Earth Day is a time to learn, a time to take action, and a time to pay homage in ways both big and small to this spectacular place we all call home. If you’re looking for a few tips and ideas to get started, we’ve gathered some fun facts and great activities to share with students.
It all started with a vision
Earth Day was founded in 1970 when U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson was looking for a way to promote the environmental movement. His plan included classes and projects to help the public understand what they could do to protect the environment.
An oil spill created a movement
A massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA, prompted Senator Nelson to organize a national “teach-in” day to educate the public about environmental issues and the long-term damage these accidental catastrophes can cause.
They said Earth Day would flop, but it didn’t.
After he was elected to the Senate in 1962, Nelson was told repeatedly that the American people weren’t concerned with environmental issues. But that statement was proven wrong when 20 million people joined the first Earth Day celebration and teach-in on April 22, 1970.
Why April 22?
Nelson chose April 22 in an effort to mobilize college students to back his vision. The date came after most universities were past spring break, but not yet dealing with final exams. April 22 is also one day after John Muir’s birthday.
It’s a global thing now
Even though Earth Day originated in the U.S., it went global in 1990 when Earth Day National Coordinator Denis Hayes, a graduate of Harvard University, recruited a staff of 85 young environmental crusaders and grassroots organizers, plus thousands of field volunteers, to organize similar Earth Day events in 141 countries. More than 200 million people around the globe joined in that year.
The birth of an agency
As a result of the Earth Day movement in 1970 President Richard Nixon decided it was a good idea to have more legislation on clean air, clean water, toxic substances, and endangered species. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was born.
Real action creates real change
Sometimes a little inspiration can go a long way. In 2011, 28 million trees were planted on Earth Day in Afghanistan for a “Plant Trees Not Bombs” campaign. Then, in 2012, more than 100,000 people in China rode their bikes on Earth Day in order to reduce CO2 emissions and highlight the amount of pollution created by cars.
In 2016, more than 1 billion people in almost 200 countries around the world participated in “Trees for the Earth,” with organizers focusing on the global need for new trees and forests. In 2020 the Earth Day Network set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees globally.
How can you celebrate?
Check out the FREE lessons below to try at home, or share with students. These are a great way to celebrate Earth Day, and they’re also perfect for year-round learning and fun.
Happy Earth Day!
Get students excited about nature by giving trees a face and their own personal touch of character! Students can draw, color, paint, and animate their trees to express their own personal emotions while developing basic art skills.
Learn about two different forms of energy (optical and thermal), and build a solar cooker to make yummy S’mores based on the Solar Balloon Energy Kit!
Students will learn about different areas of geography in the world while incorporating the importance of critical thinking. Though the game is designed to be played in teams, it can also be a fun activity for families or smaller pairs.
Earth Day information sources: Earthday.org, ThoughCo.com, Mentalfloss.com.