Earth Day lessons are perfect for getting students interested in the world around them. Whether you're looking for an activity to use this April or want to infuse environmental awareness during another part of the school year, there are a variety of tools that can help students explore new things and share what they know. As a teacher in an environmental stewardship magnet school, I saw just how interested students could be in worms crawling in a compost heap, and how kids can work together to make recycling a priority.
3 Favorite Tools
As you pick and choose your focus for an Earth Day lesson, take stock of student interest, your learning goals for the year, and what topics you are passionate about. The following three Earth Day lesson ideas provide an opportunity for both teacher and student choice. You might direct students to a particular topic, give them a handful of choices, or set them loose to explore.
1. BrainPOP: I've been a huge fan of BrainPOP for some time now thanks to their engaging, informative movies. Each clip answers a question to provide information on a topic. One of BrainPOP's new features is Make-a-Map, in which kids can watch a short clip and make a concept map to show their thinking about a topic. It's an open tool that provides images and key vocabulary words from each movie, making it easy for students to create a concept map around a task that you've set.
For Earth Day, you can check out one of their movies on natural resources, Wangari Maathai, or wind energy. Each of these movies lets BrainPOP users Make-a-Map to demonstrate their understanding of big ideas around the topic. It's a great way to share new Earth Day-themed content with students in a short lesson when you might have trouble dedicating more time in your schedule to exploring ideas around environmental stewardship.
2. Book Creator: Another terrific creation tool that I love is Book Creator. With versions for iOS, Android, and Windows devices, this app presents a great option for classrooms with a mix of devices. It lets users make their own multimedia book with audio, videos, texts, images, and illustrations. Kids can make a final product that is shareable with other classes or ready for the world to download.
For Earth Day, have students create a step-by-step guide related to being an environmental steward. They might provide an overview of how to start composting at home or how to figure out if something is recyclable. Each page can include another step to follow that helps readers become better citizens of the world. When they are finished with their eBook, kids can share them with their classmates or tweet out a link to download on a class Twitter account.
3. Adobe Voice: Adobe Voice is a simple-to-use video creation tool for iOS devices that is completely free to use. High-school students might decide to create videos with this tool on an iPhone, or pairs of first-grade content creators might use this tool on a class iPad. With Adobe Voice, kids can combine images, icons, and text with voice recordings and music. The slides that students make will come together in a final video that looks very professional and is easy to share.
For Earth Day, let students create call-to-action videos persuading people to change their behavior. Topics for this type of project could include recycling, solar power, or reusing everyday items. This persuasive creation should have a clear audience that is established at the introduction of the project. Perhaps students will share these with their peers or play their videos at a school board meeting.
Sharing Earth Day Creations
When you think about ways to share the final versions of your students' creations, you may want to explore scannable technology. I'm a big believer in the power of #ScannableTech and have written about many ways to use it in K-12 classrooms. Both QR codes and augmented reality can connect an audience to student creations. For example, connect the link for a student movie or eBook to a QR code and post it in a place that others can scan to access student creations. This is perfect for an Earth Day bulletin board or display at your school.
Although Earth Day appears on the calendar just one day in April, don't feel as if discussions on the topic should be reserved for once a year. Environmental stewardship projects can be used in any subject area as you work to provide real-life context and connections to your students throughout the school year.