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Free Activities for Earth Day and Learning About the Environment

Lesson ideas and resources for teaching about the natural world and the impacts of climate change.

Christine Elgersma | March 30, 2022

Although Earth Day originated decades ago, its message has never been more important. But how does this message really trickle down to kids? Often, students wear green or blue, color a picture of the Earth, and maybe learn some basic ways to do their part by recycling, turning off lights, or not wasting water.

While there's value in those activities, concern for Earth's climate and our environment has never been greater. News reports of rising sea levels and climate-related catastrophes are a normal occurrence, making it much more common for kids today to hear terms like "climate change" or "environmental crisis." So, as teachers, it's important to ask ourselves: What does Earth Day mean to -- and for -- our students? How should we address Earth Day in our classrooms?

Earth Day is an opportunity to illustrate why our planet's resources are worth protecting, how much science matters, and the ways we can work together toward a more sustainable future.

It's best to take a balanced approach. We should help kids celebrate the wonder of our planet and build curiosity about its natural marvels, while also acknowledging humans' impact on our climate, and the impacts of our actions. If we only address one piece of the puzzle, we're not giving kids the full picture.

Below you'll find a bevy of free resources that encourage kids to approach Earth Day from both angles. With these, you can help students become curious and creative critical thinkers about Earth's natural wonders, and also confront the climate crisis we all face.

Help Kids Celebrate Planet Earth with Wonder and Curiosity

Inspire some ooohsahhhs, and awwws with these resources highlighting ecosystems, natural wonders, and animals from around the globe.

Explore Climate Science and Inspire Kids to Find Green Steps Forward

Help kids explore the science of climate change, learn about people who are developing creative solutions, and do some of their own hands-on activities. This quote from Jane Goodall can make a fantastic starting point: "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

Lead and second images courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.