Inspiring Earth Day Activities for Students: Eco-Education & Fun

Earth Day is an annual holiday observed on April 22 each year. As the date approaches, many educators and parents may need ways to bring environmental awareness into the classroom. Below, we’ll provide some suggestions for Earth Day projects and ideas for students. 

Earth Day in the Classroom 

The Importance of Environmental Education 

Empowering Future Generations 

The primary reason that environmental education is so crucial is that we want to empower future generations to create meaningful changes that will lead to a more sustainable future. 

Today’s students will become tomorrow’s leaders in business, politics, and beyond. When they learn about environmental impacts at an early age, they can start building habits that will carry through to their adulthood. They can also begin to dream about how they will impact the future as they learn and grow.

How To Integrate Environmental Themes Across Subjects

The best way to teach environmental awareness in schools is to integrate it into subjects that students are already learning. While the science classroom is an obvious first step, many opportunities exist to bring sustainable ideas into other classes. 

For a helpful guide on this cross-classroom integration, check out the resources provided by the Green Schools National Network. They offer ideas to bring environmentalism into subjects like English language arts, social studies, and math.

Incorporating Vertical Farming and Hydroponics into Earth Day Activities 

Vertical farming and hydroponics are two agricultural technologies that are reshaping the way we produce food. When done correctly, these growing methods can grow more food in a smaller footprint without toxic chemicals and with minimal environmental impact. They’re great options to teach in your classroom as students can create their own indoor gardens!

Classroom Activities and Experiments 

Building a Small-Scale Hydroponic System

Hydroponic farming doesn’t have to be done on a commercial scale. In fact, plenty of home gardeners turn to this growing method to provide food for their families. Help your students create a small hydroponic system for the classroom. Kids Gardening has a great how-to guide that will walk you through the entire process. 

Designing a Vertical Farm Model

For more advanced classes, you might consider having them draw up plans for a vertical farm on a commercial scale. Divide students into teams. Have each team create a vertical farm model on paper (or a diorama if appropriate for your class). They can create a business plan for what they will grow and how they will sell it. This can be a quick idea plan or go all the way through how to build, maintain, market, and sell the product. Discuss environmental, social, and corporate governance standards and have students incorporate these tenants into their presentation. 

Field Trips and Community Engagement 

Visiting local vertical farms and hydroponic facilities can be a great way for kids to experience these fascinating technologies for themselves. Many of these facilities may be open to providing a tour and explaining how they grow and why. It’s a fun way to explore new farming methods and learn about hydroponics food safety and explore an innovative and safe hydroponic system.

Outdoor Earth Day Projects and Activities for Students 

One excellent way to teach students about the environment is to get them out of the classroom and into the world. Here are a few ideas of outdoor activities you might consider for Earth Day.

Community Cleanup 

We’ve all seen areas that should be lush, green, and inviting but are instead strewn with trash. Not only are these areas eyesores, but they’re also probably leaching chemicals into the ground and water and potentially endangering local wildlife. Fortunately, with some time and elbow grease, students can make an immediately apparent impact by holding a community cleanup event.

Here are some tips for your cleanup event:

  • Ensure that the area you’re choosing is relatively safe for students. A park or stream that could use some cleanup is a great idea, but avoid areas that are too close to heavy traffic or where there could be other dangers. 

  • Be sure to bring plenty of supervision to keep students safe and accounted for — this is a great time to get parents involved! 

  • Supply trash bags, gloves, and orange safety vests to make the cleanup and supervision process easier. Reach out to local businesses or community leaders for supply donations.

  • Sort any recyclable materials and ensure that everything is disposed of properly after the cleanup event.

A mother and daughter planting a tree

Tree Planting 

Teaching kids about the importance of our forests and green spaces is vital to protecting them. One way to do this is to have kids plant trees in a public area in the community. Here are some tips for a successful classroom tree-planting event:

  • Use educational resources from the Arbor Day Foundation or other tree-related organizations to ensure you plant the correct trees for your area. 

  • Plant trees in a prominent area of the community where kids can watch their trees grow throughout the years. 

  • Be sure to mulch your new trees properly and have community volunteers check in to provide any necessary care. Remember that trees need a lot of water as they become established, so if you live in a dry climate, you’ll need to plan for this.

Nature Walks 

Exploring local parks and nature reserves is an excellent way for kids to learn about their environment and the wildlife that surrounds it. Plan a nature walk in a local area and take the kids out into the wild to enjoy and appreciate its beauty. 

  • Arrange for a local park ranger or other environmental experts to guide your walk.

  • Bring along plenty of supervision to ensure everyone remains safe and together. 

  • Prepare a scavenger hunt list or bingo card in advance where students can record plants, wildlife, and other things they encounter. Tailor the list to the area you will be visiting and try to choose items that kids are likely to encounter but may need to pay close attention to find. 

Community Garden 

Nothing gets kids excited about green things like planting and maintaining their own garden. A garden is more of a long-term project, allowing students to work from seeds all the way through to harvest, but it can have major impacts on their understanding of the environment, food production, nutrition, and beyond. These tips can help make your classroom garden a success:

  • Choose the right spot 

    • You want an area that is easily accessible to your classroom so you don’t have to spend a lot of time traveling to and from the site. 

    • Ensure the area is protected from other students who could damage or destroy your project.

    • Make sure the area you choose gets plenty of sunlight. If you don’t have a space with adequate soil, consider a container garden.

  • Look for sponsorship for your project. You’ll need quite a few supplies and it can be costly to grow a large enough garden for everyone to participate.

  • Consider both long- and short-term crops so you can have some quick results and others that will continue for some time. Ideally, you want plants that will be ready to harvest before your students leave your class. 

  • Get as much community involvement as you can. Ask parents and other community members to help out. Check with local gardening centers and nurseries for groups that might be interested in helping out. Team up with other classes within your school if possible. 

Wildlife Conservation Projects 

For your students, wildlife conservation may seem like a huge problem they can’t begin to impact, but that’s simply not true! There are many small things students can do to promote wildlife within your area. Here are some tips to help your students get involved:

  • Teach kids about wildlife tracking and take them to a local wildlife preserve to try to spot some tracks.

  • Take kids on a wildlife photography tour, having them snap photos of any wildlife they may encounter. 

  • Take students on a bird-watching excursion, teaching them to spot and document local songbirds. 

  • Help kids plant a wildlife-friendly garden. Grow plants that will attract bees, butterflies, and other wildlife, preferably just outside your classroom windows.

Earth Day Classroom Activities 

Getting out into the wild may not be an option where you are, or you may be looking for additional activities that can be done in the classroom. Here are some activities and lessons you can do indoors.

Environmental Education Lessons 

Basic environmental education lessons are a great idea for any time of year, but especially around Earth Day. Fortunately, there are plenty of lesson plans available for nearly any age. Here are a few sources to consider:

Eco-friendly Art Projects 

There are many eco-friendly art projects you can try for all ages. They teach kids how to reuse items they would otherwise throw away or promote appreciation for natural resources. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Have students create art from trash. Send a list home of potential supplies to save and send in – boxes, milk cartons, toilet paper tubes, cans, etc. Pool all supplies together and let kids choose the items they want to use, even if it’s not an object they brought from home. Challenge your students to work in teams and build the most creative sculptures they can. 

  • Paint nature scenes with nature. Have kids use leaves, twigs, and sticks to paint natural landscapes — the more creative, the better!

  • Create mobiles out of twigs, branches, leaves, and other items found outdoors.

  • Press flowers or leaves and use them to create colorful arrangements that can hang on the wall. 

Film and Documentary Screenings 

Environmental documentaries can be a fun way for kids to explore remote areas of the planet, learn about conservation, and take a peek into ecosystems they’ve never encountered. Here are a few your students might enjoy:

  • Chasing Coral – a documentary about coral reefs and why they need protection.

  • The Ivory Game – a documentary about elephants and the crisis they’re facing.

  • More than Honey – a German documentary (with English subtitles) that explores the problems facing honeybees and why they’re important to our world.

  • The Plastic Problem – PBS delves into the problems plastics are creating in our environment and alternatives we should be considering.

  • Public Trust – a film about the fight for America’s public lands.

  • The River and the Wall – a film about the U.S./Mexico border and its environmental impacts.

  • Tomorrow – a hopeful look at the ways communities around the world are solving environmental problems.

Environmental Science Experiments 

There are many options available for environmental science experiments to help students understand related concepts. Here are a few fascinating experiments you can try in your classroom:

There are thousands of other options available. A simple Google search can provide you with more science experiments than you could ever possibly use!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Why Do We Celebrate Earth Day at School?

Earth Day actually started as an Environmental Teach-In program. It’s a holiday designed around education and awareness, and the classroom is a great place to start learning about these concepts!

How Do We Celebrate Earth Day in School? 

Typically, Earth Day activities include special lesson plans, activities, and field trips around the concept of environmentalism. Anything that teaches about the environment or raises awareness about the challenges it faces can be a part of your Earth Day curriculum.

What Can Kids Do to Help the Earth? 

There are so many ways kids can make an impact on our environment. From picking up trash to helping plant trees, each “little thing” we do for the environment adds to actions taken by others around the world. While nobody can save the planet on their own, if we all do our part we can make a real difference!

Why Is It Important to Celebrate Earth Day for Kids? 

Kids are the future and they’re going to inherit the environment we leave behind. By learning about environmental causes and building good habits early, they can make a difference for a lifetime.


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