Since Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, people across the country have worked together to teach their fellow citizens about the environment. Its founder, Gaylord Nelson, proposed the very first nationwide protest to force the issue of the environment onto the national agenda. Earth Day was born during a time when Americans were living in a world where cities were buried under smog and rivers caught fire because of pollution. Thankfully, Earth Day changed the world’s view on the environment. That same year President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a mission to protect the environment and public health. Congress also passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The Earth Day celebration brought together everyone, young and old, as humans trying to reach one specific goal - saving the environment.
In 1990, the Earth Day celebration reached another big milestone; it was now global, getting the message of the environment to 200 million people in 141 countries. Now the environment was an issue for the world stage. As a result of this introduction, recycling efforts worldwide were given a huge boost that helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
As the millennium drew closer another campaign was started in order to focus the world on global warming and to push for clean energy. Earth Day 2000 combined the festivities of the first Earth Day with the activism of Earth Day 1990. By 2000, Earth Day now had access to the Internet, which helped activists around the world get the information to one another. By the time April 22 rolled around, 5,000 environmental groups from all across the globe were on board, reaching out to people in a record 184 countries.
To try and put in perspective how much people can do when they put their mind to it, here is an example. In 1972, the United States and Canada agreed to clean up the Great Lakes, a source of 95-percent of America’s fresh water that supplies drinking water for about 25 million people. Only 36-percent of the nations assessed stream miles were safe for uses such as swimming and fishing. Today, 60-percent of those stream miles are safe for use. That’s how much of a difference people working together can make.
Through the combined efforts of the U.S. government, grassroots organizations, and citizens like you, what started as a day of national environmental recognition has evolved into a world-wide campaign to protect our global environment. The fight is ongoing and we want you to be a part of it. Here’s your chance to channel your energy into doing something to maintain the Earth’s clean and healthy environment and to protect its diversity for those who come after us.
HERE ARE A FEW GREAT IDEAS TO PROMOTE EARTH DAY IN YOUR COMMUNITY, SCHOOL OR NEIGHBORHOOD:
1. Create a Watershed in Your Hand Students use crumpled paper to create a miniature watershed model that demonstrates how water flows through the system and the impact people can have on the quality of water.
- 8 1/2” x 11” paper - one for each student
- 3 different colors of water soluble markers - several spray bottles of water
- To create the watershed, crumple a piece of paper up into a tight ball. Gently open up the paper, but don't flatten it our completely. The highest points on the paper now represent mountain tops, and the lowest wrinkles represent valleys.
- Choose one color of water soluble markers and use it to mark the highest points on the map. These points are the mountain ridge lines.
- Choose a second color and mark the places where different bodies of water might be: creeks, rivers, lakes, etc.
- With a third color mark four to five places to represent human settlements: housing tracts, factories, shopping centers, office buildings, schools, etc.
- Use the spray bottles to lightly spray the finished maps. This spray represents rain falling into the watershed. Discuss any observations about how water travels through the system.
- What changes do you observe in the maps?
- Where does most of the 'rain' fall? What path does the water follow?
- Where does erosion occur?
- What happens to the human settlements-are any buildings in the way of a raging river or crumbling hillside?
- How does the flow of water through the watershed affect our choice of building sites?
- How does this map demonstrate the idea of watershed?
2. Litterless Lunches
Hold a contest at the school to see which classroom makes the least amount of garbage at lunchtime during Earth Month - April. This can be divided up into grades as well.
3. Go on a Nature Hike
During class take the kids out around the school and expose them to different parts of nature (trees, birds, butterflies, etc.)
4. Have a Walk to School Week
“Walking/Wheeling Wednesdays” or “Physical Fridays”, whatever you want to call it, this initiative encourages taking active transportation to and from school. Make posters and display them all around school to encourage the students to participate. You can have a contest and award a prize to the class with the most participating students. www.iwalktoschool.org has ideas on how to make this happen.
5. Green Up Daily PA Announcements
Have different kids read different eco-facts over the morning announcements during Earth Month, April. Visit the EcoKids home page to view the Eco-Calendar and get some green facts.
6. Earth Day Groceries Project
Teachers, this is a great way to get your students to share their concern about the environment, use their creativity, and help educate the community around them. The Earth Day Groceries Project is a popular project that teams up youths and grocers to spread the message of Earth Day. In order to participate, teachers simply borrow paper grocery bags from a local grocery store. Let your students decorate the bags with environmental messages and artwork. The bags will then be returned to the grocery store and distributed on Earth Day. Customers receive groceries with the message that kids care about our environment, in decorated bags.
The national project web site, www.earthdaybags.org, contains everything you need to know to participate and provides free materials and resources. Participants can also submit reports and their projects which will be posted on the web site as part of the national record.
7. Write a Story
Have your class/child sit down and write a short story of an imaginary trip through the jungle. Have them include animals, people, plants, and colors that are encountered. After they’ve each written a story share them with the class and then go to the library. Research the effects deforestation and animal poaching have on the rainforest.
8. Give Earth a Hand – Bulletin Board
Have each student trace a hand and cut it out. On each finger, the student can write one way in which he or she can help the Earth. Display the colorful hands around a map of the world or an art rendering of planet Earth.
9. Handprint Butterfly Craft
This is a simple craft made from a child’s handprint cutouts.
- A few pieces of colored construction paper (stiffer paper makes a more durable butterfly)
- A pencil
- Glue, tape or a stapler
- Crayons, paint or markers
- Googly eyes (optional)
- A pipe cleaner
- Trace a child’s hand on a few pieces of construction paper, for a total of 6 times. These will be the butterfly’s wings.
- Cut out the tracings.
- On a piece of dark construction paper, draw a butterfly’s body (draw a long oval plus a smaller circle at one end).
- Glue or staple the handprint tracings to the body, three on each side. The fingers should point outwards.
- Fold a pipe cleaner in half. Curl the end a bit or wad them into balls. The folded pipe cleaner will be the butterfly’s antennae.
- Tape or staple the bent part of the pipe cleaner to the back side of the butterfly’s head.
- Either draw eyes on the butterfly’s head or glue on googly eyes.
- Decorate the wings with crayons, markers, or paint.
- Congratulations! You now have a great butterfly decoration.