Earth Day is quickly approaching and while I know that many of you may already have the day planned out, I wanted to offer a few more ideas and suggestions that you might be able to incorporate into your instruction.
Instead of simply focusing on Earth Day for one day, I like to incorporate cross curricular Earth Day activities throughout the week leading up to Earth Day. I think it’s important to expand on the topic and give lots of time for disuccsion and opportunities for new learning. There is SO much to know about Earth Day! One day is never enough. I also love giving my kids opportunities to build their schema before Earth Day rolls around.
As always, good read alouds are the cornerstone of everything we do and plan. These are some of my favorite Earth Day titles.
Top left to right to bottom:
I AM EARTH / THANK YOU, EARTH / EARTH DAY (AN ALPHABET BOOK) / COMPOST STEW
EARTH DAY – HOORAY! / EARTH DAY, BIRTHDAY / EARTH DAY (PEBBLE GO) / EARTH DAY / EARTH DAY ROOKIE READ ALOUD
LITTERBUG DOUG / THE ADVENTURES OF A PLASTIC BOTTLE / WATCH OVER OUR WATER / I CAN SAVE THE EARTH!
EARTH DAY EVERY DAY / HEAL THE EARTH / MICHAEL RECYCLE / WHY SHOULD I RECYCLE?
Earth Day is a great concept for making comparisons. We discuss what helps the Earth vs. what hurts the Earth after reading several different texts, both fiction and non-fiction. Once the kids have an understanding of how to help/what hurts the Earth, we create this anchor chart. I was able to use my document camera to project an earth tracer on a larger scale and then traced the outline on two pieces of butcher paper and cut them out. I wish I could say that I’m a super talented artist, but that’s just not the case, LOL. We keep these displayed throughout our unit of learning.
I know I’ve talked about my love for rich vocabulary before, but it bears mentioning again! I love focusing on strong vocabulary words with any theme or topic I’m covering to meet the standards. These vocabulary words are typically introduced…out of context…prior to beginning our unit of learning. I display the words along with a visual and keep them up on a pocket chart throughout our unit. These serve as a great resource for the kids…and for me, too! We incorporate a lot of whole group games and activities to work with these words, but we also work with them doing a few different pencil/paper and craft activities as well. The big idea here is repeated exposure…giving our kids at least 6-12 different exposures to a word to make them part of their working vocabulary. In addition to all of that, focusing on these vocabulary words also helps to increase their understanding of a given topic/theme as well.
A strong vocabulary base also helps to improve quality of writing. While writing continues to develop & progress year after year, I love providing my students with opportunities to incorporate what they’ve learned into their writing.
These two writing samples are two of favorites for Earth Day. The picture on the left is a writing craft we completed after reading I Can Save the Earth. We discussed what it meant to protect our planet and then I had the kids create their own version of a superhero – The Planet Protector! They wrote about what they would do to help protect the Earth.
The picture on the right is another example of a writing craft I’ve done with my class every year over the last 15 years!! Their handprints represent the pledge they take to help keep our Earth clean and protected. I love displaying this one.
Speaking of writing, another writing activity I like to incorporate into our Earth Day activities is this cause and effect flip strip. The kids read the scenario on the top of the flap, then open up the flap and write the effect . You can grab the FREE download below.
We love singing this song, too! Each of my kids gets a copy of this song for their poetry folders and then I print it out on sentence strips for our poetry center as well. My kids have access to this song/poem for a couple of weeks….manipulating the words, one-to-one correspondence, tracking print, concepts of print, rhyming, fluency, etc. Grab your FREE copy below.
Extending our learning to a full week instead of limiting it to just one day gives me the opportunity to incorporate many different activities to truly make learning meaningful and provide my kids with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the content. We’re able to explain why we celebrate, discuss facts and opinions, and so much more!
Here’s an Earth Day themed literacy activity my kids LOVED! “Tossing the trash” in their word work center!! I just printed off the real/nonsense word cards and sorting labels and then crumpled them all up and placed them in a container. THe kids have to uncrumple (is that even a word???) the word cards and determine which words are real and which are nonsense and then sort accordingly. I let them toss the trash into the corresponding bins and they thought this was a hoot!
Here’s one that’s similar for math. Take a set of numbers, cut them out, crumple them up, and place them in a container. I placed mine in a tin bucket to represent a tiny trash can, but you can use anything. There are a lot of different things you can do, but here are a couple of ideas.
Scatter the little balls of paper around the room and divide your class into two teams. The first two players from either team will race to collect as many pieces of trash as they can in a given amount of time (teacher discretion) or until all the balls are picked up off the floor. Players will bring them back to their groups and open each one up. Prompt them to sort the numbers into odd and even piles. The team with the most ODD or EVEN numbers (teacher discretion), wins the round and gets a point. The kids crumple up the numbers again and play starts over. The team with the most points at the end of the game, wins!
Here’s another idea….divide class into two teams and place the paper balls into a container. Place your groups in two separate lines standing parallel to one another and place the container of paper balls in a central location of the classroom. The first two players from either team will come up to the container, remove two balls, add the two numbers together, and determine the sum. The group with the largest sum, wins the round and gets a point for their team. The team with the most points at the end of the game, wins!
Those are just a couple of ideas, but truly, the possibilites are endless!
Here’s a litte sample of some other cross-curricular activites I incorporate into our centers and whole/small group activities. Lots of opportunities to use the theme in both math and ELA. If you’re interested in incorporating these into your plans, you can check them out HERE.
Finally, this is one of my favorite anchor charts to create at the end of our unit of learning. I cut out a big circle made from butcher paper to represent the Earth. I paint each of the kid’s hands using blue and green tempera paint and have them handprint the Earth until it’s full. Then we review what we’ve learned about taking care of the Earth and I either type out or write our thinking to display around the handprint Earth. I usually keep this displayed until the end of the year because, well, it’s the end of the year and not a lot of change is happening, LOL. But the kids love seeing this because they have so much ownership in it.
There are SO many great activities to incorporate and include in your instruction this time of the year. Hopefully these ideas will help you to plan out meaningful and thoughtful instruction to engage your kids in all things Earth Day!