Did you know as much as 78 percent of school waste could be diverted from landfills if schools had recycling and composting plans in place? Put plans into action with a classroom recycling center.
Set up posters on your bins to remind students where to put recycling and where to put actual trash.
Register Your Classroom Clean-up
Plan a clean-up activity at our near your school, and register it with the official Earthday.org Clean-up list to access resources for your students and help them feel connected to the global movement.
Design a Garden
A Garden Design Project is perfectly suited for older elementary students and brings in math and design skills, as well as creative thinking. For more advanced learners, take a look at the Develop a Habitat – Garden Project.
This ties into your other lessons as an opportunity to contribute to the biodiversity of the school grounds by creating a brand new habitat for plants and animals. And, of course, one of those designs could be used for a real garden if there’s funding available. The folks at Seed Your Future have a full list of organizations offering grants for educators to add gardens right on campus.
Combine With National Poetry Month
Doing a poetry unit for April? It is National Poetry Month, after all! So combine the two celebrations for a meaningful writing activity in the class by writing Earth Day acrostics or poems about how to be more kind to Mother Earth!
Share What They Have Learned
Encourage students to demonstrate their new knowledge of different habitats and endangered animals by making a diorama of different habitats, featuring a variety of animals and plants. Students can then present their dioramas to the class, along with information about the unique ecosystems they’ve chosen!