28 Earth Month Activities to Enjoy with Your Class this April
April’s warm weather draws most of us out into the sunshine and great outdoors to enjoy the beauty of the Earth around us. It’s no wonder why many of our national and global environmental days fall in April, also known as the Earth Month, when we celebrate days like Earth Day, National Environmental Education Week, Ecological Knowledge Day, Save the Frogs Day, and Arbor Day.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” We need our trees not only for the many things that we enjoy about them- recreation, food, shade, heat, paper, structures, but also for their vast environmental impacts. “Trees provide habitat for wildlife, clean the air we breathe, provide shade, reduce the damaging effects of wind, and limit erosion and contribute to a healthier environment,” according to the DEP Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. Where would our world be, without our trees? This April 28th, Arbor Day, reminds us to appreciate the value of the tree, and urges us to replant the trees that we have used. Here in New Jersey, Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday of every April. As noted by the founder of Arbor Day- Sterling Morton, “… Arbor Day proposes for the future…Each generation takes the earth as trustees…We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” Arbor Day comes just a week after Earth Day (Saturday, April 22, 2023), and comes with a similar message of caring for our earth, and preserving it for the next generation. 2023´s Earth Day is themed “everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable, Invest in Our Planet.” Every Earth Day is a fun day for teachers to get involved with. After all, what student (and teacher) doesn’t LOVE a spring afternoon outside! There are so many ideas for this day, no matter the age or subject that you teach! Earth Day falls on a Saturday, so plan to teach about it earlier in the week, and maybe even give the kids some extra credit follow up ideas for the weekend. Check out the ArborDayFoundation and Earth Day Plans for some ideas, and check out some options below:
Classroom & Online activities/ideas:
- The National Aquarium provides kid sized environmental challenges through 48 Days of Blue that can be used for Earth Day ideas and beyond. Check them out!
- FREE online learning games about Earth Day – some are really cute about greenhouse effects, oceans, recycling, and natural resources.
- Watch the history of Earth Day using PBS´s movie Earth Days.
- Find a virtual field trip- Discovery offers many of them.
- Invite students to sit under a tree and discuss how trees help us, and write poems or haikus about them.
- Have students take a walk around the school and survey/map the trees on school property.
- Review the history of Arbor Day and watch It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown.
- Have an Arbor Day Celebration Ceremony and plant a tree on school ground, or plant seedlings in the classroom for the students to take home and plant.
- Hold an “Arbor Day Birthday Party” or Earth Day Party with tree themed games/crafts.
- Offer a contest on an educational Arbor Day or Earth Day poster to teach other students about trees by placing them around the school.
- Read a book, or ask students to make their own books about trees.
- Have kids do a garbage sweep of the schools or their home area and record what they find. Lead an online discussion of what they found, or complete math percentages of the garbage collection. For safety reasons, I would recommend parent permission and the use of gloves before you send them anywhere at all. A neighborhood garbage clean up: have the kids keep a record of the trash that was collected and post it online for comparison.
- Create a school garden, or ask students to plant their own garden and take a picture to share online with the class.
- Have students create a map of their schools, or their house and block- including the grass, treed areas, sidewalk, black top, and storm drains. After, lead an online discussion about what water can and cannot do in their neighborhoods.
- Keep it simple and ask students to just take a walk or hike and enjoy the beauty that is our earth. Have them draw or paint a picture from their travels. This can be done in school, or as a homework assignment.
- Create a school yard or neighborhood nature/tree scavenger hunt. You can focus this on flora and fauna and have them find different trees, plants, and flowers, or have them focus on environmental issues like garbage, evidence of animals (waste or prints), black top, drainage ditches, and storm sewers. Lead a discussion about what the students found online or in class.
- Ask students to write positive ecology/environmental messages on school sidewalks or their own sidewalks and driveways. If students do not have chalk at home, have them make paint by using 1 cup of water, 1 cup of cornstarch, with food coloring).
At home activities/ideas:
- Recycle-Ask students to find out how their family and town handles recycling. Challenge them to come up with a better system for their home or community collections.
- Repurpose things that would be thrown out or are no longer used in their home. What kind of inventions or alternate uses can they come up with?
- Clean up! But instead of throwing things out, can students donate or sell any of these items?
- Journal: Have students record their own (or families) daily use of water. Have them consider and discuss as a class if they think they are using too much? As a class, come up with some conservation ideas.
- Challenge students to have a weekend “no TV/video games/electronics day” Discuss how electricity gets to us- and possible energy sources used today.
Arts and crafts activities/ideas:
- Make a homemade bird feeder with recycled items such as milk cartons, toilet paper rolls or empty water bottles and helps creatures of the earth. Have students hang it in their yards and take a picture to share online.
- Ask students to make a nature collage. Send them on a nature walk to collect items like pinecones, leaves, sticks, rocks, flowers, etc. Have them make a collage on construction paper, take a picture, and share it with the class.
- New Jersey Forest Service’s Big Tree Program is challenging the public to find New Jersey’s largest trees! An event is being held on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson, with prizes awarded!
- Municipalities are giving away 5 Free Bare Root Tree Seedlings to all residents of New Jersey.
- Earth Day celebrations through the state April 23, 2023.
- Arbor Day celebrations throughout the state April 28, 2023.