Earth Day Activities for Any Grade!

Every year I look for a different activity to do with my students on Earth Day. In fact, I often look for several new ideas because I usually make this the focus for the whole week. I've put together a list of my favorite tried and true Earth Day activities that I have used in my classroom over the years.

Read on to see the list!

Awesome Earth Day Activities for Elementary Students:

1. Each year my whole school does a school yard cleanup. We ask students to bring a garden glove from home so we can avoid using plastic gloves. We also go out one class at a time so we can share garbage bags. This way we aren't only filling bags half full. Students at my school are so great about not littering that we often have some classes go further out into the community to clean up. This Earth Day activity is great for building community!

2. Create Art Using Recycled Materials. Students LOVE this! We often prepare for this well in advance though so that we have enough materials. I often let students use whatever recycled materials they want and then we end up with a variety of pieces. Here's a sample of how beautiful recycled art can look! A hot glue gun is needed to glue the bottle caps down. I glued it for my students but they did the arranging. I've also had volunteers and student teachers help with the gluing in the past.

3. Do a Mock Oil Spill Activity! I started doing this when I taught second grade because part of our curriculum was learning about liquids and solids. I have continued it on with other grades because I felt the activity was so useful for many different curriculum areas as well as just teaching students about how our actions impact the environment and animals.  

We started by creating a pretend pond. We added little rocks and plastic frogs to make it seem more realistic but you can also just use water. We also had a tub of just clean water beside the pond for later use in the experiment as well as these feathers  that I got from Amazon (and I reuse them from year to year). Students recorded all of their observations in their oil spill notebook.

Then we poured a half cup of oil into the pond and recorded more observations

Next, they dipped their feather into the "pond" and swished it around for about a minute. They removed the feather from the water and recorded more observations.  Students noticed that the feather was coated in oil. This generated a great discussion about how this would impact the birds. 

Then they tried to clean the birds feathers with just water....and of course they found the oil stayed on the feathers. Again, more discussion about the impact of oil spills on wildlife. We read the book, Oil Spill! which discusses clean up of the animals and then attempted to clean our feathers using soap, which worked. I always find this experiment to be impactful for my students.

Here's a link to my Oil Spill Activity if you're wanting to use observation recording sheets.

4. Go on a nature walk! Students should bring along their science notebooks or an observation recording page and clipboard to record all of the amazing things that they notice in nature. We don't often take enough time to just really look at our surroundings and appreciate them. You will be surprised by all of the things your students notice.

5. Create pledges for each student for how they plan to create a positive impact on the environment this year. They can even come up with a plan for how they will achieve it.

6. Research and environmental issue and report on it. My students do this every year and often a couple times a year during our science units. For example, during our Rocks and Minerals unit, students had to research how mining for rocks and minerals impacts the environment. They created google slide shows to present their findings.

7. Practice what you preach! Keep the lights off but the blinds open to let in the natural light. Talk to students about how you can make this a regular thing. Brainstorm what parts of the day it would make sense to have the lights off. My students decided that we didn't need the lights on during lunch time so now we always keep them off (blinds open).

8. Design a house or a school that uses as many energy efficient things as possible. Students LOVE doing this! They come up with some great new ideas (solar powered T.V.) and utilize old ideas in their designs (lights off, blinds open).

9. Do an environmental audit of the school. Have students tour the school with their clipboards and notebooks to record all areas of the school that could use improvements in terms of environmental impact. They can present their findings to the principal.

10. Start a school composting initiative. This is more involved and you need to get many people on board with this but a teacher at my school made it happen! Every classroom has a compost bin that gets emptied to the larger outdoor compost bin every Friday. Our school ends up having amazing soil to put on our garden!

I hope you got some great ideas to use for Earth Day or at any time of the year! Earth Day is every day!

Comment below with your own Earth Day Activities so we have more to share!

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