Monday, April 20, 2020

Activities for Teaching about Earth Day and the Environment

"The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard."
-- Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

Earth Day is on April 22nd so I’d like to devote this blog post to sharing a few teaching ideas and resources about the holiday with you.  I’m including both online and offline activities in case you have students who don’t have access to the internet.  Although these ideas are geared towards Earth Day, they can be done anytime you are teaching science.  I’ve also written some blog posts you might find useful and I’ll link to them at the end.

Find ideas for online & offline activities for teaching about Earth Day and the environment in this blog post. Links to other blog posts about the environment also included. | The ESL Nexus
Download a free resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
The first activity requires internet access. I’ll also include an offline alternative as well as a couple related activities.  this activity is based on a timeline created by  National Geographic of notable environmental events, beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970.  Click HERE to go to the timeline.  Below is an activity students can do using information in the timeline:

Create a Poster Based on the Nat Geo Timeline
* Access the timeline.
* Read all the events presented in the timeline.
* Choose 1 event from each decade, for a total of 5 events.
* Create a poster that illustrates those 5 events.  The poster can be created digitally using PowerPoint or Keynote or websites like Glogster or Adobe Spark for Education; students can either download images from the internet or draw the images themselves.  Or students can create posters using posterboard, construction paper or even just several sheets of regular plain white paper taped together.  If creating a poster on paper, they can draw pictures or source them from magazines if available.
* Students can share their finished posters by posting digital creations on a class website (if available) or sending the link to you and their classmates.  If the poster is an actual physical creation, they can send it to you if your school district is sending materials back and forth; another option would be to take a photo of the poster with a smartphone and share it that way.

Offline Alternative Timeline Activity
* Give students a list of pre-selected events from each decade in the timeline.  A suggested list is available in the free downloadable resource and includes 2 events from each decade.
* Students chose 1 event from each decade, for a total of 5 events.
* Students create posters using posterboard, construction paper or even several sheets of regular plain white paper.  Students draw pictures or source them from magazines if available.
* Students can send their finished posters back to school with their other work.

Related Timeline Activities for Writing Practice
* For each event selected, students do research online and write a paragraph about it: When it happened, what happened, why it was important and what happened as a result.  Students can also write a composition or research paper using the information discovered during research based on their grades and language proficiency levels.
* For each event selected for the poster activity, students can rank their event events in order of importance: Students decide which event was the most important to the least important.  They list their events in order and undernearth the list, they can write a paragraph or composition explaining and defending their opinion about why they ranked the events that way.
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The second activity is about National Parks.  You can find U.S. National Parks on this website; other countries also have national parks and you and/or your students can do a search for parks in the country you are interested in.  After the online-based activity, I’ll offer a suggestion for doing a related activity that doesn’t require the internet.

Visit and Describe a National Park
* From the website, choose a national park you would like to visit.
* Read the information about the park and take notes to help you remember important details.  Some parks offer virtual tours which students can also do.
* Write a composition/paper about the park that includes as much of this information as possible (not all parks will include the same type of information since there are different types of parks): Location of the park, size of the park, why it is special or what it is noted for, plants and animals that live in the park, when it became a national park, special activities for kids, other interesting facts about the park.
* Tell students to send their written work to you.  You can assess it however you wish; you can also distribute the work among your students and ask them to peer edit it, then send it back to you and/or the author.

Offline Alternative National Park Activity
* Explain what a national park is (a place that is special in a particular way and is therefore preserved and maintained for visitors so they can experience it for themselves; there are national parks for nature and wildlife regions and about historical events, people, and places.)
* Tell students they are going to design a national park.
* Tell students they must draw a map of the park (students can draw it to scale if they know how to do that).
* Tell students to label features such as: A visitor center, hiking trail(s), where to find animals and plants, any other special sites in the park.
* Tell students to write a description of their park, which should include the same information as that in the online activity; i.e.: Location of the park, size of the park, why it is special or what it is noted for, plants and animals that live in the park, when it became a national park, special activities for kids, other interesting facts about the park.

The National Park Service also has a website about Earth Day, which you can find HERE.

You can download and print out both activities HERE.  Please note that you'll first see a screen that prompts you to make a copy; after you click on the blue button to do that, then you'll be able to access the resource itself.

Find ideas for online & offline activities for teaching about Earth Day and the environment in this blog post. Links to other blog posts about the environment also included. | The ESL Nexus
Grab this free resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
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Below are previous blog posts that I’ve written with environmental themes; they all include links to various kinds of resources:
* Climate Change (links to websites for kids about climate change)
* Let it Rain (about weather, with a link to a free resource)
* National Parks (about a visit to a national park in Arizona, with a link to a free resource)
* School Gardens (ideas and resources about school gardens)

I’ve also created a gift guide with lots of ideas for teachers and students.  It’s available HERE.

Happy Earth Day!

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