Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22nd and has become an international event to promote environmental protection and awareness. The event began in the United States but quickly spread to countries around the world. Earth Day is now celebrated in over 190 countries worldwide, making it the largest environmental event in the world.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. It was a massive success, with 20 million people participating in events across the United States. Many schools organized events to teach students about the importance of environmental protection. In New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic, and people filled the streets to celebrate and raise awareness about environmental issues.
Try one or more of our lesson plans in your classroom!
Elementary: Black Beach
Black Beach: A Community, an Oil Spill, and the Origin of Earth Day by Shaunna and John Stith tells the story of the first Earth Day from a different perspective. Usually, the focus is on Senator Gaylord Nelson, but this book is written from the point of view of Sam, a fictional child in Santa Barbara, the site of the 1969 Union Oil oil spill.
Objective: Students will learn about the origin of Earth Day, consider the emotional impact of environmental issues, and discover ways people can influence their government to take action.
- One or more copies of Black Beach: A Community, an Oil Spill, and the Origin of Earth Day by Shaunna and John Stith
- A class timeline
- A smart board or marker board
- Paper and art supplies for poster making
Introduction: Read the story aloud.
The book has a timeline of events at the back. Add these events to your classroom timeline or show them on a projector or write them on the board. Then go back through the book and identify the words describing emotions. Sam is described with words and phrases like these:
- She was anxious
- She felt the weight of her worry.
- She felt helpless.
- She felt sadness.
- She felt anger.
- She felt powerful when she took action.
Discuss the emotions presented in the book and connect them with the events on the timeline. Only Sam’s emotions are mentioned, but the actions, expressions, and words of the other characters suggest emotions, too. Ask students to extrapolate from the descriptions in the book to the emotions the other characters are feeling.
In the book, the schoolchildren send bottles of oil to their congressional representatives. People often send letters, email, or social media messages to their representatives, since it is the job of the legislators to represent the people in their constituencies.
People also held rallies, educational events, and protest marches. The illustrations by Maribel Lechuga show many signs made by the people. Read and discuss the signs. Assign students the task of making posters that express their views on an issue they care about. Discuss how they can choose just a few words to make their point.
The book also lists 10 simple actions students can take “to become an environmental activist,” including turning off lights when leaving a room. Determine which of these steps students can commit to and brainstorm additional simple actions. Choose a date in the future to check back in and see whether students were able to keep up these new habits.
Assessment: Students will be assessed based on their participation in the class discussion, the quality of their posters, and their commitment to taking action to protect the environment.
Secondary: Environmental issues
Objective: Students will gain an understanding of environmental issues, their impact on the planet, and explore solutions that can help protect and preserve the earth.
- Access to the internet
- Pen and paper
- Video or audio recording equipment (optional)
- Recycling bin, compost bin (optional)
Introduction: Begin the lesson by asking students if they are aware of Earth Day and what it represents. Consider reading Black Beach: A Community, an Oil Spill, and the Origin of Earth Day by Shaunna and John Stith to the class. Discuss the history of Earth Day and its significance in promoting environmental awareness and activism. Emphasize the importance of protecting our planet for future generations.
Lead a class discussion on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity. Ask students to share their knowledge and opinions on these issues. Write down their responses on the board or a chart paper.
Divide students into groups and assign each group a specific environmental issue to research. Instruct them to find possible solutions that can help reduce or eliminate the problem. They can use the internet or other resources to gather information. Encourage them to be creative and to collect facts and note their sources.
After the research, ask each group to present their findings and solutions to the class. They can use visual aids such as posters or slideshows to enhance their presentation. Record the presentations for future reference.
Encourage students to take action to help protect the environment. Depending on the school’s resources, you can ask them to bring recyclable materials to school or start a compost bin. Alternatively, they can organize a school-wide clean-up drive or participate in an environmental awareness campaign. Brainstorm ideas with the class and allow them to take the lead on the initiative.
Conclusion: Recap the lesson by discussing what students learned and how they can apply their knowledge to protect the environment. Emphasize the importance of taking action to create a sustainable future. Ask students to write a reflection on what they learned and how they can make a difference.
Assessment: Students will be assessed based on their participation in the class discussion, the quality of their research and presentation, and their commitment to taking action to protect the environment.