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Five Freshly Sprouted Ideas for Earth Day

Earth Day is upon us!  This day offers a wonderful opportunity for hands-on learning about our natural world.  We’ve got some ideas on how to get both students and parents involved.

Want to teach about international issues?  Choose an endangered species like elephants that are being killed for ivory that is exported illegally across borders.  Is science your game?  Sprout seeds for a garden, or teach about the importance of trees.  Want to get out of the classroom?  Have your students join one of more than 1300 cleanups happening around the US.

Regardless of your time frame or discipline, here are some ideas and resources.

How do trees help our environment?

Subjects: Lower to upper grades, science, English, art

How to get parents involved: Create posters to display in hallways or in a public venue chosen with help from parents.  Students can discuss and quiz parents on tree facts before or after creating posters.

In class: Start with “The Importance of Trees,” Youtube video, with lovely shots and intriguing trivia about trees around the world, including one that is thousands of years old.  Ask students to write notes.  You can also print or show 22 benefits, including some for urban areas, shown on a website by TreePeople. In the meantime, ask students to jot down notes and questions to discuss afterward. For the posters, divide the class into groups.  Each group can create posters with a drawing of a tree, and brief one-sentence summaries of at least ten benefits.

Trace the illegal ivory trade from Africa to Asia  

Subjects: upper grades, interdisciplinary geography, economics and science.  

How to get parents involved: Before beginning, assign students questions to ask parents about ivory. Did their parents ever have anything made of ivory?  What do parents know about ivory?  

In class: Students can start with interactive maps on Tracking the Illegal Tusk Trade, a National Geographic feature that used GPS trackers to follow the illegal ivory trade from central Africa through the hands of armed groups to exporters and finally into Asia, where ivory is carved into jewelry and sculpture.  Follow links to many photographs and other articles, including “Ivory’s Human Toll,” with a slide show and audio commentary.  Afterward, ask students to write summaries and share with family members.

Sprout garden seeds for home or community gardens

Subjects: multiple grades, science, social studies

How to get parents involved: Students ask parents to help collecting seeds from their own kitchen, and recycled large clear plastic containers (those used to package greens or roasted chickens) to make mini-greenhouses.

In class: Help students research how to sprout various seeds from produce they often eat, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, melons.  (Berries are perennial, and more difficult to grow).  You can also ask parents to contribute purchased seeds for herbs or greens, as well as sprouting medium.    

Save a tree by making note paper or cards

Subjects: multiple grades, art

How to get parents involved: Parents help collect at least a small bag of recycled paper. Used colored paper, gift wrap or foil candy wrappers (Hershey’s kisses, for example) add interest.

In class: Despite preparation and tools, paper making is rewarding.  Practice yourself on a small scale at home before attempting in class. Collect some paper scraps at school, particularly from colored or construction paper. You can also ask parents to send supplies such as screens, wooden frames, or old blenders.  The Wikihow website has guided paper making instructions.  After the paper dries, use it for note paper, cards or art projects students give to families or display in the community.

Plant trees in the community

Subjects: multiple grades, science, social studies

How to get parents involved: Ask parents to volunteer, to suggest tree planting locations, in their own yards, around schools, in parks or community locations.

In class: Several resources exist for free tree seedlings, but you must request them in advance. In exchange for a $10 membership, Arbor Day will mail ten free seedlings suitable in your location for planting in Fall and provide instructions for planting and tree care. Students can also suggest where to plant trees by writing to government organizations or their own school districts.  Trees require care, but save districts energy when planted near schools.  

For more ideas, see:

8 Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day as a Family

Earth Day Lesson Plans from EducationWorld.com

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