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Celebrating Earth Day With Students

Alan Hoffmann and Katherine Leathem
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


Earth Day affords science teachers with an outstanding opportunity to focus student's attention on the environment and to stimulate their creativity and imagination, so that they can act persuasively to help solve environmental problems. Our belief is that all schools should make this day a tradition which students and faculty eagerly anticipate. The organization of activities for such an event lends itself to an interdisciplinary approach which allows for school-wide participation in the learning process.

Our suggestion is that Earth Day evolve into a week of activities that tend to be student- action oriented. Ideally, these activities will provide them with a means to act on their convictions. Most importantly these activities can provide a progressive model which can make Earth Day activities part of the schedule all year long. It is our charge to keep fresh in the minds of our students the motto that "Earth Day is every day".

The following list offers examples of activities at various levels of involvement.

  • Classroom or school-wide awareness activities
  • Identify local as well as global environmental crises
  • Show the film The Lorax. Available from most video stores
  • Show the Rain Forest Rap. Available from World Wildlife Fund 1250 Twenty-Fourth St. NW Washington, D.C. 20037 PH. (301) 338-6951 Video: $15.00 Teacher Packet which includes booklets and video: $29.95.
  • Create contests for poster, T-shirt, bookmark, and stationary designs. Proceeds from the sale of these items can be used to support environmental action groups.
  • Student poetry, essays, rap songs, and speechs can be written in a cooperative venture with the English Department.
  • Read published poetry and stories or play music related to environmental concerns.
  • Research environmental organizations in order to make informed decisions about where to send proceeds from fundraising.
  • Read and post daily environmental announcements.
  • Informational picketing by students before and after school.
  • Involve students in presenting environmental information to local media such as writing letters to newspaper editors or science reporters at local T.V. stations.
  • Develop environmental impact statements.
  • Bring in environmental speakers.
  • Student presentations to class.
  • Classroom, club, or school-wide activities
  • Have students carry a trash bag with personal garbage for one school week.
  • Make recycled paper.
  • Investigate the purchase of recycled paper for school use.
  • Make bird houses and feeders or other wildlife feeding stations. These can be installed by students and/or sold as a fund raiser.
  • Propagate house plants to sell as a fundraiser or to give to teachers to display in their classrooms as air fresheners.
  • Give each teacher a recyclable mug for coffee or tea.
  • Draft petitions and actively inform as signatures are sought.
  • Do a garbage study from cafeteria waste cans at the end of a typical school day. Identify and quantify aluminum, plastic, paper, food, glass, etc.. Propose ways to reduce the amount to the student council or other appropriate organization.
  • Write letters to congress persons to support environmental legislation.
  • Raise money through various contests to support conservation causes. e.g. class competitions.
  • All school art exhibit (photography, sculpture, etc.) focusing upon the environment.
  • Plant a native tree and/or wildflower seeds.
  • Ecofair in cafeteria during lunch periods. Have each different club in school be responsible for one fair booth.
  • Write to student and comunity groups involved in environmental activities in other countries (note: addresses will be forwarded for inclusion by K. Leathem)

Activities beyond the school

  • Have high school students present environmental information to middle and elementary schools.
  • Volunteer locally to do habitat preservation, adopt a roadway or beach to remove litter, or recycle wastes in the community.
  • Volunteer at a recycling center.
  • Get students involved on local media programs like radio and T.V. which focus on environmental concerns.
  • Begin recycling programs in your school or analyze the ones already in place and suggest improvements.
  • Encourage teachers to duplicate on both sides of papers.
  • Plan a field trip to sewage treatment, sanitary landfill, zoo, arboretum, or nature center.
  • Students interview directors or presidents of local environmental organizations not only to learn what the organization does, but also to find out why these people volunteer their time and how they became interested in the environment.
  • Students interview local businesses to find out about economic conflicts associated with environmental issues.


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