After generations of gas guzzling SUVs, prepackaged convenience items, and people using the earth as their personal dumping ground, many argue that that earth is now in a dire situation. It has recently even become trendy to become more environmentally conscious, a process deemed “going green.”
While we don’t necessarily need to involve our children in the trendy issues of our day, the fact is that an understanding of how to preserve and protect our environment is a priceless gift to give our children. Because children learn through action, here are some tactile ideas for celebrating our earth on Earth Day and every day.
1. Plant a mini garden in containers in your home or classroom. Choose hearty vegetables and/or herbs. Allow children to learn to care for the plants, making sure they receive adequate water, light, and food. If you have the space, create a compost bin and use the compost to fertilize plants.
2. Have children use a chart to track the amount of trash thrown away each day. Begin to use cloth napkins and reusable containers and chart the difference in the amount of trash.
3. Try to walk, not drive. Not only will children benefit from the fresh air and exercise, they will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by driving. Kids can be encouraged to walk to school, or families can walk to the store or a park.
4. Complete an energy audit. Look around your home or classroom to determine avoidable waste. Choose one way you can conserve energy for the remainder of the school year (turn out lights, seal drafty areas around windows, etc.).
5. Walk to a local park to pick up trash, or pick up trash around your neighborhood or school building. Not only will you make it more beautiful, you’ll eliminate harmful waste. My kids and I walked around our neighborhood the other day collecting trash, and discovered that most of it was cans, bottles, and paper so we could throw it straight into the recycle bin.
6. Change light bulbs in lamps to compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 75% less energy. Encourage children to spread the word about fluorescent bulbs to friends, family, and neighbors!
7. Choose a nice day to experience an outdoor classroom. Take advantage of children’s curiosity and enthusiasm to experience nature through all the senses. Listen for musical sounds in nature, smell the flowers, or try to count the blades of grass. Bring sketch pads and draw an outdoor scene. Pull up a weed and examine the parts of the plant.
8. Begin to recycle if you don’t already. Or, find a new type of material or container to recycle. Have children learn to identify and sort different types of recycling and, if possible, take a field trip to a local recycling center to see where the goods are taken.
9. Have children choose and learn about one environmental issue that specifically affects the area in which you live. Make a plan about the steps that can be taken to address the issue, and have children write a letter to their state representative explaining the issue and possible solutions.
10. Celebrate Earth Day to bring awareness to ways that children can change the environment for the positive. Allow children to choose tangible ways to celebrate, such as using solar power to make sun tea, planting a tree, making posters and decorations from recycled goods, or having a recycling carnival.
This year’s Earth Day begins a year of celebrating The Green Generation Campaign. Our children are truly in a unique position to become a green generation, and we are entrusted with giving them the tools to understand the social, political, and industrial consequences of how they treat the earth.