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Earth Day started decades ago when millions took to the streets to protest the adverse effects the industrial industry had on our environment and our health. Soon thereafter, the EPA was created, and environmental laws were put in place such as the Clean Water Act. Today, 192 countries and up to a billion people take part in raising awareness about Earth Day and doing their part to ensure political and personal action is taken to protect the environment.
Getting kids involved in Earth Day and incorporating it into your science curriculum is an excellent way to help them develop good habits that last a lifetime. To help you make the most of Earth Day with your students, we have a few science experiments and activities that you can take part in. Of course, you can adjust these to match your curriculum and age group of students.
Make Recycled Paper
Making recycled paper doesn’t take a lot of work, but it does take some time. Make sure you add this one to the calendar a week in advance, and then you can do a little bit every day. Start by shredding the old paper that you want to recycle. You’ll then soak these pieces in water and mix them with hand held egg beaters or whisks. The water allows the paper fibers to separate and the paper mixture to be finer.
Now that you’ve added the water to the paper and allowed it to suspend in the water, it’s time to take the water out! For this process, you’ll want to get a fine mesh, such as a screen for a window, so you can add the water and paper mixture and press it through until just paper is left, and the water has drained out. You can add seeds to the mixture if you want, and then plant the recycled paper in the ground to watch vegetables or flowers grow.
Allow Students to Form a Committee
While there are a lot of science experiments that your class can do, it can be very beneficial to allow students to form a committee focused on Earth Day so they can decide how they would like to participate. Give them a platform to discuss the different environmental issues that we face and choose one that is important to the local community you live in. By opening up the floor and letting students express and organize themselves, you’ll discover that they can come up with many inventive solutions.
Plant a Garden or a Tree
Earth Day doesn’t have to be spent in the classroom studying science curriculum when it can be taken outside! Plant a small garden or a tree, and don’t just go through the motions. Help kids learn about why trees and plant life are so beneficial to the earth, and how you can care for them as they grow. Choose different species of trees and plants to add to your small garden, and learn what makes each one unique.
Also, focus on the correct methods for planting a tree or flower such as the type of dirt to use, how deep to dig the hole, and how much water it will need. If you really want to take your garden to the next level, consider creating a system to catch rain water to use for watering plants in the classroom and during weeks that you don’t see much rain in the forecast in order to conserve water.
See Who Can Reuse One Item the Most
Kids love inventing new uses for old items, and one great lesson that you can incorporate into your social studies curriculum is to choose an item that you would normally throw away and see how many different suggestions you can get for reusing the item.
For example, an old t-shirt can be turned into cleaning rags, oven mitts, cushion covers, and more. Or, an old pickle jar can be used to grow a small plant in, to use as a pencil holder, or to store candy in. You can even start a notebook list that has new uses for old items in the classroom so that students are encouraged throughout the year to reuse and recycle, as well as come up with new ideas on how do as such.
Create a System for Filtering Water
While this will be a little more complex for some classrooms, you can find most of the supplies for a water treatment system in the classroom or at home. Begin with a sample of dirty water from a local lake or pond, and then scour the internet for a variety of materials, such as paper towels, coffee filters, sand, and cotton balls, to experiment with in order to create a DIY water filter. Build your water treatment system and watch as your dirty water becomes cleaner by the hour.
Build a Compost Bin
There are a lot of items such as eggshells and vegetables that don’t get eaten at lunch that can go in a compost bin. Once the items turn into compost, you can use it in the garden or for the tree that you plant in order to help it thrive. Make sure you don’t overcomplicate the process of building a compost. You can start the project on Earth Day and then continue to add to it all year long.
Test Batteries and Light Bulbs Based on Environmental Friendliness
You can use flashlights and lamps to compare the energy and lifespan of energy-efficient products, such as batteries and light bulbs, versus those that are not. You can start this project at the beginning of the week and then check the progress daily. Keep a notebook to document observations such as how long the flashlights last until they start to dim or the length of time between the products working and not working.
Play a Game About Recycling
Set up a range of household items from an empty bottle of water to an old toaster, and have kids write down how they would recycle or reuse that item. Have prizes for the most creative answers and the best solutions for the item. Have students think outside of the box and come up with a solution, such as how to prevent the item from needing to be recycled in the first place. For instance, the bottle of water can be recycled and then all future bottles of water can be put in a reusable container, such as a reusable water bottle.
Make a Class Calendar Out of Recycled Materials
Using recycled materials, make a fun class calendar that can be hung up and used for the month or the rest of the school year. You can use everything from old magazines to pencils to water bottles. Once the calendar has run its course, make sure you recycle the items on it! Of course, you can always design the calendar so that it can be used over again for the following year, or have kids make their own personal calendars to take home for the summer.
You can also make other items out of recycled material such as a small sculpture or artwork. Let kids get creative with the materials in front of them and see what they come up with! Not only does this teach students about the recycling and reusing material, but it gives them a chance to express themselves creatively.
Go the Entire Day Without Using Anything Plastic
Plastic is the primary focus of this year’s Earth Day theme, and it can be a good practice to go the entire day without using anything plastic. It will show kids how challenging it is to find items that aren’t made with plastic, but that there are alternatives. See who can go the longest without using plastic items such as mechanical pencils, water bottles, straws, and more!
There are a lot of fun activities and science experiments that you can incorporate into your science or social studies curriculum (or any subject) for Earth Day. These are just a few suggestions, but trust that regardless of what experiment you pick, you’ll raise awareness about Earth Day and your students will appreciate the lesson!