Environmentalism get a lot of airtime on Earth Day. Business Wire released a report on sustainable products on April 19 in anticipation of Earth Day. Earth Day activities should be part of school lessons, but not just on Earth Day. Unfortunately, school Earth Day activities often fail because they focus on boring, paper-and-pencil lessons. And wasting paper is hardly earth-friendly! Here are Earth Day activities to teach environmentalism every day in hands-on ways.
The best Earth Day activities for kids in the classroom are school recycling, ecycling (electronics recycling) and freecycling (giving and exchanging used stuff) and upcyclings (repurposing and reusing things). School recycling accomplishes several objectives. It makes schoolwork meaningful. School recycling reinvigorates ho-hum curriculum with interactive, practical activities. Students see immediate, concrete, real-world impacts. School recycling, freecycling, ecycling and upcycling lessons gives hands-on experience in real-time, real-life, everyday Earth Day activities. School recycling builds healthy environmentalism habits that carryover into life outside school. Students feel good about caring for the earth when they recycle, ecycle, freecycle and upcycle. Here’s how to implement these ecology activities in the classroom.
Lead by the environmentalism habit by example. Teach kids to reduce their carbon footprint by practicing what you teach. Put a recycle bin next to your desk. Encourage students to recycle not just paper, but plastic packaging, food wrappers, plastic bags, metal, glass. Let kids see you purposely picking up classroom trash and putting it in your school recycling bin.
Just do it. Don’t make students write papers about Earth Day activities. Don’t assign worksheets about environmentalism. Actively engage kids in Earth Day activities. Volunteer your class to collect and sort school recycling bins and sort. Take Earth Day activities to the street level. Let kids see where recycling goes. Visit a landfill and recycling center. Come prepared to help. Do science experiments to show how trash doesn’t go back to nature. Research how pollution hurts animals, plants, air, water, humans and the whole world.
Freecycling lessons. Freecycling is like a garage sale where you donate and give stuff away. The freecycling idea operates on the “got a___, leave a ___, need a ___, take a ____ ” idea. Make your classroom a freecycle hub for students and teachers to bring stuff to share. Set out a freecycling table with a sign “Free. Please Take.” Put out cast-off clothes, used electronics, magazines, periodicals, old textbooks, computer accessories, forgotten belongings (students should check for their things periodically), secondhand books, games. Tell kids not to be shy about taking things they need, but to use what they take. Don’t let students tease children who take things. Encourage freecycling exchanges.
Resell old stuff. Teach kids about all resale options, especially clothing. Eartheasy says every family contributes an average of 68 pounds of textile waste to landfills annually–5 percent of the total. But 93 percent of that is reclaimable via thrift stores and repurposing to other products. Have kids research online resale, eBay, Poshmark, secondhand stores, consignment shops, fiber reprocessing and other fabric reclaiming projects (Eartheasy lists ideas). Host a school garage sale and teach marketing in ecology activities for kids.
Upcycling old stuff. Network with recycling and upcycling groups. Here’s a guide to upcycling recycled trash as classroom craft supplies and school supplies. Here’s one on crafts projects made from upcycling recycled trash. Encourage kids to upcycle old eyeglasses for the Lions. Save ink cartridges for upcycling at Staples for classroom coupons. Walmart takes plastic grocery bags. Find out about phone book recycling. Libraries are always looking for used books and puzzles. Senior homes appreciate donations of stuffed animals for upcycling as bingo prizes! Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places for upcycling old clothing.
Introduce kids to ecycling fun. Electronics are a major source of landfill fodder so electronics recycling, or ecycling programs are critical. Ecycling programs collect used electronics and resell for profit or charity. Kids have gadgets, i-stuff, mp3 players, cellphones, digital cameras, e-readers, laptops coming out of their ears. Make e-cycle class lessons and have students collect and send in used digital products. Raise money for a class trip, organization or family in need. The Environmental Protection Agency gives information on ecycling and places to do it. Students can actually turned ecycling activities into a home business.
Earth Day every day, everywhere. Teach kids to get into the “waste not want not” habit. Help them make mindful decisions about consumption, littering and where to put waste (recycle or trash). Assign room clean-ups. Make students salvage potential recyclables from trash and dispose of properly.