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Earth Day 2014: Lesson Plans, Reading Lists, and Classroom Ideas

Earth Day 2014 is right around the corner, and this year the theme is "Green Cities." Are you planning on incorporating the annual event in your classroom?

There are many different learning opportunities on Earth Day, whether it's science-based investigations, thematic reading, or creative arts projects. To help teachers brainstorm some ways to incorporate Earth Day, we've compiled a list of resources that teachers can use to bring environmental education to students. There's a bit of everything, including lesson plans, tools and resources, and student reading lists.

Earth Day Lesson Plans:

  • K-5 Earth Day Curriculum Resources: The National Education Association produced this resource for teachers, which features seven in-depth lesson plans, Earth Day games, and a list of outside links for students in grades K-5. There are also three entire unit plans as well.
  • Environmental Education Resources from The Nature Conservancy: This resource created by scientists with The Nature Conservancy features lesson plans, reading materials, and interactive videos in a variety of environmental subject areas. For instance, students can browse lessons that look at soil science, food science, and energy, among others. The lessons are offered as part of the Conservancy's Nature Works Everywhere initiative.
  • Celebrate Earth Day! from ReadWriteThink: Here, teachers will find six lesson plans written by teachers for students in grades K-2, 6-8, and 7-9. Provided are resources for Earth Day-themed writing assignments, eco-reading activities, and environmental research projects. The page also features ideas for after-school and at-home learning.
  • Earth Day Lesson Collection from Science NetLinks: Although this collection was produced in 2012, it's still extremely useful for Earth Day 2014. Science NetLinks has produced a long list of lessons and learning tools on a variety of earth science subjects, and they're all easy to browse by grade-level.

Classroom Ideas for Earth Day Activities:

  • Earth Day Ideas from Scholastic: There’s a few quick links here for a variety of classroom activities -- from short-and-sweet science projects to super fun scavenger hunts.
  • Greening STEM Educator Toolkits: Each of these toolkits from the National Environment Education Foundation offer a ton of useful tools for earth science learning. For instance, "Engineering A Sustainable World" features links to resources, lesson plans, and learning materials for every grade level in specific subjects like sustainable design, renewable energy, and recycling. Other toolkits cover gardening, technology, and nature. They're all available for free PDF download.
  • I <3 Earth: 22 Earth Day Resources: This roundup of PBS LearningMedia resources is extremely useful for teachers. And there are tons of great multi-media tools to engage students in this collection, including inspiring documentaries and video clips, interactive games, and lesson plans.
  • Apps That Challenge Kids to Solve Environmental Issues: This MindShift guest blog covers four apps that are great for Earth Day and environmental lessons. There are options here for younger and older students, and they've all been rated by teachers and parents.
  • Resources to Learn About Recycling: The website for "I Want to Be Recycled" is a one-stop shop for students interested in the science of recycling. Produced by non-profit Keep America Beautiful, the resource features accessible information about recyclable materials, a Recycling 101 course, and information students can use to get involved.

Earth Day Reading For Students:

  • 2014 Earth Day Recommended Reading: The Florida Department of Education produced this list of books and literature with options for every grade level.
  • Suggested Reading for Environmental Learning: Via the Environmental Education Foundation, this list highlights books for every grade. Note: The list is in no particular order, so elementary and high school books are intermixed.
  • Tips for Encouraging Readers on Earth Day: The Earth Day Network produced this list of ideas for encouraging students to read about environmental topics. In addition to the tips, though, you'll find PDF reading lists of environmental books for elementary, middle school, and high school students.

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Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation

My favorite Earth Day read is "The Lorax." It's a total oldie but it never stops inspiring great conversations about ecosystems and how we can impact them -- for better and for worse!

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